Secure Parking lifts gate to data transformation

Published on the 29/02/2024 | Written by Steve Young Senior Engagement Manager SnapLogic

Secure_Parking_Rick Chandra_2024

Finding a carpark gets easier with key partnership…

Spending money on parking is something of a grudge purchase for most people.

To counter that, the parking industry has been working on making the extraction of parking fees as painless as it possibly can be to encourage compliance and deliver convenience in return for a dollar (or nineteen) spent.

Recent shifts in consumer behaviour have added urgency to the need for industry transformation.

Factors such as e-commerce diverting shoppers from physical stores, flexible work arrangements reducing daily commutes, and the convenience of ride-hailing services have collectively spurred the industry to adapt.

It’s a highly competitive environment where the players are striving for customer-centric changes to build loyalty.

In a recent fireside chat, Rick Chandra, CIO of Secure Parking, spoke with Jeremiah Stone, CTO of SnapLogic about how the two are partnering to take the grudge out of parking.

Parking disruptions

Until relatively recently, operating a car-parking company was straightforward. You found a vacant bit of land, installed a gate and had motorists hand a ‘parking fee’ to a car-park attendant or put their card in a machine before leaving the land you owned or leased. The machines were almost always sourced from a third-party equipment supplier, which added more overheads. The barriers to entry (pun intended) were relatively small, but the operating costs were significant.

“Understanding the customer journey to its fullest extent is absolutely critical”

Of course, this low-tech approach had downsides, not least motorists often having to spend significant time and effort finding a free slot in first-come-first-served carparks.

All car-parking businesses have had to evolve, but few have gone as far as Australia’s Secure Parking.

Voyager launch

Imagine you are part of a traditional, low-profile, grudge-purchase industry that you believe will inevitably be disrupted by sophisticated technologies. You fear that if you don’t take the initiative and disrupt your own business, a new industry entrant or existing competitor will eat your lunch sooner or later. What do you do?

Secure Parking CEO Rick Chandra honed-in on the importance of understanding his customers’ journeys.

“Understanding the customer journey to its fullest extent is absolutely critical when innovating product lines to take to the market. One of the first things we looked at was, ‘What is the actual journey that a customer takes with Secure Parking?’

“That’s everything from the point of departure all the way to entry into our car parks. [How] they behave and interact with us as an organisation, and at our sites.”

Unsurprisingly, Chandra and his team discovered those busy Australians willing to pay for parking wanted almost everything about parking, especially accessing it, to be more user-friendly and less time-consuming. Many of Secure Parking’s sites now offer benefits that make entering and exiting car parks that little bit smoother and quicker.

Secure Parking embarked on a program they named Voyager, partnering with a local Australian manufacturer to build hardware from the ground up.

Chandra then engaged with digital partner SnapLogic to integrate a remote car-park management system, booking and financial platforms, data lake and CRM into the company’s legacy systems.

“Car parks look simple, but they are complex environments, with the challenge of dealing with legacy technology. Integrating that legacy technology with a new website, new digital platform and new mobile applications, including [third-party apps] like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, was always going to be crucial to the success of Voyager.”

The partnership extends to back-office solutions. “Voyager has very sophisticated back-office ERP systems, which we’ve developed with SnapLogic to support our customers and also to support our car parks,” Chandra says. “These systems cover everything from customer data to financial data and allow our car parks to be operated remotely.”

Trip to the future

Voyager has proven a great success, but Chandra is now looking at future opportunities. “We need to finish rolling out Voyager to all of Secure Parking’s Australian sites,” Chandra shares. “After that, our global parent company may roll it out in other regions.”

Chandra’s cautiously optimistic about leveraging generative AI to provide Australian motorists with an even more agreeable parking experience. “Secure Parking collects an immense amount of data about our customers’ preferences and behaviours,” he observes. By feeding that trove of data into the right AI, Chandra hopes to make getting around town near effortless.

In fact, he sees a future where Secure Parking can potentially use AI predictive models to literally map customer journeys, ascertaining when Secure Parking customers need to enter and exit one or more of its sites. For Chandra, it’s a chance to “redefine the whole experience”, albeit with ethical considerations paramount.

“It’s about delivering value to customers without sacrificing their security and privacy in the process,” he says.

Disrupting from within

Chandra has two pieces of advice for anyone embarking on a large-scale digital transformation program before they attract potential disruptors’ attention.

First, pick the right partners – particularly the right technology partners.

“Having the right technology partner, one that the Secure Parking team could work well with, was absolutely critical to the successful delivery of the Voyager program,” Chandra says. “Part of the success of Voyager comes down to SnapLogic’s involvement.”

Unfortunately, ensuring your team and partners have the required skills only gets you part of the way.

Hence Chandra’s second piece of advice: make sure everyone involved in the project is sufficiently inspired by the vision to bulldoze through the obstacles they will encounter.

“If you aspire to deliver a program of any size and complexity, you need to have a vision,” Chandra says. “It has to be a collective vision shared by not just the employees of your business but by any partners you bring in.

With its partners, Secure Parking was building new hardware, new software and new digital platforms and then attempting to integrate them with old hardware, software and digital platforms. Everybody involved needed the passion to see a large, complex project through to the end. I certainly saw that passion, not just from my team but across the board, including SnapLogic’s team.”

Watch the interview with Chandra on demand here.

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