Best PracticesDealership Marketing

Integration? What’s that and what do I do with it? What about my DMS?

Integration as defined on Dictionary.com:  an act or instance of combining into an integral whole. Okay…that doesn’t really help.  How about Wikipedia?  Awesome – they have an entry for “System Integration”:  is the bringing together of the component subsystems into one system and ensuring that the subsystem function together as a system. There’s a lot more here.

That’s the web-technical definition, but why the hell am I writing about it?  Jeff and I get on the phone when one of us is taking a long drive because we have longer phone calls than most friggin’ women do!  Yesterday evening Jeff was on the road and we had a few things to discuss about DealerRefresh.  After we got some house keeping out of the way, we started discussing the various things we’ve been tackling at work lately – no bosses – we’re not sharing information (for those of you who don’t know, Jeff and I actually have some competing stores).  We were discussing the different problems we have in diagnosing inventory issues and somehow that led to the integration topic.  After debating over who is currently dealing with more BS around getting systems to cooperate, I ended up volunteering to write this article (is that what happens when you deal with a ton of BS?).  Anyway, that’s how we got here.

I’m sure Jeff and I aren’t the only people who have to pop aspirins on a daily basis because systems don’t “integrate”, but we are wondering why vendors toss the “integration” word around like it is a free Ferrari.  Up until yesterday evening I believed integration to be something along the lines of Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Word where everything is virtually seamless and there are rarely conflictions.  Not like Insert DMS Name here and Any Vendor Name here.  After reading some definitions of the word “integration” I’m starting to realize that integration can simply mean that two systems work together.  Technically our vendors do this through feeds and the word “integration” (at least I assume) is used because it sounds better in a sales pitch.  So if you input your inventory into ADP and HomeNet pulls it out, sugar coats it, then sends it to the web you could actually call that an integration between ADP and HomeNet where ADP would be the subsystem of HomeNet in the situation where your goal is to get inventory on the web.

What to talk to your vendor about when they do throw out the word “Integration”?

If you’ve read this far, I’m sorry, I definitely put a lot of worthless junk together in 3 paragraphs that could have been said in 3 sentences, so let’s get to something valuable:

Two things first:

  1. I am just someone who has always been on the dealership side of things – I am no expert on coding a data feed.  I haven’t read a book or attended any classes on it.
  2. Working out a data feed is extremely frustrating and doesn’t happen just by pushing a button.

If a vendor tells you he integrates with so-and-so, your first question should be:  How? Is it done by pushing CSV files to a FTP server that happens every couple of hours or do you have straight access to push data in real time to the other vendor’s system?  So the first question is How? and the second question is How often?

If you’re talking to a vendor who says they can push/pull with your DMS (ADP, Arkona, Reynolds & Reynolds) then that sparks a few more questions on the How?

  1. Have you paid your DMS dues and have actual certification to push/pull directly with them? – most of the time this is going to be a No…I’ll explain and criticize this in a later posting.
  2. Are you installing something on my network that accesses our DMS?  Technically this would be a hack.
  • If you’re installing something on my network, then I need to know if you’re exploiting a hole in my DMS that could be closed any day.  That isn’t a big deal to me, but what is your contingency plan if that hole is patched?
  • If you’re installing something on my network to access the network just like a regular user, then great!  Unfortunately, in today’s DMS world, this is the best way for a vendor to gain access if they haven’t been through certification.

I’m sure at this point in the article, I have ticked off all the DMS companies…and I will address that in another article later.

Some new types of “integrations” have been happening in these recent years.  Used car pricing tools have the ability to push the pricing of a vehicle to an inventory aggregator such as HomeNet, VINSolutions, your CRM or even your web site host.  This type of data feed is done a little differently because it typically is done on a car by car basis instead of just sending a CSV file full of changes to a FTP server.  This, to me, seems to be the cleanest and closest thing to what I would consider “integration”.  I have been watching this happen between vAuto and HomeNet for a while and it is almost real time with delays being as long as 30 minutes (no big deal).  Soon I will be watching this same type of integration between another set of vendors and am very excited.  I hope this data sharing between the more proactive vendors will lead to a new type of “integration” for the industry.

Sharing of dealership data is a must in this digital age.  We either need our vendors to speak to one another or a single system that can do it all…and do it all well (so don’t get anymore plans to try that again big DMS guy).  I believe “integration” should be a “standard” option on all models, but it seems to only be coming with the faster and more luxurious European cars (Dealer.com, vAuto, iMagicLab).  As the Big 3 (ADP, Arkona, and Rey Rey) keep trying to be the old guard they’re just slowing the progress of the industry.  I believe the day is coming where a DMS is just going to be a vault of information that nobody actually works out of, and other vendors will provide the user interface.  This will all be done through data feeds…or “integration”.

Please leave your comments and suggestions.  Because I am far from an expert on data feeds and “integration” I will add your suggestions to this article.

In this article, I am making the assumption that your legal team has approved all your contracts and security clauses on sharing data.

A
  • A
    A Vendor
  • March 13, 2009
Arkona is by far the best DMS company to do integrations with. Their integrations are low cost and extremely powerful.

ADP & Reynolds simply look at DMS integrations as a way to make a profit.

Auto/Mate, AutoSoft are pretty easy to work with and don't charge much for integration fees either.


UCS is horrible to integrate with. I know a dealer with a 20 year UCS contract. They would probably be better off putting UCS on the shelf and paying a couple grand a month (or whatever) for Arkona, AutoSoft or Auto/mate.

But Arkona is leading the way with their OpenTrack platform.
S
i am a coder and i'm not sure what you mean by certification. perhaps you mean that the vendor approves that someone else is taking the data from their app.

most of the time when we get requests to import data from another system to help a dealer start using our software, the other program is such a mess that it's not worth our time to make some other company's crappy database structure our own problem.
<b>A Vendor</b> - I don't know know a whole lot about Arkona, but have heard they are easy to get along with for "integrations". I hear they don't have everything together in other areas though.

<b>salzano</b> - there is a certification process (and usually a big sum of money) a vendor has to go through to have a "non-hostile" push and pull of information with some of the DMS companies. However, this certification process seems to change often enough to not make it worth anyone's time, and has not been spoken about (to me at least) in a while.
M
@Alex The good thing about Arkona though is because their system has such strong integration you can bolt on additional pieces of software in areas you think it is lacking. They have a built-in CRM, but it isn't "best of breed". But unlike some other DMS providers, they recognize that and want other providers to integrate to their platform to overcome those potential short comings.
Wow Matt - that's awesome! That is really cool. I will have to look a little harder at Arkona. Aside from just bolting on outside vendors, it needs to do a bit more than that. I remember we passed on it the last time our DMS contract came up, but that was a few years ago.
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    Mike Keesee
  • March 13, 2009
Arkona and Homenet is the deal! Always easy to work with. I like the idea of DMS being a storage for data and a CRM or something similar being the interface. It would make data mining and merges easier.
R
Being a tech guy, I really liked this post on the nuts and bolts of integration.

Here's an integration that would be a boon to dealers everywhere: How about display management companies integrating their (your) Pre-owned vehicle feed with an RSS feed?

If this were in place, any visitor to your website could search for a make/model and then grab an RSS feed so they can know when any cars that match that criteria show up on your lot?

We've spoken to the tech teams at both DealerFusion and DealerSpecialties about this over the past year. Each tells us it's on the way but we have yet to see it happen.

RSS feeds are everywhere - this in an integration I'd like to see.
C
Alex,
Nice to see we're not the only ones with integration frustration. I recently bashed our website provider about some problems that arise from integration. The more technology you use the more important this becomes. When we don't clarify these answers or fail to ask the correct questions we have only ourselves to blame. This is however something that salespeople will oversell for their companies and apparently not an easy thing to deliver on.

Roland, I love the idea off an RSS feed and see this as a huge plus for the consumer. Ease of business and a great customer experience should be the goal and I agree this would help achieve that.
J
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    Joe
  • March 13, 2009
Alex,
By opening your DMS database doors to multiple "uncertified" vendors to integrate directly with it, there is a huge potential of creating data security issues. Your database that includes SS#'s, Names, and Addresses will only be as secure as its weakest link. Also, when a 3rd party is involved and an issue arises it will create lots of finger pointing which just ends up hurting the dealer in the long run.
U
Alex excellent post... Check out, Open Secure Access and Join... as it is designed to address these issues... http://www.opensecureaccess.com/ and concerns that Joe raised about security.

Integration certification is very expensive. Large chunk at start and then good sum monthly. I would share more but NDA... I hate NDA's on pricing. Worse are NDA's on a CSV file formats... oh come on. :(

As a developer, I have found integration to be less of issue then Data that I need to integrate for.

@Ronald we been proving RSS feeds since 2006 for all dealer inventory... example http://www.vcsmotorcars.com/en/view_inventory.cfm but the subscription rate is minimum. I don't even think any dealer has reached over 10 subscribers. Main reason is likely us not educating the visitor on this feature.
<strong>Joe</strong> - I guess you missed my last sentence of the article (the one in italics). Are you an IT Nazi or do you work for a DMS? <i>....I so love these anonymous posters.</i>

<strong>Umer</strong> - great link. I will be checking into that some more. Thanks!
J
Great post! Many here know I am a website vendor and get asked many questions on a daily basis from dealers on this "Topic".

It comes down to knowing the products you sell and if it works or should I say INTEGRATE properly.

What I have done in the past is actually pick up the phone and contact "Rey Rey, Arkona, ADP etc etc" and even to the point of calling "HomeNet, etc" to ask those specific questions so I am prepared with the accurate and correct answers.

There is my 2 cents Alex and Jeff!

Back in the Dealership days, the ongoing frustrations on a day to day basis, as all dealers have encountered with being fooled with the "Oh yeah!! NO problem we can integrate it" line drove me nuts. I swear I digested a full bottle of Exedrin Tension Headache everyday!
J
We also provide dealers with RSS feeds for both new and pre-owned inventory. It is a less used feature but I can see it becoming more and more popular as customers learn about this tool.

Top right corner of the inventory search area you'll see links to view the feed as RSS.

http://audiporsche.sunmotorcars.com/inventory.php?invSearch_type=USED&amp;clear=1
M
I'm not an expert on Arkona, but I do know they do major quarterly releases of their software and they are heavily investing in improving the technology. I would recommend that anyone at least take a look at them and Auto/Mate if you are considering a new DMS.
A
Alex- Kudos to you for your google usage to look up such a big word that we are all so fimilar with, but I guess we could have all been snowed by the various sales people that come in to our places of business as tell us their product is going to revolutionize the way we do business or atleast the process of how we conduct it.

Jeff- You caught me one the perfect day!

Intergration, where do I start. Currently my store is working in two fairly major projects, both of which are to integrate on make my job easier. Neither of wich has happened yet. The common denomator in is both applications, is neither side will accept responsiblility for any gliches. The first is trying to get our online inventory host to properly post the right photos of different trim levels and colors of the cars that the VIN coraspondences with.
The other is ADP WebCRM and NetTrak trying to finally share information between systems. I have come to realize that ADP is a company that builds a product, launches it and then reacts to its faults. They always seem to miss part of the puzzle. Then it takes them several weeks to write a new scripts to fix them. As for NetTrak (or Buzztrak) whichever you prefer to call it. They seem to have their shit together in most cases. My store is the first store in my dealer group to go through the integration between these two products. NetTrak is suppose to push any new ileads to CRM and compare it against any current customers and leads in the data base. It will report back to BZ if the customer already as a history record, by marking it duplicate or invalid, but webCRM never notifys the currently assigned sales person of the new request. So how are we suppose to respond to this customer, if no one knows there is a lead? ADP is only suppose to report "Status Changes" i.e. duplicate,LOST SALE, SOLD or DELIVERED. What I am seeing is that more information is reporting back to NetTrak, but it is only a generic note. It doesn't actually diplay any information of value, nor does NetTrak send any information the WebCRM after the intial response. Isn't that really what would make most sense. If an ilead is worked in BZ that all the notes, tasks and calls be integrated to CRM too. That would make far too much sense, who wants to have to cheap track of two seperate systems to sell one customer? After all how many desk managers actually need the notes in NetTrak and/or in WebCRM?
I most of the features that ADP provides, it's a great "jack of all trades", but it is a master of none of them. BZ on the other hand is a great ILM, in comparsion to Autobase, AVV, or ADP WebCRM. Why did they ever sale out to ADP? It appears that ADP (the evil Empire) has given different departments each a section of this project to work on, however no one at either oraganization that I have spoken to seems to no all of the answers. I spoke with someone how seemed to be pretty we wired in a BZ and he claimed the irregularities I was producing were not suppose to work. I sent him screen shots and corasponding data to support my case. His answer was I didn't know the integration would do that. Maybe next time they make me the Guinea Pig, they will compensate me for my time and troubleshooting skills. Or possibly I will net fund them my consultation fee on our monthly bill. They seem to lop all of their service together and slide in other new programs and fees in on us too.
Or maybe the online Credit application they offered to sell me that integrates with WebCRM and DealerTrack. Prehaps if the sales rep had bothered to look at our website, he would have seen that we already subscribed to a more efficient product that actually cost less per month. And it actually pulls the credit for me too. So I don't even have to take it to another salesmanager or F&amp;I person to get an answer. Isn't integration about saving time and money? So at that time I told the rep I wasn't interested in any additional ADP servies or resources to do his lack of knowledge of my business and their lack of proper preparation before launching an new products. So in short I will not be adding anymore integration to our process, unless something here breaks.
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    Henry Merry
  • March 14, 2009
The Standards for Technology in Automotive Retail (STAR) group started several years ago with the goal of creating an open standard so OEMs, dealers, and Retail System Providers (DMS, CRM, websites) could all talk to one another in the same language.

STAR is ADF (Auto-Lead Format)on steroids. Whereas ADF is a standard for internet leads, STAR handles lots more data about customers, vehicles, service, parts, and more.

Many OEMs, dealers, and RSPs are already on board. Unfortunately, not everyone does it well, either due to a lack of resources (time, money, skill) or a desire to maintain control over some piece of the process.

Reynolds &amp; Reynolds is an example of the former. Reynolds Certified Interface (RCI) is the official STAR-compliant non-hostile interface (they don't use the word integration) for third party vendors. Even Reynolds Contact Management uses RCI to interface with the Rey Rey DMS. Ironically(?), Rey Rey recently 'upgraded' RCI and, in the process, broke some of the the interface. Even Contact Management can't correctly interface with the DMS. Estimated date this will be corrected - unknown.

So as you ask about interfaces, ask if the How follows the STAR standard.

For more info, check out these links:

STAR website

http://starstandard.org/index.php

The Open Road for Information Technology White Paper - 9 page overview

http://www.starstandard.org/STARArticles/Main

Dealership Infrastructure Guidelines - 220 pages of technical stuff but browse the table of contents to get an idea of the scope

http://www.starstandard.org/SIGINFRASTRUCTURE/DealershipInfrastructure
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    Bob
  • March 15, 2009
Alex,
I used to work on the DMS Side. SO from that perspective, I have many experiences of thrid party vendors to the DMS that so called "integrated" their solution to the DMS.
SOme of these experiences are thrid party vendors pushing data into the DMS, and the data overriding other data.
When the dealership calls the DMS provider to find out why the DMS company did this, the DMS company has to research who did what and when. When the DMS company finally figures out a third party vendor did this, they politely tell the dealer that it was not them, nd they will need to place the last backup tape in and have to manually reload from that date. Can you imagine the screaming the dealer does at the DMS provider at this point, and because the third party vendor screwed up, and yet the third party vendor has no way fo fixing the problem.

There are multiple reasons why a DMS vendor wants to have a "certified" process in place with a third party vendor.

The first is because of the above situation. If the third party vendor was certifed to the DMS, then all three parties (DMS, third party vendor, and dealership) know exactly what data is supposed to go where and when. When either support center is contacted, then each vendor knows exactly what the "integration" paths are. How would a retailer ask a DMS provider how to fix a third party integration issue if the DMS provider had no idea what was going on in the first place?

The second issue is about data security. Current law makes dealerships look like "banks" and with that designation, there are laws (federal) that need to be followed.

A great story of this, is one time a retailer "challenged" me and the company about this "data security" issue when the topic was "white hot" in the marketplace (about 3 years ago).
In my own way, I challenged them back. I asked the dealer and the CFO to provide me with the list of authorized companies who they had provided access to the modem line and therefore access to the data. I also asked them what specific data each of these companies had access to. I never received a
response as to what the companies had asked to, just the list of vendor names. The list contained 34 vendors names.
I told them that we (the DMS company)would monitor their system for 30 days and provide back to them all of the names of the vendors that accessed their system, how many times they accessed the system, and what data they took on each occasion. The list we provided back to them was 119, with most accessing the system daily, some weekly. Some vendors, were taking whole sales files to do some type of reporting, and yes those files contained social security numbers etc.....

Needless to say, the dealer was astounded, and stated that they had stopped doing business with the majority of those vendors quite a few years ago. The dealer finally caught on that these third party vendors were still accessing his data, and most probably selling their customers data.
Having said that, the DMS provider is jsut as legally liable for letting this happen as is the dealer (remember the bank designation I discussed earlier?) Ultimately, the DMS provider has more risk due to their size than a typical dealership. The lawyers would make a killing with this issue.

So, in the end, the DMS providers may not be the easiest to do business with from an integration viewpoint, but the third party providers may not have the financial backing to support the integration costs/support, and do not have the legal exposure.

Hope this helps in understanding this overall issue somewhat!
R
Anthony: Let your bosses know that what they are doing with these two database programs is going NOWHERE! This is not he way to manage your data by using overlapping systems. ONE database only!

My qualifications here include 3 plus years in the automotive business and over 20 years as a database system analyst, developer and publisher. I have spent many hours analyzing BZ Results and WebCRM... you need a LEAD MANAGEMENT SYSTEM. On scale of 1 to 10 they are both 4.5 or so...

Tip: Concentrate on LEADS...When the lead walks on the lot pass it off to another system.

But it all starts with Process Workflow Management. Who is your Honda Facilitator? ;)

Randy
<b>Bob</b> - thank you for presenting the other side. It is a very valid side in the legal-world we live in. I can only go off of my own experience, and that is a very protected DMS. I hear from all of our vendors that we're a little too overprotective. That leads me to believe there are a lot of dealers out there who are probably a little too liberal with whom they grant access.

On the other side of the coin, the sharing of data is imperative to the future. If the DMS companies make it difficult to share that data, then they will eventually be taken down as new DMS companies arise to fill the gap - good old capitalism!

Outside of the DMS realm, many companies easily (and without charge) partner with other companies for data sharing. It is fairly regular practice outside of the DMS realm.

Eventually the DMS realm is not going to be valued as highly as it is. The days of the DMS being the center of the universe are drawing to a close. As more technologies are written for Fixed Operations and accounting/F&I the DMS will simply become data storage. These monstrous contracts current DMS companies enjoy will melt.

I think they know this too. That is why they're rapidly working to build or buy CRM solutions, inventory solutions, site hosting platforms, and other things that work toward marketing instead of database security.
R
Bob:

Thanks very much for your post. AMEN to all you said. This industry is in a total state of denial about it's condition. No wonder they are on life support!

Randy
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    Bob
  • March 16, 2009
Alex,
I agree that the DMS world (and in general the auto business) is behind the times from a technology viewpoint, and would like to see them become more open in general.

If the DMS operators were to become completely open, it still would not obsolve themselves of the legal liability.

Their is risk all around, and I think if third party vendors want to "integrate" then they should work with the DMS providers. It simply makes their tools more valuable to the retailer, doesn't it.

I am not advocating for the DMS providers! I don't understand why the third party vendors don't get certified with the DMS provider. It only makes their solution more valuable, and proves to the retailer that both the DMS provider and third party vendor are working together!

Isn't the retailers mind put at ease if he/she knows the third party vendor has his/her back from an integration viewpoint!
Doesn't the retailer sleep better at night knowing he/she has one less headache?

Just my viewpoint!
<b>Bob</b> - thanks again for your viewpoint. Yes, we all understand that there is legal liability for the DMS providers. Yes, it would be great if every vendor became "certified". I assume they don't all do this because there is a significant monetary cost along with the programming time when it comes to becoming "certified". On top of that there are probably some political things going on behind the scenes...

If a DMS provider is trying to purchase a particular vendor, it might not be in the DMS provider's best interest to help that other company increase its value with "certification".

Whether it be legal, huge costs, or political the consumer (ours) and client (us) still loses in the end.

<b>I'm sick of being the loser in this <u>stupid</u> game!</b>
D
Once again, another good discussion. My two cents....

Integration - yikes. The word itself screams "difficult" "impossible" "time consuming" "unproductive." Sure, there are vendors and DMS providers that are working hard at being "nice" to each other but really, in nearly 100% of cases, it just doesn't work as designed. Like mentioned earlier, certification processes are a good concept but almost impossible to administer with the pace of change recently (going to get even faster). Pushing, pulling, feeding, it's all just a blur to most "normal folks" just trying to do their jobs.

Consider this: About a year ago none of our phones had fancy little touch screens - today tons do. I've already forgot how to use a once cool Querty Keyboard. About a year ago almost nobody had ever heard of a "net book" - today, it's one of the hottest PC products. I could go on and on.

The reality is, like it or not, in a very short amount of time, there will be very few dealers storing their data locally. Yeah, we've all heard this before... but how "real" was the idea of "cloud computing" only a few short months ago.

In the last few years (months really) GIANT corporations (banks included, they understand the possible litigation associated with their businesses too) have been moving large data-sets offsite (did you know that almost zero B of A's have local data storage anymore?) and the car biz' isn't too far behind. Behind, sure, but not too far. Don't take my word for it, I'm just an industry vendor guy. Take the WORLDS word for it. Data's moving upstairs and there isn't anything anyone can do about it, including Rey Rey, ADP or any of the other "big providers."

The key to our industries data integration problems lies in standards. Standards like the trusty ADF / XML lead. Standards like the RSS inventory that almost no web-providers provide - easily. Standards like EVERY other industry designs and supports in order to advance their industry. Airlines, Banks, Hospitals, everybody that survives has figured it out - except us. It's time our industry got serious about standardizing each and every kind of data we create, transmit, share and protect.

a) Develop a standard database schema
b) Dealers "own" their database and store it wherever they please.
c) Solutions providers create front-ends to manipulate the standard database. Parts, service, sales, FI, HR, the whole enchilada.
d) all transmissions are encrypted and customer data is not accessible by anyone without the customers electronic permission (just like banks, doctors, etc. )

It may sound like I'm minimizing the complexity surrounding such a big problem, I am. But, I'm also not naive enough to think that our industry is somehow going to remain both viable AND old-school. It just isn't going to work. Heck, "modern" in our stores is a PC emulator rigged up to act like UNIX. Come on.... are we serious?

For the folks that are concerned about "security" - consider this. Would you rather your data be offsite behind a standard protection mechanism, or, in the hands of Lucy upstairs, or John in FI or Jack in service, or me, Joe vendor? Seems obvious doesn't it.

Who's aboard, we have lots of work to do!
David.
U
@david I 100% agree with you on principle of "Develop a standard database schema". There are many specs already for exchanging customer data(ADF/STAR), financial data (STAR), Warranty and others... but we are lacking a standard for inventory exchange. Lets all work towards getting a standard in place for vehicle inventory. That addresses...

1. What data we must have in the DMS. (I'm frankly exhausted of figuring out what color is Silver2 or entries like dblue vs dkblue vs drkblue)
2. Layout of inventory feeds. Every provider has their own standard... why do I have to write a different import for HomeNet, VinSolution, DSI, CDM... or a export for ATC, CC, Vehix.

To get started... on #2... I have created this xsd... http://www.autojini.com/xml/xsdDocs/index.html (still needs tons of work)

I would also add that actually implementing the standard fully is the key. To date I have not found any CRM provider that fully supports the ADF standard. Mainly... ADF clearly supports Inline or Attachment based data... most providers take only inline data. There is a perfectly logical standard for processing errors in ADF but so far no one has actually implemented correct error handeling in ADF. i.e send the errors to the ADF data provider not the dealer.
C
Do not forget to clear (delete) all DMS VPN access. You will be surprise when you find out your previous employees still accessing your DMS via VPN. Remember REYREY does NOT care !

REYREY offers VPN access !

Get a security report from REYREY and good luck.

Happy selling.

(by the way I still use dial up connection, it works)
M
The biggest problem with integration is that there are very few people who actually understand how it all works together. You must be able to tell your vendors exactly what your want. I have all of our systems working together thanks to some great IT people at vAuto, The Cardone Group, Autouplink and eBiz Autos. Where other vendors said they couldn't, we have found creative ways to make it all work together. Here is the list.
Six New Car Franchises
Two Used Car Lots
Four Separate Buildings
One DMS with one (YES,1!) F&amp;I Log On
One (YES,1!) Vehicle Account
Three different Parts and Service Accounts(Does anyone else have these kinda problems)
Six New Car Websites
One Group /Used Car Site.... and the list goes on.
We have ADP as our DMS, Autouplink polls our inventory, and breaks it down into multiple feeds based on different filtering criteria. vAuto both pulls from and pushes to Autouplink. It also separates the used car inventories based on which lot, so we have one place to price our used cars.
We have four separate dedicated ePencil servers, with a web based Enterprise CRM solution courtesy of Cardone/Dealerpeak(big shout to Gus, Vincent and Laymon the best in the business). We also have 12 different vehicle accounts for our web sites. Believe it or not it all works together great. And when there are problems, 99.99% of the time somebody put in the wrong data.
Worst case scenario, I can always write an "English Statement", export to a csv file, convert the data to an Excel Spreadsheet and FTP it to my vendors.
It helps that we have General Managers and a Dealer Principle that understand the importance of the technology. Almost all of our Sales Managers have bought in, and one of our Used Car Managers who was as "old school" as they came is now a Dale Pollack fan and it shows. Our used car sales, grosses and turn rate are all way up, and we cut our used car inventory in almost half!!!
And yes we still have one (YES,1!) "old school" sales manager and we have been dragging him kicking and screaming the whole way! I think even he's actually starting to get it. Either that or he's just found something else to kick and scream about.
Matt Young
IT Manager /Crisis Avoidance Specialist
Jack Ingram Motors
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    DP
  • March 22, 2009
Great Post!  When vendors tell you that your group is overprotective they might be referring to the fact that you actually take the time to run third party requests for integration through a legal team.  All too often I witness dealers and office staff who sign these types of contracts and agreements without even browsing over them. Many times, these contracts include clauses or disclaimers that release the third party vendor from liability for data loss, corruption, or theft caused by the integration hence the responsibility often falls solely on the dealership.
I do work in the industry for a third party company that does invest in secure integration with several DMS partners including the "Big Three" as you refer to them.  We view the certification process as an important aspect of our business that allows our clients to do business with us in confidence.  Unfortunately, it's not always the easiest or most popular stance to take.  If you think about it, many of your customers would probably be happy if you told them them that they can neglect costly procedures in their maintenance guide and still enjoy optimal performance from their new car. Much the same way a vendor might tell you to ignore your data providers cerification policy guidlines for protecting your system and data. The argument to keep using vendors that rely on hostile integration to access data is often based on a broken correlation: Nothing negative has occurred to this point, therefore nothing negative will ever occur.  My point is, it’s always easy to "drink the kool aid" and there will always be plenty of companies happy to serve it as long as decision makers are willing to drink.
In today’s market, clients often place focus and expectations on fast and easy.  As we've all witnessed in the credit card industry, fast and easy doesn't always mix well with private or sensitive information. In making credit cards faster and easier to use than ever, credit card companies and the vendors that process them have made it easier in many cases, for criminals to commit data theft and fraud.  Sometimes it might make sense to be careful what we wish for, at least before we consider unintended consequences. (Ask any individual who has gone through identity theft or a company that’s been through a class action lawsuit for failing to adequately protect sensitive data)
   Data security can be like auto insurance. Unfortunately, it's often just not that important until a problem occurs.  The saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" seems relevant when talking about this issue. To anyone faced with decisions involving data security and integration, I recommend examining motivations and agendas of the companies using non-certified integrations to gain access to data just as you scrutinize the companies that implement and maintain the certification programs. 
D
@ DP

Your post is so spot-on and important. There are many many implications with "slinging information around" that almost nobody thinks about when they enter a agreement with a new vendor.

I think our industry is asking for trouble if we simplify (like I did in an earlier post) the integration issue. But, we cannot afford to ignore it. Seems to me that these yet-to-be-developed standards should start with a solid data protection and security plan.

Thanks for sharing from your perspective
David Book
U
@Matt "Crisis Avoidance Specialist" :)
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  • 3
    3rd Party
  • July 27, 2009
I work for a 3rd Party company the intergrates with DMS systems. We have gone thru the "expensive certification" with the BIG DMS vendors. Our company did this because we wanted to make sure when we were extracting information to our system we did it securly so that none of the customers information was able to be stolen or hacked. where as our competition does not do this and the information from thier system is very vunerable to hacks and theft.
M
The bottom line is do you trust the vendor with your data? Which methodology they used to get the data doesn't really matter if you ask me.
M
  • M
    Market Share Media
  • October 11, 2012
As a tech-head who works with data feeds on a regular basis your topic and insight are spot on. I'm amazed that the industry hasn't really adopted some standards for automotive data that are out there. Try to aggregate / integrate data from multiple providers and it can be cumbersome at times.
 
Great articles, keep up the good work guys!
M