Opinions & Advice

IT, oh how I love thee

I am a customer of the IT department.  I am not an IT expert.  I am just a customer.

Ed Shaffer asked a simple question in the comment string of the article titled “Does your Dealer block Social Media:”

[Why haven’t we addressed] The bandwidth drain that YouTube and Fb would have on our already thinly stretched pipe…

This question got me thinking about where the perspectives of IT administrators come from.  As a customer of the IT department, who happens to be interested in history, I want to start to answer that question with:

The Evolution of the Dealership IT Department
It all began with the DMS.  The original DMS systems were based on tapes, but that’s not the important part.  The important part is that there was really only one user of the original DMS:  the accounting department.  In the case of my dealership, that was our CFO.  Back then she had to be the person who maintained and managed the DMS system.  Her responsibilities revolved around not only keeping the dealership financially sound, but also in safeguarding the data in our early DMS system.

In time, our DMS company added more functionality for other parts of the dealership and the CFO no longer could handle all the maintenance and needs this brought.  This signified the birth of the IT department at my dealership.

On the sales, service, parts, rental, and bodyshop side there really wasn’t much need to do a ton in the DMS at first.  We were still handwriting RO’s, deals, parts orders, and even had a fantastic microfiche system that was actually really good (I kind of miss it).  So, IT was tasked with one big priority:  safeguarding the data.

Over the last 15 years things like dealership websites have developed, online inventory display, CRM’s, ILM’s, inventory management, etc etc etc.  As a lot of things moved to the web, the IT department did all they could to continue striving toward their number one priority:  safeguarding the data.  So they built elaborate security systems, they built monitoring systems, and they even gave us email!  But these things came at an expense on the user:  things got slow.

The slowness stemmed from these elaborate and secure networks.

A trade-off for good security is reduced speed.

What’s the problem today?
Today our IT departments still have to safeguard the data.  But they also have to balance all the demands all these different technological tools create.  When was the last time you looked at how many systems a sales manager is working in at one time?  How do you speed things up?  Is it getting a sales manager a faster computer?  Is it buying more bandwidth from your ISP?  If it were only that simple…

The fact is it isn’t simple.  The fact is that we have an evolved need that has changed from our original needs.  We have so many more users today, and only so much money to spend that doesn’t directly turn into profit.

I am a customer of IT
As a customer I believe it is time to redefine what is important.  I think it may be time to figure out what our true needs are today.  I think it is time to figure out whether security is the most important thing our IT departments can be providing.  Because security is slow and technology is a hog.

If, at a really high-level, we can define two IT priorities:  Security and Usability, can we figure out which one is most needed?  If usability becomes the priority, then is our IT department capable of making that transition?  Can they give us a fast network that meets our needs and still provide an adequate level of data security?

A frustrated customer

P.S.  I’m not really a frustrated IT customer anymore because I now live in a world where usability is the first priority of an IT department.  Usability first, patch the holes that need patching second.  It is my newfound experience that has made me understand why many of my past vendors (from my dealership days) didn’t appreciate the IT dilemma that plagues many dealerships.

Who knew an argument with Jeff Kershner, in 2005, would lead to Alex becoming a partner with him on DealerRefresh. Where will the next argument take ...
So true, the IT element of the dealership isn't easy. I've found that the IT dept. (me) needs to have a thicker skin than the car guys in the showroom. 

I've tried hard to push for usability first & have to say that it's taken about 5 years for that mentality to sink in. Doubling bandwidth, better workflow processes, and nice equipment all helped - but the one item that worked the best...simply listening to what the guys in the stores were saying & finding them the best solutions possible. 
Then when the place gets cleaned out, they fire the IT guy...
I read that article when it came out earlier this week and again after you posted this Theron.  That is definitely the downside, but there really is no way for any dealership to afford the kind of NSA/CIA/FBI security that is needed to block a real attack from hackers.  

We just have to measure the risk, decide who the primary customer of IT is, and roll with any punches.  I will promise you that if the primary customer of an IT department is a security protocol, these breaches can still happen.
  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • August 18, 2011
Spot on Alex. Explained well. I can only imagine the hassles of IT. But I also believe too many times IT over uses "security" as a reason to not focus on usability.
  • M
    Motorhome Storage
  • August 18, 2011
The fact is not simple. The fact is that we have developed a need that has changed since our original requirements. We have many users today, and only much money to spend, not directly turn into profits.
  • M
    Motorhome Storage
  • August 18, 2011
The fact is not simple. The fact is that we have developed a need that has changed since our original requirements. We have many users today, and only much money to spend, not directly turn into profits.