Plus a Few Great Technologies of 2010

In the automotive business, information technology plays a very important role. Consequently, no one can imagine life without the efficiencies that technology offers, the costs it can reduce or even the possibilities of new business endeavors it might help support. When I started this article, I planned to highlight the best technologies of 2010, but I decided to also write a little about new technology, the issues surrounding the implementation of technology and setting expectations to achieve desired results.

Purchasing the right technology is not as simple as it seems because with any technology implementation, there are always two sides to the story, and unfortunately it’s often both bright and dark. Bill Gates once said, “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”

Businesses that are unwilling or unmotivated to stay current with technology can and will find themselves up the proverbial creek without a paddle. However, just making a decision to stay up on the latest technology is simply not enough, and doing that effectively can be more difficult than it seems. Making any technology purchase is usually the easy part; it’s implementing that purchase where things usually go awry. When a business spends money on technology, it should expect a quality return on that investment. Otherwise, why spend the money in the first place?

Unfortunately, there are many examples where businesses purchased new technologies only to have them partially implemented, which caused them to feel as though they never received any benefit or return for their purchase. Rightly or wrongly, one industry and/or technology that has been publicly criticized for these types of issues is the CRM software market. Gartner, Inc., a well-respected information technology research and advisory firm, issued a statement that said between 2001 and 2006 "more than 50 percent of all CRM implementations will be viewed as failures from a customer's point of view."

In this case, the companies implementing the CRM are the customers. Typically CRM implementations fail due to a lack of internal fortitude that requires all the data to be entered at all entry points. Consequently, a lack of adoption by the users themselves contributes to the failures of these installations, translating directly to the dissatisfaction of the purchasers of this technology.

In a typical dealership, dealer principals are purchasing CRM technology to provide the sales and management staff with marketing data, showroom traffic information, follow-up data on new and existing customers, referral and lead tracking, and more. However, if your sales staff fails to fully utilize this great new technology, was it a good investment after all? In the end, who’s at fault for poor implementation? It’s hard to say without knowing all the facts.

This article is not being written to pick on CRM technologies; there are a lot of fantastic ones out there. CRM is only being used to illustrate a point. Without a well-designed plan for implementation and follow-up training, you can rest assured your technology investment is not safe. You can buy the best-of-the-best technology, but a poorly executed implementation or having poorly trained staff will guarantee failure every time.

Now for the fun part—the great technologies of 2010. Instead of mentioning each one by name, I will describe a few technologies, the business segments they fulfill and the ultimate impact on business.

During the year, many businesses have implemented document management solutions. As banks and finance companies begin to demand electronic off-site document storage, businesses are making the investment to implement these technologies. These technologies are very important to businesses that are seeking to create off-site disaster recovery plans that will keep a business running in the event of a catastrophic event such as a fire, tornado, flood, etc.

Another emerging technology you may have seen advertised is cloud-computing solutions for business. Cloud computing is Internet-based computing, whereby online computing resources are shared across the enterprise in the areas of hardware, software and network technologies without the need for you to purchase, manage or control your own technology infrastructure. The way we pay for and use electricity is a good example of an on-demand technology that we use in our everyday lives. We pay for these on-demand services, and we rely on the experts to deliver it to us effectively and efficiently. Outsourcing your computing infrastructure on a cloud-based platform is an excellent disaster recovery solution that can add real value to your business and bottom line.

Another hot topic in 2010 was in the area of business intelligence (BI). However, BI tools take some time to implement, and you must do some strategic planning to determine what types of data you want to analyze. Plan for your management team to take considerable time determining what key business metrics you feel are valuable in measuring your business. This is not paralysis by analysis; it’s simply using sophisticated reporting tools that can provide critical business information through graphs, charts or statistics.

Lastly, in the buy here pay here and finance company arena, businesses are experiencing a lot of traction with the implementation of new electronic payment solutions. These solutions can provide real cost-reducing value when measured against the cost of taking and receipting payments manually. In addition, consumers are finding value in having access to their accounts and payment information in an online, real-time, secure environment. It’s just another way to speed the process of collecting money, increase cash flow and reduce the need for human involvement.

In summary, these few items represent only a small portion of the interesting technology solutions for auto dealers and finance companies in 2010. The moral of the story is simply this: whatever technologies you decide to implement in 2011, put your full effort and resources into it, or don’t do it at all.

Volume 8, Issue 1