When installing a new dealership management system, the most critical issue is the communication between the provider and the dealership, not the technology itself, says John Hickey, CDK Global's vice president of implementation.
Hickey spoke with Staff Reporter Vince Bond Jr. about the steps CDK takes when converting dealerships to its DMS.
Q: What goes into an installation?
A: There’s probably five or six major steps. The first is discovery. We send experts to work with the dealership to map out the total project.
The project includes everything from training, looking at the network, walking the dealership, understanding the hardware needs that they have, making sure that we understand the data that needs to migrate. But very importantly, too, understanding what the dealer wants from the product. What exactly is the dealer looking for?
Discovery is usually a blended team. You’ll have network specialists who’ll be on site, client managers and trainers and obviously the sales team.
We have the ability to mock up what the [new] DMS will look like for single franchises and multiple franchises. People will get to understand the change that they would experience upon the go-live date.
On go-live itself, we spend time with each individual that’s using the new system. We make sure users are up to speed on what the system features do for them. We transfer the support to our service team. We give the dealerships access to CDK University, which has a lot of ongoing training for utilization of the system.
How long does staff training take?
It depends on who you’re training. There will be staff who are absolutely computer-savvy. [Others] are not so computer-savvy because they’ve been doing things on paper for a long time. In discovery we have to map out the level of effort we have to put in to make sure that everybody gets the training that [they] need. Some sites might require two weeks of training, some sites might require more.
Does the process change if a store has a Reynolds vs. a Quorum system?
The process is tailored to the nuances of the dealer. If a dealer [is using] a competitor system, we take that into account as we run our discovery. Not everybody uses a competitor system in the same way, either. It’s really around their workflows — how they prepare their targeted accounts, how they manage their service department. When you install a DMS, it’s actually more about the robust communication and training than it is about the technology.
Do you review each dealership vendor to determine if they’ll be compatible with your DMS?
As part of the mapping exercise, we go through everything, whether it’s different vendors, different systems, different network configurations. And obviously what that dealer is looking to achieve. It’s important for us to understand the full end-to-end systems and workflows that a dealer has.
CDK has a global partner program, which has more than 300 vendors. We’re easily able to share data in a secure fashion.
We have a dealer data exchange, which allows the dealership to really see data that has been transferred between the different systems.
We’re adding to that global program all the time.
Is it more difficult to pull data from certain DMS vendors?
When it comes to pulling data, we have 40 years’ experience. In the last four years we’ve moved 2,000 sites to [CDK's DMS]. That experience has given us the ability to work with manufacturers to prepopulate a lot of the data that dealers need. There’s a huge amount of work that can be done remotely without a lot of friction at the dealership when they’re installing.
What are the other steps?
The second is project mapping. So sometimes it’s a multigenerational project plan because you have different apps that are going in and we stagger them. It also includes looking at the training plan.
Site readiness is all the work we do in advance before step 4, which is go-live. After the go-live, we do a punch list to make sure commitments have been met and we’re absolutely good. Then we hold — step 5 — a transition meeting, where we preview the results we are seeing with the new DMS. We look at any follow-ups that have to be done. Then we do a formal handover to our CDK support team. The last piece is the ongoing training.
What is the hardest part? What gives you the biggest headaches?
Discovery is the most important part. Once we know what the dealer is looking to achieve and [have] all of the information about the dealership, the process is quite seamless. We have examples recently where we have managed to install a DMS in seven days. Typically, it’s a three- to four-month cycle time.
Seven days? How is that possible?
If you have a manufacturer you’re used to working with, you’re used to the franchise and a dealership is adding a new site, it’s easy to accomplish.
It does require a strong relationship with the dealership.
Our cycle times are reducing because we put a lot of work into improving the discovery process.
We’re using robotics on the back end of the process so we can set up customers more quickly and accurately.
We’re cross-training the team so that they can answer questions on multiple components of the workflow in the dealership. We’re designing [new products] for easier installation.