There has been a lot of discussion lately about whether or not a DMS is considered to be “open” or not.  To make the first clarification, there are a few types of “open” in our industry.  The most common is having access to your data.  That means that your DMS provider has enabled a way for you to write reports and export the data from your DMS.  The key data items are; customers, vehicles, employees, parts inventory, and transactions.  These transactions include parts tickets, repair orders, car deals, payroll, and general ledger entries.  A DMS company might look at this list and say “If I let dealerships export this data, they could easily change to another DMS!”  Yes, that is an option, but no DMS company should hold a dealership and their data hostage.

“in real open source, you have the right to control your own destiny.”

The next measurement of “open” is the platform that the DMS is developed on.   In the technology world there are open source tools like Apache server, PHP scripting language, and databases like MariaDB.  There are non-open tools, many developed by Microsoft that charge license fees to use.  You can see how open tools save dealerships money if the DMS provider doesn’t have to charge high user fees.  In addition, open source tools don’t get “sunset out” the way Microsoft terminated Visual Fox Pro in 2015.  According to Linus Torvalds, “In real open source, you have the right to control your own destiny.”

The next measure of “open” is the integration.  When employees are making a DMS selection decision, they often asked, “does it integrate with VAuto, parts scanners, service appointment software, CRM, etc.?”  Integrations should save enough time to justify the integration costs and errors.  Let’s use Service Appointments as an example.  A customer comes to your website and wants to make a service appointment.  With highly integrated software, the customer would need to create an account, know their VIN number and be able to type it in correctly to truly “integrate” with your DMS.   Where is the time savings?  Your goal is for the customer to quickly pick one of a couple suggested dates and a general description of the problem and send a request for an appointment.  You have a perfectly good service advisor that can receive the appointment request and then send an email back to the customer (after reviewing their service history) confirming the appointment and suggest more service.  A human receiving a request from Sandi Jerome can search and match to my official DMS record of Sandra Jerome visually.  A computer doesn’t match me and adds me again to your database and responds back with suggested service that I recently had done.  That is a common error and the integration doesn’t make sense.

The last remaining “open” in our industry is the issue of whether or not a DMS provider enables 3rd parties to have access to your data for their software.  I was once working as a consultant on a legacy DMS system and the delay time was horrible every time we tried to select a new customer for a repair order.  I put in a trouble email and the DMS provider found that a 3rd party was “extracting” the full customer database every 12 minutes!  That query caused a huge taxing of the DMS’s resources.    After working with the 3rd party, I was able to show them how to retrieve only the changed and new records and that fixed the problem.  Some DMS providers are finding a new revenue stream by “selling” your data to 3rd party technology providers like your CRM provider.  Most 3rd party companies have to pass this cost along to dealerships, which mean that dealers are paying for their own data.  If you’re getting these new charges, don’t blame your CRM provider; make sure next time you get this written into your contract that you will not be charged for your own data.  This concept of open data should be thought of as free access to your own data.

Author: Sandi Jerome

Sandi Jerome is the owner of Sandi Jerome Computer Consulting. Sandi founded DealerStar, a web-based DMS. She is a former CFO, System Administrator, Fixed Operations Manager, and Controller with over 30 years experience in the auto industry.

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