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2018-04-04 Technology - Switching to a New DMS Know What You’re Getting Into


By David Brotherton


When your typical Buy Here-Pay Here dealer got into business, he signed up for a DMS system based, more often than not, on price.

Most people don’t really know what to look for the first time they are buying software and it takes some experience to realize what you need.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some excellent low-cost solutions available for our industry that have served many dealers well for many years. I’m not suggesting everyone should line up for the most expensive platform with all the bells and whistles.

Paying for features you won’t really need for years and for integrations with platforms you might not stick with is a waste of money.

Now that you have started reviewing your DMS options, it is important to understand converting existing data and changing platforms will be painful.

Conversions have often been compared to going through a messy divorce: it will be painful and expensive but – hopefully – ultimately worth it. I’ve never heard of a perfect conversion and your expectations need to be based on reality, not fantasy.

Choosing your DMS solution is one of the most important and impactful decisions you can make for your business. Your DMS is at the very core of how you do business and it touches everything.

Consider a few points before making the switch.

Have a real reason to switch: It is easy to become infatuated when you demo a new system.

Perhaps it has that one feature you never realized you needed. Or maybe it has some built-in features or ad hoc reporting that will make your life easier.

But before you pull the trigger, make sure you have a legitimate, business-oriented reason for switching. Such as:

·                     Industry consolidation making your current solution’s future questionable.

·                     Missing features.

·                     Better third-party integration.

·                     Cloud-based solution versus server-based.

·                     Remote access capabilities.

·                     Better security.

·                     Compliance.

·                     Real service module.

·                     Scalable solution able to handle forecasted growth.

·                     Better support.

Understand the costs: Migrating from one system to another can be complicated and expensive. There is a great deal of data validation that has to take place to make sure the data converted properly.

Not only does that take money, it also takes time. Some providers charge nothing or a minimal fee for a data conversion, but others charge a significant amount. Know what you’re getting into up front.

Features like integrated texting and payment processing aren’t free. There will be per-text charges and a fee on payments processed through the DMS. Know what those fees are. Surprises here are generally expensive ones.

You will also typically need to run both systems side by side for at least 30 days to make sure everything is working properly. That will cut into your efficiency.

Training, training, training: Transitioning a team to new software can be a real headache. Longtime employees will fight a new system because they know how to use the old one much better.

Your new provider should provide on-site training. A real plus is one that has training videos and a test system available for your employees to learn on.

You can’t expect this to work if you just toss employees the keys and say “make me proud.”

This is one of the most important aspects of transitioning systems. Your commitment to training is essential and you must drive that home to your team.

This is where access to online training videos will be so valuable, because you can track individual progress through the training process and provide additional training as needed.

When the day comes for you cut the cord, you need to be ready.

Read the fine print: Every contract has its pitfalls. Make sure you know yours.

For example, who actually owns the data is critically important.

If something was to happen and you felt the business needed to depart from your new provider, will you be able to get your data quickly? How much would it cost to terminate early? Is there a fee to migrate your data to another provider?

None of those fees represents a bad business practice but it is important you know about it in advance instead discovering an unpleasant surprise later.

Manage your expectations: Let’s be clear. If you are adopting a new system, it will not work like your old one.

One of the most important roles you have to play in this process is keeping things positive for your team. Negativity can blossom when you are driving change.

Stay positive as you work through training and acclimatization issues – because you might be the only one doing so.

Finally, there will be hiccups in any conversion process. Be patient.

You have every right to expect responsive attention from your new provider but you need to do your part as well. Communicate effectively and commit to training and you’ll emerge from the process with the tools and features you’re looking for.


David Brotherton is a moderator/consultant for NIADA Dealer 20 Groups. He can be reached at or (941) 371-7999.