Dealer management system (DMS) technology is no longer a luxury for businesses; it is now an indispensable tool for managing sales, services, and operations. Additionally, it plays a crucial role in reducing manual and repetitive processes that burden management, so they can be freed up to focus on growing the bottom line.
However, many businesses have not fully realized the benefits of this technology, experiencing low adoption rates. This often stems from subpar implementations, where the emphasis is on setting up the technology rather than understanding how the technology empowers people. The following are five essential principles for ensuring a successful DMS implementation.
Principle 1: Start with Process
Before introducing a DMS tool, it is crucial to optimize existing sales management processes. Obtain buy-in from key users, including Sales, Services, IT, as well as executive management. The process should not be customized without a valid reason (e.g., unnecessary steps), and any changes should be managed with proper change management protocols. Without process optimization, there is a risk of digitizing inefficient processes, leading to reduced tool adoption and overall benefits.
Map the existing process, identify inefficiencies, and design a streamlined process with minimal hand-offs, clearly identified individuals at each step of the business workflow, and consideration for different contract types and risk profiles.
Principle 2: Fix your Data
Determine the overarching master categories, or classes of items (sellable inventory, parts, and rentals if applicable) to be stored in the DMS. They might be Unit Sales/Parts if you’re a trailer dealership using a DMS. Or if you operate an oil and gas business using software you might have Pumps/Parts. Do not name these based on different categories of the same type of equipment. Cleanse your existing catalog or spreadsheet. Then reclassify your items into categories and products under the master categories.
Principle 3: Optimize your Communication Templates
Optimizing communication templates is critical before DMS implementation. Identify existing templates, rationalize them where possible, and ensure the latest versions with updated standard language are available. Use AI tools to analyze current templates against past messaging, enabling a more thorough approach to developing new standards. Optimized templates improve professionalism, consistency, and enable faster customer experiences, reducing demand on staff time.
Principle 4: Start Small
Recognize the current maturity level of your business and start with a minimum viable product that aligns with your business’s readiness. Consider factors such as process, data, content, and people. Phase the deployment of additional capabilities as the business matures in its use of the DMS tool. Develop a roadmap to guide users on the tool’s evolution over time.
Principle 5: Change Management is Essential
The primary cause of failed DMS implementations is often a lack of change management and executive sponsorship. Technology is an enabler but must be implemented with consideration for each principle. Understand the impact of change on current ways of working, build awareness and knowledge of the tool’s capability, and provide regular communication from business leaders and associate staff. During implementation, offer adequate training and support materials to ensure correct tool usage, and provide ongoing support for users and new starters.
In conclusion, successful DMS implementations hinge on prioritizing people and processes over mere technological deployment. By adhering to principles such as process optimization, data cleansing, communication template refinement, phased deployment, and robust change management, businesses can unlock the true potential of DMS technology. The emphasis should be on empowering users, fostering adoption, and aligning the tool with the business’s readiness for a seamless integration that maximizes benefits and accelerates growth.