Today, the computer and its related network systems permeate every aspect and transaction within a dealership.

These systems help dealers communicate with manufacturers, parts suppliers, third-party suppliers, other dealers within a particular franchise, and departments within dealerships.

Whether it's the service department checking with the parts department about a specific part, multiple dealer locations keeping up on inventory levels, or closing the deal with CRM software, dealers and their employees access information all day.

By definition, a network is “a chain of interconnected computers, machines, or operations.” These connections help you communicate with suppliers, manufacturers, other locations - and your current and potential customers.

To maintain and grow your dealership's network, you have two choices.

One is to hire specialized information technology people to staff and maintain your systems. The other is to outsource your systems to a network service provider.

Each of these options has related costs and benefits. As you begin to evaluate the options for your business, ask yourself:

  1. Am I willing to make a commitment to build an information technology staff?

  2. Is my network as efficient as I would like it to be and am I willing to make an investment in the systems to ensure we operate at peak efficiency?

  3. Is downtime a big problem in my dealership? How often are my systems unavailable on a planned or unplanned basis?

  4. Can I realistically project my information technology budget from year to year?

  5. Are my employees and customers frustrated with the speed of the system and how long it takes to complete a transaction?

Ultimately, the question that must be answered is, “What is the revenue cost per hour of your systems availabilty or unavailabilty and how is this impacting your dealerships sales and operating efficiency?”

To truly gauge the cost of the computer network being down, you must figure into the equation the time of everyone and every department affected.

People make a dealership, but the network system and network availabilty allow dealerships to sell cars, service customers, and effectively communicate with manufacturers, suppliers, customers and employees.

As the network and needs of a dealership grow, some dealers consider outsourcing the system's design and maintenance to an experienced service provider with an understanding of business and network technology.

Without having to manage multiple vendors and devote resources to maintenance dealers can focus on what they do best: selling more cars, parts and service. Additional benefits include:

  • Having the system monitored 24×7×365.

  • Being able to accurately budget the IT costs annually and providing a more affordable network.

  • Providing a single point of contact for all your network requirements and concerns.

  • Customizing and integrating a system to meet your needs. Securing and providing needed access to vital dealership data.

The benefits of an effectively managed network system running at peak performance include:

  • Increased employee productivity.

  • Improved customer satisfaction.

  • Reduced or eliminated network downtime, and proactive problem resolution.

  • Reduced labor hours and support costs on the network.

Some dealerships have the resources and interest to plan and maintain a network infrastructure. The option for others is retaining an outside service-provider firm to handle those responsibilities.

Dave Tibbils (dave_tibbils@adp.com) is the manager of product development for ADP Dealer Services Network Solutions.