I have just returned from the annual F&I conference. It was a treat to see all my old friends in the industry. I participated in a panel discussion on web services, an area where I have some experience. Click here for my white paper.
The discussion was well attended, even at five o’clock with the open bar beckoning. Not bad for a technical topic. The panel was cordial, even though we are mostly competitors. There was some debate over my assertion that web services can reduce IT costs.
From the audience questions, I detected genuine interest – and I believe we gave some useful answers. Thanks to Brian, Brent and Kumar. Let’s meet again next year!
Here’s a tip for designers of F&I software. The way to win a feature-function debate is to challenge the other guy’s understanding of the process – “when, exactly, is the dealer going to do that?” A surprising number of design decisions are made with no attention to process.
Standalone product portals are just one example, where the F&I manager has to break his flow for a one-off activity and some extra keypunching. By the way, pretty much every downstream system must have a DMS interface.
Among experienced designers, two techniques are successful. One is to have a thorough understanding of the process. Does he print the menu first, or the finance contract? The big DSPs have people who study this all day long, on videotape.
The other technique is to design your software to work with more than one process – nonspecific, or “agnostic” in the vernacular. This is not an excuse to duck process decisions. On the contrary, you have to choose specific decisions not to make, and then design for various uses. For example, MenuVantage can read an existing deal from the DMS, or create a fresh one and insert it. It takes extra programming to support both processes, but it overcomes a likely objection from the dealer.