Month: December 2010

Rich Internet Applications for F&I

One of the fun things about my job is that I get to see the latest developments in F&I software.  Back when I did my first credit system, client-server technology was the state of the art.  This allowed a feature-rich user interface, but we had to build a huge point-to-point network to support it.

Web-based systems have dramatically reduced deployment costs but, until recently, the user experience was pretty ugly.  When I left MenuVantage, we were just starting to experiment with AJAX and Silverlight.  Silverlight has a nice grid control, among other things, and can support a page densely packed with controls.  I am surprised we don’t see more Silverlight in the F&I space.

Vision Menu uses web parts, and a clean white page reminiscent of Google.  Web parts are a handy way to segment your page into reusable parts, and also to support personalization.  I saw another system recently, using Flash to good effect – but Flash is not my favorite.  I still think of Flash as a graphics control, and I run a Flash blocker on my browser.  Steve Jobs doesn’t like Flash, either, and it won’t run on your iPad.

Stone Eagle uses AJAX in the latest version of their service-contract administration system.  AJAX is my favorite, because it seems to fit best in the .NET programming style.  With AJAX, Stone Eagle achieves the same rich experience you would enjoy on a desktop application, without the deployment issues.

The Longest Project

This week, I had the pleasure of restarting a project that has lain fallow since May 2007.  Provider Exchange Network is adding a major dealer group – one we didn’t get while I was at MenuVantage.  In the meantime, we have been improving our methods and developing new relationships.  People and processes that were previously closed to PEN are now available.

In 1999, I drew the assignment to develop a menu system and e-contracting for AutoNation.  They are still running that menu system, but without e-contracting.  At MenuVantage, I finally came up with a successful approach to e-contracting and “advanced the state of the industry” – as Chris Morris kindly put it.

Someday, I will go back to my old boss at AutoNation and report this project as complete.  It only took two software startups, a new business model, the combined weight of ADP and Reynolds, and a platoon of programmers.  I hope he hasn’t retired.