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Embracing analog resilience in a digital world: Lessons from CDK Global’s cyberattack

Explore the aftermath of CDK Global's cyberattack on automotive dealerships, highlighting the importance of analog resilience amidst digital dependency

When you thought you had everything figured out in customer marketing, communication, and sales, a curveball comes your way. As reported in Automotive News, a cyberattacktook down CDK Global’s dealership management system(DMS) this time, leaving thousands of dealerships in the U.S. and Canada scrambling. 

CDK Global’s systems, crucial for CRM, sales processing, and inventory management, were hit twice rapidly, forcing a shutdown to protect data and operational integrity. As dealerships try to figure out what to do and even revert to pen and paper, it’s clear that our digital obsession has made us vulnerable, spotlighting a glaring weakness in our reliance on tech. 

The Digital Dependency Dilemma 

So, what’s the fallout? Dealerships are improvising, adapting, and overcoming – quite literally going old school. Todd Szott, from Szott Auto Group, shared his disappointment but highlighted their pivot to manual methods to keep the wheels turning. It begs the question: Have we become so dependent on digital systems that we’ve forgotten how to function without them? And should we have a backup plan, not just a backup, when the digital fails us? And it will. 

Your CRM, sales processing, and inventory management systems are down. Deals can’t be finalized, parts are hard to locate, and service work is stalled. The absence of these digital lifelines is more than a minor inconvenience; it’s a stark reminder that a cyberattack can bring operations to a grinding halt. 

A Case for Analog Knowledge 

Beyond the immediate chaos, there’s a broader issue at play. Have we put all our eggs in the digital basket? What happens when that basket is hacked? The need for robust cybersecurity is non-negotiable, but so is the necessity of a Plan B because, as with CDK, we’re often just passengers in the chaos.  

It’s not just about having a contingency plan; it’s about having the right top talent to execute it. Think about it: Do you have team members who know how to process sales with a pen and paper? Can anyone navigate the labyrinth of paperwork without a digital map? Hiring more seasoned dealership employees or retaining staff who understand the old ways is not just nostalgic—it’s smart business.  

Building a Resilient Dealership 

Here are a few strategies to consider: 

1. Diversify Your Operations: While digital systems are indispensable, keeping a manual backup can ensure continuity. Train your staff on analog methods so they’re ready to pivot when needed. 

2. Invest in Cybersecurity: Ensure your digital infrastructure is fortified against cyber threats. Multifactor authentication, regular system audits, and staff training on cybersecurity best practices can go a long way. And please, change those passwords regularly. 

3. Ask to See Your Provider’s Disaster Business Continuity Plan: Don’t leave your dealership’s fate to chance. Insist on reviewing your provider’s disaster business continuity plan. Understand how they plan to protect your data and ensure operational continuity during cyber incidents or other disruptions. 

4. Develop a Contingency Plan: Have a clear, actionable plan for when digital systems go down. This includes everything from manual sales processing to customer communication strategies. 

5. Hire for Analog Skills: Bring in team members comfortable with manual processes. Their knowledge can be invaluable during digital downtimes and can help train others. 

The Human Element 

In the Automotive News article, Ed Morse Automotive Group CEO Teddy Morse hit the nail on the head: “People these days seem to have forgotten how to use a pencil.” It’s not just about the tools; it’s about the mindset.  

Employees who can adapt and thrive in digital and analog environments are worth their weight in gold. They provide a buffer against the uncertainty of digital disruptions.

 Looking Forward 

As we grapple with the aftermath of CDK Global’s cyberattack, let’s not forget the importance of analog resilience. Digital innovation is crucial, but we’re leaving ourselves exposed without a backup plan. It’s time to step back and preserve the old-school methods that can save us in a pinch.

We’re constantly reminded of how digital advancements promise efficiency and innovation, and we must remember that resilience lies in knowledge diversity. By integrating analog backups and preparing for the unexpected, dealerships can navigate crises more effectively and maintain customer trust. 

So, what’s your dealership’s Plan B? Do you have the right people and processes to weather a digital storm? Because if there’s one thing we’ve learned from this cyberattack, a good backup plan is no longer optional – it’s essential. 

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Steve Mitchell
Steve Mitchell
Steve Mitchell is a contributing writer and reporter for CBT News. He earned bachelor's degrees in Marketing and Television from the University of Texas in Austin and a Masters of Theology study from Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas. His passion for automobiles lead him to become a creative director for automotive marketing ad agency. Most recently, he was the manager of interactive marketing for Mitsubishi Motors, NA.

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