Changing a dealership management system (DMS) has been likened to getting a heart transplant for your dealership. For this reason many dealers are reluctant to switch DMS providers. However, just as medical advances have improved patient outcomes for heart transplants, so too has technology improved the DMS conversion process.
A DMS conversion is not nearly as painful as it used to be (despite what you may hear from your current vendor). Transferring the data from your old DMS to a new DMS is the trickiest part of the equation. Every dealership is different so it does require a personalized, hands-on approach from your new DMS provider. Most of your time and energy will be spent preparing for the conversion.
To ensure a smooth conversion, make sure there is always an open and direct line of communication between the entire dealership management staff and the new DMS vendor.
The primary goal of a data conversion is the preservation of data. Many dealers assume the new vendor will convert all of their data, but that is rarely the case. As a dealer, you must actively participate in determining which data is necessary. As vendors we cringe when a customer says, “We just thought you did that.” Always ask, never assume.
How to Transfer data from your old DMS to your new DMS
Here are a few tips that will help your dealership prepare for your next DMS conversion:
Assign a point of contact (POC). This person could be the office manager or another department manager, as long as they are familiar with all of your applications, have excellent communications and organizational skills and are detail oriented.
Ensure your new vendor has access to data. Your current DMS vendor may shut off access to all your data on the last day of the contract. It’s important to make copies of all your DMS data and to keep one copy so it can be accessed after the conversion.
Know where your information is. DMS data conversions would be simple if every dealership used the defined fields within every application as planned. Unfortunately this almost never happens. To prevent missing fields, the POC needs to enlist every department manager to provide a complete list of all customized user fields.
Purge outdated and duplicate information from your old DMS. Switching to a new DMS provides the perfect opportunity to clean house, including merging and purging customer records and streamlining processes.
Understand data conversion responsibilities. One of the most critical tasks for the POC is to find out exactly what data the new DMS vendor plans to convert. Every supplier is different in what they will or won’t (or can’t) convert. When a new DMS provider says they will convert service files, they may just mean service names, while the dealer assumes they mean service names, history and all service op codes.
Create a department rundown of what should be converted. Next, the POC should sit down with every department head and ask for a complete list of everything the manager wants converted. Provide the list to the new DMS vendor.
Schedule a pre-pull. Several weeks before the live pull, a data pre-pull allows department managers to see how their data is converted and how it displays in all the new reports and setups. This helps to ensure that no information will be missed.
Prepare employees. The last thing you want to have is two DMS systems running side by side, with employees using both. This creates a situation where double entry is required, causing more work for both the dealership and DMS vendor. If your old DMS is still running after the conversion, you may want to restrict employee access so they will be forced to use the new system.
Most DMS vendors will perform the actual conversion after hours. Chances are there will be some data that was not transferred, which is why it’s critical to have a copy of your DMS data on hand.
It typically takes from a few weeks to six months to fully adapt to a new DMS. Take advantage of training tools and services provided by your new DMS vendor and encourage employees to be patient while the kinks are worked out. It won’t be long before you’ll reap the benefits of switching to a new DMS, whether the reason was cost-based or because you’re looking for a better relationship with a different vendor.