Dale shares philosophy and design of the new Life Cycle Management tool suite

December 28, 2009

A couple weeks ago vAuto announced the release of our new Life Cycle Management system.  I thought it would be helpful to share a bit about the thinking and design that went into this new system.  In particular, what is its relevance.  I would appreciate your input and suggestions after you read this posting.

For many years clients have requested that we create a suite of tools that helps them publish vehicle listings and photos to the internet.  In addition, they have requested tools to create various window stickers and vehicle descriptions. For a long time, we resisted creating such tools because there are many fine companies that all ready offer tools that do these very things.  So what was the justification behind so many dealer requests?  Well, as I listen to you, I heard two things.  First, there is a general drum beat from dealers to reduce the number of tools that they need to use.  Underlying this reoccurring theme is the need for convenience, time efficiency and accountability.  I found it increasingly difficult to ignore these factors.  As always, however, when and if we create tools, we strive to do so in such a way so as to improve the state of the art for the given functionality.  How did we attempt to advance the process of managing your dealerhship’s physical and virtual presence? 

Well, the answer begins with the recognition that vAuto’s live market technology has the ability to see every vehicle listing in America, in its complete form and substance.  We also time and date stamp the moment that we first see the vehicle listing appear, changes made, and precisely when the vehicle listing no longer appears on each site.  This technology first allowed us to create our Merchandising tool that we call “Virtual View”.  With our Virtual View product, dealers were able to see  for the first time how their vehicles appear, or in some cases didn’t appear, in the virtual realm as clearly as they could see how tall their vehicles were standing on their physical lot.  Prior to the introduction of our new tool suite, we could only report the errors, inconsistencies and incompleteness of vehicle listings. The next logical step was to create a set of integrated tools that allowed dealers to take control of how their vehicles appear and importantly do so with complete visibility and accountability.  Taking control and providing dealers with the ability to manage the process just seemed to be the next logical step.    But, as they say, “wait, there’s more”! 

The more, the big idea, the one that advances the state of the art for managing on-line presence, is the new Life Cycle Management component of our tool suite.   So what is Life Cycle Management all about?

Well, it should be clear that every vehicle in stock must move through many milestones in order to quickly get to both the physical and virtual front lines.  It’s also understood that frequently vehicles move too slowly, get hung up, mysteriously disappear and then reappear without explanation.  At any given time, cars are in the shop too long, take too long in detail and body shop.  They don’t get prices, photos and window stickers in a prompt manner, and as if all of this isn’t challenging enough, once it’s all complete, it is assumed that all of the information appears on all of the required sites on the internet in a timely, complete and correct form.  Well, as those of you who have been using our Merchandising Virtual View tool know all too well, that is a big and often incorrect assumption.  The train makes a lot of stops and often doesn’t make it to the destination on time or at all.

The result of this condition is dysfunction, inefficiency and leaks of profit. That’s right, when vehicles don’t move swiftly through the process and to the virtual and physical displays, time and money is lost.  Until now, there has been no other integrated system that allows dealers to perform all required acts and have complete visibility and accountability for the entire process.  Imagine how powerful it would be to be able to see an assembly line containing your dealerships milestones for each and every vehicle.  The assembly line graphically shows red, yellow and green indicating which milestones have been achieved in their required period of time.  Moreover the system will alert managers about vehicles that have either exceeded, or are at risk of exceeding the allowable time specified for each phase of milestone performance.  Dealerships and their enterprises can view performance of getting vehicles through milestones in a timely manner.  Users can track and see where glitches are occurring and over time whether or not improvement is occurring. 

So what I think is the big advancement in the art of managing vehicles is the ability for the first time to manage, track and view critical performance milestones in real time.  Performance that really matters for the purpose of creating more efficient and profitable operations.  This was the thinking behind the creation of this new suite of tools.  As we roll the new system out, I’ll be very eager to receive your feedback and suggestions as to what we can do to make the system even more valuable.  Please let me know your thoughts.