Most dealers view IT as merely an expense, a cost of doing business, rather than what it truly can be, an investment that can help bring revenue back to the bottom line.
A perfect time to think about improving operational efficiencies and generating budgets for investments to these areas, would be in the 4th quarter of operations. By committing and allocating a budget to these areas that are the IT backbone of your dealership, it can result in a more secure, reliable infrastructure. In turn, it will generate more business and a new sense of reliability to support your operations.
To ensure that your dealership’s IT networks can support your business operations and at the same time, increasing productivity, dealers should focus on three common areas of concern:
Security breaches are an ever-increasing threat to dealers. These breaches can occur both through external and internal means. They are becoming more sophisticated in their method of accessing a dealership’s customer information. Dealerships represent a portal of data information for consumers inclusive of Social Security numbers, bank records and credit card information. A hacker’s number one means of reaching a dealer’s data is via email. The most creative methods are scams generated to trick your employees in giving the hackers the information they are looking for directly.
There are several ways of securing your dealership data and infrastructure. The most general is training your employees on these suspicious threats and how to handle any potential emails that should come through your network. Having a documented security process policy is a must in giving your employees guidelines of what is allowed and not to ensure the safety of your business assets. Dealers should also have firewalls in place with necessary software for intrusion prevention. This will put security measures in place from a hardware perspective and will keep most external threats at bay. A written and documented security prevention plan may even decrease the premium cost of IT Security Insurance.
In today’s market, the most vulnerable avenue for revenue loss is in software licensing. For dealerships, as technology becomes increasingly developed, more and more PC’s are being deployed to the end user for associated applications to be utilized. If these end users are not educated enough and the proper policies are not documented and enforced, it is common place to have unlicensed copies of software deployed on the PC’s. Common applications that are unlicensed are Microsoft Office and Anti-Virus Software.
Most dealers today are being targeted for audits by Microsoft alone. Those dealers that are not in compliance are being hit with huge fines by the Business Software Alliance. To avoid these fines, dealers need to ensure that their employees are not using unlicensed software. Some ways of avoiding this is through proper training of the employee on the “do’s and don’ts” of software downloads. Another way is to properly “lock down” the PC and permissions of the end user to not allow downloads of any “.exe” file.
The fines associated with a potential software audit can be in the millions. Dealers cannot afford to take this lightly. Without the proper stability and processes in place, this is just another risk your dealership could endure. Better safe than sorry, ensure your dealership is safeguarded by these potential threats to your bottom line!
As more dealers transition to cloud-based point of sale and other software applications, it is crucial to have an IT infrastructure that can support not only the necessary internet bandwidth, but the proper networking equipment that supports the upgrades. By not having a sufficient IT network, your dealership’s productivity can be drastically affected, as well as costs for potential downtime and lost revenue.
Today’s cloud-based applications require a high data throughput which is greater than the typical internet connection dealerships have installed. Those dealers that have not already considered converting or upgrading to a fiber optics connection should consider doing so now. This will accommodate the speed and reliability for all the data to process. Installing fiber will not only allow for a more effective connection for data throughput, it will also boost your dealership productivity by having faster means of connectivity for your operations to run.
About the Author
Sally Lopez is Director of Information Technology, Dealer Services at Rosenfield & Co., PLLC. Sally, former CIO for Penske Automotive and most recently Huber Automotive, brings a wealth of experience to the firm’s impressive bench strength in the automotive industry. She has spent the last 28 years in the automotive sector by way of IT, accounting and operations for several major dealer groups. She specializes in the assessment of IT controls, automation of data migration and internal systems review. EMAIL: email@example.com
Author: Contributing Writer
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