As children we all played the game of “grapevine” where one person whispers a message to another, which is passed through a line of people until the last player announces the message to the entire group. A message that starts out as “Tom went to the store to buy apples” can end up as “Pump from a horse with a paddle.”
Technology can also play the game of “grapevine.” If you have layer after layer of applications between your users and the final application – the process of transferring data to and from your applications can end up with results that you didn’t expect. Not only does the data get stored or reported incorrectly to or from the database, but your application gets slower and slower as the messages are passed along the grapevine. Some of today’s technology applications are twenty or thirty years old and instead of writing new applications, those providers merely added “Windows or Web” overlays on top – which we call “lipstick on a pig.” Legacy technology providers have figured out that it is much more profitable to cram many dealerships onto one server and host that server in the “cloud” rather than supporting single servers at dealerships across the country and paying the cost of a local hardware tech. Although they claim to be “web-based” those applications are merely using the web to access their program. Most DMS systems today are not web-based, they use the web to access their application via a portal. To be a true web-based application by today’s standard means that your technology is coded in a browser-supported programming language and then uses a web browser and scripting language to send commands to the database that is hosted on the same server. If your technology is truly web-based, you issue a command, “find me all red cars in stock” and the browser sends that request to the database and the result is displayed in your browser.
Many web-based overlays or portals perform a similar initial process, but then it must convert and send a command in the legacy format to the legacy application which passes the command onward to the database that resides on a database server. Understanding the technical architectural layers is difficult, I know because I spent over six years explaining to lawyers and patent examiners the difference before being granted a patent. If your technology is really, really old, your provider might have also added a second database layer to hold the old data in a relational format to make reporting and newer applications run faster. Just like the game of grapevine, your technology might mess up the message or data before it gets back to you. A true web-based application has many other benefits in addition to speed and accuracy; it can integrate easily into other server-side web procedures, such as email, websites and searching for data. Web-based technology has an added bonus of cross-platform compatibility – which means you don’t need a special program or App to access your technology via an iPad or tablet. Since the number of CRM providers have exploded in the past ten years, most lead management and data mining applications are web-based. To test if a new technology that you are considering is truly web-based, just enter the URL into your iPhone or Smartphone browser. If you can use it without having to download and install special software – then most likely it is fully web-based.