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DMS Data Conversion Made Easy: Part III

By Mike Esposito, President & CEO
 
In the first part of this series, we covered the preparations for a DMS data conversion. In the second installment we went through a department-by-department rundown of the minimum information that a dealer can expect a new DMS vendor to convert.
 
In this last article of the series, I’ll cover what to expect during a conversion, the importance of pre-pulls, and advice for dealership employees after a data conversion.
 

What to Expect During a Data Convesion

Occasionally things can and do go wrong during data conversions. Such a huge undertaking can hardly be expected to run 100% smoothly, 100% of the time. Data can go missing or become corrupted, or information may not be available immediately after a conversion. An important question for a dealer to ask his new DMS provider is, who is responsible for data integrity? If a third party is used to convert the data, is it that company, or the DMS provider, or heaven forbid, the dealership itself that is responsible?
 
Ultimately, the responsibility for a successful conversion and data integrity should and does lie with the new DMS provider. However, I recommend getting this in writing prior to the conversion, as well as what types of files the DMS provider will convert. When a new DMS provider tells you they will convert your service files, that does not mean they will convert the service names AND the service history AND all the service OP Codes. They may just mean the service names. You’re expecting apples and what they give you are oranges. It’s important to get every detail in writing as the last thing you want to have happen is to discover a month down the road that information is missing when the old DMS system is turned off and the data is no longer available!
 

The Importance of Pre-Pulls

One way to avoid missing information is to do a pre-pull. This is a “trial” conversion during which the new DMS vendor pulls out a snapshot of data from the existing system. A pre-pull gives dealership personnel the opportunity to review the data and how it is presented, such as how the account numbers are set up or how service histories are displayed.
 
Not everything has to be pulled, but information should be pulled from every department in the dealership. The one department I do recommend that all information be pre-pulled is accounting. It’s important to know, in advance, that all the accounts and numbers are going to balance during the final pull.
 
Pre-pulling data makes the actual conversion process much smoother. During a pre-pull all reports for all departments are converted and the information is reviewed to ensure the dealership is getting everything it needs. If information is missing or inaccurate, this gives the DMS vendor several weeks to straighten all the issues out before the final pull.
 

When Should Data be Available?

It’s more than reasonable for dealers to expect that all data will be available in the new DMS the morning of the first day of installation. By 10:00 AM, all critical data should be in the new system. By noon everything should be there.
 
The sooner the data is available, the sooner the new employees can be trained and begin using the new system. The last thing a dealership wants is to have two dealer management systems running side by side, with employees using both. This often creates a situation where double entry is required, causing more work for both the dealership and the DMS provider.
 
If for some reason the information can’t be provided on day one, then the customer should be notified well in advance, so they can plan accordingly. Again, it’s important for the dealer to ask and see it in writing from the DMS vendor beforehand.
 

Tips for Employees

In order to ensure a successful conversion, there are two critical things that dealership employees can do:

 
Typically, the old DMS will remain running anywhere from 30 to 120 days after the data conversion. However, once that old system is shut down, that data is gone forever. The sooner the employees begin using the system and alert the new DMS vendor to any problems, the better.
 
The bottom line is, DMS data conversions are difficult. For a dealer, it’s important to know who is doing the conversion, who is responsible for the data, and to get it all in writing. It’s equally important to not just encourage, but demand employees use the new system as quickly as possible.
 
However, the advantages of being willing to go through a data conversion are many. Once installed, a streamlined and uncluttered DMS results in increased efficiency, productivity; and perhaps most important, a new DMS could potentially save a dealership thousands of dollars every month.
 

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