There was a rather under appreciated, press release about Micorsoft's most recent attempt to engage in the automotive DMS Platform space. Take a moment to read the release, but the executive summary is that Nissan Japan seems to have engaged Ballmer & his minions to deploy Microsoft products cobbled together as a "next generation DMS" for the Japanase entity and possibly its retail ecosystem.
But one phrase that got our attention was "with broader availability to be explored in the future". Which in technology marketing speak means... "the drawing board we might have to go back to <again> if the user population rejects the system, like a bad organ transplant, is right over there." Harsh? Maybe.
But the historic precedent of Microsoft's repeated inability to deliver a useable DMS system to the U.S. automotive retail sector has been set. The reality is that automotive technology users have very different needs from one automotive group to the next, and we can't begin to image how unique the needs must be around the world in Japan. "Broader availability" could take quite some time for a Microsoft "DMS" to appear in any meaningful way.
But we don't think that a "traditional" DMS (what you dear reader probably think of as an American ADP or ERA DMS system) is really what's in the delivery room at Microsoft & Nissan Japan. Because this initial press release seems to be describing a factory-level CRM system, not a "traditional" DMS. Now that is a good idea (in principle).
Everyone already knows that "traditional" DMS systems are previous generation (both in technology and feature set) point-of-sale / inventory / accounting / payroll processing / etc. systems. These old apps were simply not designed to perform modern CRM and customer retention workflow. And each DMS company simply created (or bought) separate CRM systems as add-ons to their baseline DMS technology platforms (a la ADP, DealerTrack, Reynolds, etc.)
As a CRM provider, we think it's pretty cool that an organization like Nissan Japan is willing to invest in what could be the future of the "OS" of the average retail dealership on the planet (i.e. the "DMS"). If their experiment is successful over time, some of Nissan Japan's new DMS system best practices and features (heck maybe even an American-ized version) may wash ashore here in the States in a few years.
It's exciting that Nissan Japan seems to be attempting to influence the future of the DMS technology space in their market. None of their American counter-parts have been willing to try that in recent history. RIP EDS... InfintiNet (which still exists but shouldn't)... etc.
After all, "Dealer Management System" is just a product marketing name for the operating system of a dealership... a centralized system to coordinate the delivery and execution of all the important aspects of the business in much the same way the OS controls and coordinates the operations of all the disparate hardware and software on your PC. We just hope Microsoft and Nissan Japan don't end up selling vapor-ware or (even worse) some goofy version of Windows Azure meets Microsoft Dynamics CRM... meets (insert Microsoft product here)... yadda yadda yadda... that ultimately misses the mark and ends up on the cutting room floor. Because in their defense we think they're on to something over there.
So we look forward to news of the venture's future. While we are skeptical of Microsoft's ability to deliver anything that grandiose in scope and scale this decade, the press release may simply be their marketing team's attempt to make it sound like more than it is in phase one. Hence the "broader availability in the future" reference? We'll see and time will tell.
Either way it's clear that CRM has proven to be highly effective at influencing customer retention and customer acquisition at all levels of our industry, and is now knocking down the door of automotive sector stalwarts like DMS technologies. Smashing!
But as 2011 winds down we tip our proverbial New Years Party hat to the user population over in Nissan Japan who is definitely in for an interesting 2012. Domo arigato Mr. Ballmer.