Sky’s the limit with cloud EPC

The Infomedia team celebrated a very important win recently. We proudly announced that after a global competitive tender, Infomedia was selected to be a technology partner to Nissan Motor Company.

We signed an exclusive agreement with Nissan to supply our Microcat Electronic Parts Catalog software (EPC) to Nissan’s global dealership network.

Nissan’s General Manager of Global Service Engineering, Mr. Shigeru Narita, said: “We are very excited to have selected Infomedia as our partner. We believe that they have the best technology, people and organisation for our global rollout, and we look forward to implementing their EPC throughout our business to drive the business change needed to get us onto a world leading platform.”

We think some of the reasons our customers select Infomedia are:

  • Established global operations – Ability to deliver a localised EPC in 29 languages, to over 180 countries, and provide regional support in 16 languages.
  • Trusted Partner – Simple, all-inclusive business model.
  • Fast, accurate and intuitive EPC – Easy to learn, easy to use EPC.
  • Solution for the entire Parts Supply Chain – Capabilities to extend parts selling beyond the Dealer to Collision and Trade customers.
  • Technology leadership – Industry leading SaaS infrastructure that supports 150,000 users.

In terms of our technology leadership, we have the ability to replace their legacy system with a next-generation cloud-based EPC, with automated data updates and ‘always on’ infrastructure.

Some automakers like Nissan, have established a clear direction for their cloud strategy, backed by a deep understanding that cloud is a powerful enabler for innovation and brand growth. For other automakers, the clock is ticking, as the rate of vehicle technology change increases and customer attitudes towards dealership service evolve.

Cloud-based technology offers automakers and dealerships new capabilities to not only improve employee productivity, but limitless potential to improve customer service and satisfaction.

My view is that new consumer and competitive requirements are creating a perfect storm that will place even more importance for dealerships to adopt cloud applications.

Cloud LinkedIn

Next generation technology – easy, with no fuss

Here at Infomedia, we were the first to have a 100% online, commercially released EPC. So why do we believe in cloud so strongly? Because we can remove the hassle, risk and cost associated with fixed dealership technology.

My philosophy is: systems and processes should only be implemented if they reduce the complexity of a process, reduce cost, and speed things up – and that’s exactly what cloud technology does.

For a busy parts counter at a dealership, removing the need to install, update and manage catalogue data means more time can be spent with the customer. Our Microcat software provides affordable technology with an always on, always up-to-date solution that allows dealerships to focus on business growth.

For automakers, cloud technology empowers hassle-free data updates with self-serve tools that publish parts pricing information in real-time. Our automaker customers tell me this is a very powerful and big competitive advantage for them.

Increasing business agility for the fast-paced world

When I speak with our key OEM customers, I hear a common story: dealerships are under constant pressure from aftermarket competitors. Customer expectations are evolving, and I believe cloud technology and comparable retail experiences are playing a key part in defining those new customer expectations; eBay and Amazon make it so simple!

To customers, fast delivery times are a standard expectation – the sooner the part is delivered to the workshop, the faster the customer can pick up their car. Therefore, ordering the right repair part, the first time, is crucial for a dealership’s parts department. This is where I believe cloud EPCs like Microcat have the advantage. Faster cycle times in this industry means a tangible impact on customer satisfaction and profitability, and cloud technology is the enabler.

With cloud-based applications, users have more business agility and flexibility. This is backed by a study from Harvard Business Review, where 64% of respondents reported that the use of cloud has increased their organization’s agility. Cloud applications mean instant access to information, better customer experience and potential for harnessing actionable insights in real-time.

Flexibility to work anytime, anywhere

Cloud devicesBeing someone who is constantly travelling and on the move, it’s imperative for me to be able to work remotely, as and when I like. All my files, data, information and detail is stored online in the cloud. I don’t need to be tied to a single computer or laptop, and I can switch between multiple devices.

Our cloud applications also bring this freedom of movement to dealership staff – we empower them to go beyond the parts counter and be innovative with their sales strategies. A cloud EPC can easily be used on location by field staff when selling parts to collision and mechanical trade customers.

Exposing the dealership catalogue information to trade customers is also made easy by using cloud applications. Self-service and digital transformation of the sales process can mean a gigantic leap in dealership efficiency, and we are seeing increased interest in our Trade EPCs by OEMs who want to transform their retail parts environment.

Collaboration & insights

Not only do we build great cloud applications, but we are also fearless adopters of cloud technology for our internal organisation. One of the most challenging things about leading a global company is consistency. We might have multiple office locations around the world, but we are ‘One Infomedia’, and the cloud enables us to collaborate seamlessly.

With all data and information being stored centrally, and available 24/7, it’s much easier to communicate, collaborate and draw insights.

I believe collaboration is an area of opportunity for automakers and dealerships. During the past year, I have seen many examples of vehicle and customer data being stored on automaker network silos. However, dealerships will not capitalise on this information until OEMs invest in cloud applications.

Our Microcat EPC platform is designed to scale, and we implement a large volume of local parts information at country level. This not only assists dealerships with more relevant and faster sales transactions, but it also creates potential for OEMs to use analytics via the cloud to monitor and improve supply chain processes.

The cloud and its silver lining

These reasons are precisely why Nissan has chosen to implement our cloud-based Microcat EPC to their global dealership network. With automatic online updates, dealerships will have access to the latest automaker parts data, right at their fingertips, 24/7.

Having easy and instant access to accurate parts information means Parts Managers also have greater insight and control. They are more agile, and are empowered to act on the information and implement actions in a shorter turnaround time. This benefit extends to Nissan’s customers, who will be able to get their car repaired in a timelier manner.

We’re delighted to have Nissan onboard, and we’re confident that our technological innovations will continue to reinvent their parts operations into the future.

Given the significant opportunities presented by cloud technology, I expect more OEMs to adopt cloud-based EPCs to keep up with fundamental shift in user experiences, customer expectations and competitive pressures.

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Forecast is Cloudy with the chance of Pain

weather-icons-headerI am continually frustrated with the way that the IT industry has sometimes embraced cloud computing in a manner that I can only describe as naive and short-sighted. I wrote earlier this year about this, questioning whether CIOs are really considering what the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of their cloud investment is as they leap onto the cloud bandwagon at the behest of vendor and media hype.

Well I have been forced to put pen to paper again this week as I question whether enough thought has been put into the future roadmap of all the integration required to pull all their various ad hoc and short term cloud deployments together.

Rust Report: Cloud has come of age, but now it’s time to grow 

It has led me to try and draw a map of what I think the future of the cloud industry looks like and who I think the key cloud players will be. This should help any speculative investment decisions I think because it identifies where the real value is going to come from. I think we have moved out of the first phase of cloud – its childhood if you like – and it will be interesting to see how it matures into a fully grown industry from here. 

Just like any adolescent, this industry could learn the lessons of its past and adapt according to how the world needs it to develop; or it could completely go off the rails, neglect its study and concentrate on the partying! I certainly hope for all our sakes it is the former…but to mix metaphors, I think the forecast will get worse before it gets better.

[Picture Credit: nature.com]

Rackspace on the Rack

RackspaceThere’s nothing like having your opinion validated and this week I read that comments I made in an article last month in the Rust Report about the travails of IaaS Cloud provider, Rackspace, have been totally echoed in non other than…Forbes Magazine!

In the Rust Report article I talked about how Rackspace simply could not expect to compete in a world dominated by players such as Microsoft, Oracle and Google who command vast amounts of capital, benefit from huge customer bases and demonstrate equal amounts of ruthlessness. I drew analogies with the airline industry where ultimately as the service became increasingly commoditised the result was brutal market consolidation.

Then this week I found my view was reflected by Forbes’ Mike Kavis, who writes today:

This is why I chuckle when new comers to the IaaS game unleash their PR machines to declare they are throwing their hat in the ring and investing $1B to enter the market. Their competition is investing more than that every quarter.

So as Rackspace exits IaaS and will now focus its efforts on Managed Services, I wonder even how that will go. Managed Services is itself a crowded market, equally dominated by big players like IBM, HP, EDS etc. Their corporate story is more proof yet that unless you continue to innovate your offering, the market will eat you for lunch. A radical pioneer only a few years ago, it seems Rackspace is today perhaps running out of room to move?

[Picture Credit: Forbes]

The TCO of Cloud

This is an article I had published in October on The Rust Report

ImageWhile it is perfectly understandable that Larry Ellison missed his own Keynote at Openworld so he could watch his yacht do battle in the America’s Cup; what is harder to understand is that the entirety of the content – ultimately delivered by his chief engineer, Thomas Kurian – was about Cloud.

Cloud, after all, only represents between 3 and 10 per cent of Oracle’s overall revenue (depending on how you crunch the numbers).

It seems only five minutes ago that – quite rightly I think – Larry Ellison derided the IT industry for being “worse than the fashion industry” in its obsession with the Cloud.  But more telling perhaps was his comment that, “I’m not going to fight this thing”.

He certainly hasn’t and of late he has become more the “Sugar Daddy” of Cloud.  The original angel investor in Salesforce.com and Netsuite a few months ago announced Cloud-based deals with many of his competitors including Salesforce and Microsoft.  Larry is having a bet both ways.

But is Cloud all it has cracked up to be?  I want to talk in particular about applications delivered as-a-service, rather than merely “hosted” computing resources.  SaaS brought much needed nimbleness to the industry.  Deploying it is cheap, there’s no hardware to buy and the subscription model famously makes it easy to buy on a corporate credit card, circumventing roadblock IT departments.

However, as many companies are beginning to discover, Cloud isn’t the panacea it was once thought to be.  Did anyone do proper Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) studies?  What were once quite manageable self-contained deployments of CRM-on-demand, for instance, are now having to be deployed company-wide with a huge associated integration costs; not to mention the pain of harmonizing data models and user environments.  (Let’s not even get into the security and sovereignty issues!)

What does this cost in terms of consultancy hours, lost opportunity and the agony of internal political division?  How does this compare with the visible and predictable – albeit expensive – costs of existing legacy on-premise deployments?

Also, it isn’t just CRM now, with vendors like Workday or Marketo becoming so mainstream, and then established players like Adobe and SAP moving into this space; identity and access is a nightmare for most IT departments.  At least with on-premise the same IT people had a strategy.  Now there is a plethora of applications breaking out that those required to manage them didn’t even chose.

And SaaS vendors are now just as guilty of three-year license deals and a “good luck with that” attitude to roll-out success.

So perhaps it is too soon to write off the on-premise model – secure, predictable and reliable as it is.  Lets consider hybrid models more carefully and lets treat Cloud computing as an option, and not the promised land the industry would have us believe.  There is of course an important role for cloud and particularly SaaS, but the business case should be thought through more soberly and the parameters of that role should be more closely defined.

Because caught in a private moment, many Oracle executives will confess: “on-premise still keeps the lights on”.