Tag Archives: technology

carsales – if it was easy, everyone would do it

The carsales story is a tale of many things coming together to create the business it is today.

One of those things is foresight; fundamental to building a successful dot com into an ASX Top100 company.

I have watched the business start and grow from near and at times little further away. Right at the very start my first business trip overseas was July 1997 to the US to review two new technology products with a view to make a recommendation on which path to take.

I was working with Reynolds & Reynolds Pty Ltd (R&R) and had just been giving the job of getting their E-Commerce business going.

Over the previous 3-4 years I had been designing and developing software to that utilizes the new DealerLink private network that would revolutionize the dealer management software services in Australia.

The software products I were to review were touch screen kiosks; a new technology showcased by a few vendors at the NADA convention earlier that year in San Francisco.

A dealer had seen the technology at NADA, immediately saw some benefit in helping his dealership and grabbed the CEO of R&R to show him.

The value he saw was the ability to have his inventory from all three locations available to be viewed at each location complete with photos. At the time, this was ground breaking.

The first place I had to visit was the Reynolds & Reynolds Inc head office in Dayton, Ohio. As they still had a small strategic stake in R&R and had a kiosk solution, it seemed prudent that we considered their software.

Their kiosk software was slick and worked well with the only downside being that each kiosk was standalone meaning the only way to update each kiosk was to load the inventory by disc each time.

The second stop was to Austin, Texas where Digital Motorworks Inc (DMi) had built the kiosk software our Australian dealer had been wowed by earlier in the year.

Whereas the Reynolds kiosk solution was standalone, the DMi solution utilized the Internet to update its inventory automatically.

Remember this was 1997; using the Internet to drive your business solution was somewhat new and deemed to be somewhat risky.

What this did was not only fed the kiosk solution, it also immediately enabled an internet strategy for the dealer – their inventory could be searched online within the dealer web site and it enabled individual dealer inventory to be aggregated together.

This was groundbreaking stuff back in 1997, especially in Australia and my mind was made up so I started preparing my recommendation paper.

The one hurdle was the cost of each – the DMi solution was over 4x the Reynolds solution up front and considerably more ongoing. I didn’t know how this would work as I put together my findings and recommendation.

Well on my return the decision ended up being clear cut – the Internet driven DMi solution, despite the relative cost, was chosen very quickly without too much debate – The leaders at R&R had bigger plans.

The last software piece I had developed before heading over to look at the kiosk software was the automated aggregation of dealer inventory direct form their dealer management system to a centralized database with a view to creating a wholesale vehicle sourcing system we called StockLink.

We used this software to populate the kiosk inventory database automatically and within months had kiosk systems running in each of the dealer’s three locations and searchable on the dealer’s new website.

Little did we know (or maybe we did) what this was the start of what would become carsales.

We thought touch screen kiosks would be a big hit, be in every dealership, shopping centers, airports, etc so people could find the car they were after, wherever they were at the touch of their fingertips.

Well the touch screen kiosks didn’t last but the Internet did, carsales was born through this technology and we are where we are today.

So, who had the greater foresight here?

Was it me for creating the software to automatically aggregate inventory and recommend the internet based solution? Hell no, I was merely following directions from my esteemed leaders at the time although I can take solace in that I didn’t hesitate in recommending the Internet based DMi solution.

Was it the car dealer who had the foresight to see the value of a networked solution? Yes he has to have some of the credit as he had a vision and whilst it ended up a little different to what was originally envisaged, he saw some value at the start.

Was it the leaders of R&R? Yes most definitely. They saw the vision of what this could bring to R&R, dealers and consumers.

It would have been much easier taking the Reynolds solution to fill a need. It was far cheaper and developed by trusted partners but it didn’t provide a platform for the future.

The fact that they took the harder, more expensive option was not the first time they would a similar road. They had the foresight to be brave in their business decision making.

If it was easy, everyone would do it. Amen.

2 examples of a (my) changing, innovative world

We’ve all heard it before from our parents, “it wasn’t like this on my day”, and yes I am one of those parents now.

I’m not breaking any news story here that technology is (probably) the biggest change from our time to now.

My boys are 20 and 17, along with a little 11 year old girl (sent here to test me in every way imaginable by virtue of having me wrapped around her finger) and their lives are dominated by technology.

Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp and iMessage constantly vibrate and flood their smartphone screens. They are wired 24/7, it is incredible and hard to control.

Given I work in the tech space, I think about how I struggle with how much technology is controlling their lives and wonder how some of the more “technology challenged” parents deal with it.

There is another big change from “my day” to now and that is the industry of craft beer. The number of imported and craft beers that are available now is mind boggling and something that “wasn’t like this in my day”.

There are now hundreds of breweries around Australia and over 5,000 breweries in the US and growing quickly (to be precise there are 5,005 to the end of November 2016 – http://fortune.com/2016/12/10/america-record-number-breweries/).

Bars specializing in craft beer are popping up all over the place where in Melbourne bars like Beer Deluxe, the Alehouse Project, East of Everything, Howler, The Local Taphouse and Moon Dog Brewery Bar where they have beers on tap and in bottles from all over Australia and the world.

So whilst we are not drinking as much beer in Australia as we used to (apparently), all these imported and craft beers have helped shape a whole new niche industry.

The innovative ways these breweries position and market themselves is every bit as impressive as the innovation in technology.

Now I enjoy sampling craft and imported beers, at home and when traveling. I’m enjoying even more now in documenting this journey through Instagram and the interactions it gives me with my boys’ demographics.

My boys and their mates just can’t believe that our staple beer diet when I was 18-19 was VB, Melbourne Bitter and on special occasions Crown Lager.

They also can’t believe how we communicated with no Snapchat (let alone a mobile or even a smartphone) or even met a partner with no Tinder so we’ll take it all in context.

Technology and Beer – two examples of a changing, innovative landscape. What will be next?

A Good Technology Lesson in Uber

I doubt that Uber is new to many people by now; if they haven’t used it they would have certainly heard about it.

In some circles I’ve been slow off the mark in my Uber experiences but in other circles I’m the one with experience.

To most people who use Uber they marvel at the ease, secure feeling and in most cases, cost (read on for my example recently).
These things are not lost on me but it is the use of technology that makes this incredible service wow me, especially when I am travelling for business overseas.

Two things with the technology/process flow that I love are:

1. Google Maps and other third party maps – I love it that Uber integrated Google Maps into the passenger user interface and allows integration for third party navigation apps such as Waze for the driver directions; they recognized that these apps are “best in class” and integrated them rather building more proprietary software (something a lot of companies get wrong and some right). As an aside, wasn’t Waze a smart acquisition by Google?

2. Driver and Destination – I love the fact that the driver does not know your destination until you are in the car and when he does it is automatically set as his destination with up to date crowd sourced traffic information guided by an app such as Waze.
On a recent trip to Mexico, this what I found this technology and process gave me:

Ease – two things stand out for me here: 1) you use the same app and same account settings as I do in Australia and 2) no language translation issues with the driver; the Uber driver didn’t speak English, I don’t speak Spanish but getting to right destination is not an issue since the driver has the address loaded into his system upon booking

Secure – no cash changing hands, can’t be ripped off; I tried to get a taxi from the hotel but he didn’t accept credit cards – also, knowing and seeing our route on the Uber large phone and my phone at the same time gave me piece of mind of where I was going

Cost – the taxi I tried to get quoted me $340 up front for my ride; my Uber cost was $190 (Mexican Pesos)
From booking to riding to paying the service sequence is pretty hard to fault and by using technology is the ultimate disruptor to the taxi industry.

If you were going to fault anything it is that it is “real time” only and you cannot book, although I have no doubt that will come.

The other thing people may fault is the surge in fees when demand is high but we can’t be too critical of this, it simply “supply and demand” pricing and this is commerce.

Not only has Uber disrupted the taxi industry, it has done it in a seamless way the world wide and especially in cities the size and density of Mexico City and São Paulo, it is an absolutely killer app.

And through the use of technology and the connected world, the world just keeps getting smaller.