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Upgrading to modern technology platforms can improve business

Friday, May 10, 2013 - 15:09
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The automotive aftermarket, as a whole, traditionally had a reputation as a laggard when it came to new technology adoption. That has gradually changed as more companies have embraced industry data standards (PIES, ACES), electronic catalogs, and e-commerce initiatives.

But there are still companies in the industry that have continued to resist updating their basic business platforms. While there's no good estimate as to how many stores, jobbers, and warehouses out there are still on legacy platforms, what is clear is that there are still many companies in the aftermarket using DOS- or UNIX-based "green screen" solutions. And for a variety of reasons, they have resisted upgrading to more modern, Windows-based systems.

"Because businesses have come to rely on certain specific functionality over many years, and because of the tremendous investment solution providers made to convert to modern platforms, many legacy products are still in operation," says Bryan Murphy, head of eBay Motors. "While they might not all share the ‘green screen’ look today, having had a GUI (graphical user interface) front end grafted onto a legacy back end, they still leverage the basic code that was generated 30 plus years ago."

Clinging to these systems is often detrimental to the companies. "These legacy systems operate on old hardware that is prone to failure and often impossible to find replacement components for," adds Brian Allibon, president of MAM Software. "Modern Windows based management software receives timely updates and uses easily accessible, off-the-shelf hardware."

But there are plenty of reasons they won't upgrade. First, of course, it can be costly to rip and replace these systems. It's also disruptive; and if you're a busy warehouse distributor, you don't have time to oversee what can often be a complex and time-consuming technology deployment. There are also some less logical reasons like fear of change, or apprehension about the steep learning curve associated with moving from old to new technology.

But business realities are pushing these laggards into technology upgrades, says Tony Alderdice, director of sales for North America at Epicor. "They have a hard time keeping up because the databases they are using do not let them get access to the information they need very easily," Alderdice says.

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