Calgary firm hits the road with GM

General Motors Corp. wants its dealers to install new Integrated Dealer Management Systems (IDMS) that would give the automaker improved insight into their spare-parts inventories, and a Canadian IT vendor is poised to grab a big piece of the pie.

In an attempt to encourage dealers to make the move, GM said it would give them a choice between systems from two handpicked vendors — each of which will provide data integration with GM’s own business systems.

GM will let its 8,150 North American dealers choose between dealer management systems developed by The Reynolds and Reynolds Co. in Kettering, Ohio, and Quorum Information Technologies Inc., based in Calgary.

Quorum president and CEO Maury Marks said it’s a huge deal for the company, and a validation of both its technology and its business direction.

“Quorum is a $7-million company, Reynolds is a $1-billion company, and GM is a $190-billion company,” said Marks. “When you put it into that perspective it’s absolutely an enormous deal for us, and we’re excited.”

Marks said Quorum got its foot in the door through its work over the past four years focusing on data integration and IT with GM Canada. The company is now ramping up its sales and integration staff to seize the new opportunity, already surpassing 100 employees.

It still has to go out and compete with Reynolds, which has 75 per cent of the North American market, but Marks said he thinks Quorum has the edge, technology-wise. While Reynolds offers an older, modular-based technology, he said Quorum offers a modern, Windows-based system that is constantly updated based on user feedback and integrates more tightly with a dealer’s other applications. Marks added that all users are kept on the latest version of the product.

“We’re an ERP for a dealership, and we want to make sure sales, service and parts all work on the same set of data and not in their own modular worlds,” said Marks.

Quorum installs a server in the dealership that runs both the Quorum application and any other apps the dealer is using in a thin-client environment. Marks said simplifying IT and removing it as an area of concern is important, since most dealers don’t have dedicated IT support staff.

“It’s the person in the dealership that knows the most about a PC that ends up being the IT support person and you know what (happens)…the network turns into a playground,” said Marks. “We solve that problem as well for dealers.”

Robert Ernst, IT manager at Mike Castrucci Chevrolet-Oldsmobile Inc. in Milford, Ohio, is already using a Reynolds-supplied dealer management system running on Windows, and he recently upgraded to a version with some of the new IDMS tools.

Ernst said the IDMS approach enables GM to see what parts are available in the inventories of dealers; “just like Wal-Mart” can with its suppliers.

He said it should also reduce GM’s shipping costs because the company will be able to better anticipate when inventories of a particular part need to be replenished.

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