By John McCormick  |  Posted 2003-10-01 Print this article Print

CIO David Boatman has to support 5,000 PCs at 139 dealerships in 15 states.

$55 Desktop">

The $55 Desktop

While neither side discloses actual pricing, Everdream says the type of services it provides to a company like Sonic runs about $55 per seat, per month. Sonic signed a three-year subscription for each PC Everdream will manage. Everdream argues that if a company similar in size and geographic spread to Sonic wanted to provide comparable services internally, hardware, software and labor costs would average out to about $125 per seat, per month.

Now, Boatman has negotiated a flexible purchase contract with Hewlett-Packard. But when Sonic needs a new PC, it's Everdream that delivers it.

Everdream procures a Compaq d530 from hp, loads Sonic's software onto it, ships the machine to the car dealer and takes care of all post-installation service and support. Over the past year and a half, Sonic has asked Everdream to service an increasing number of its PCs, and the desktop management firm says it now manages the machines at about 100 of Sonic's 139 dealers—roughtly 3,500 of Sonic's 5,000 PCs.

Sonic auto dealers sell everything from Lexus and Mercedes to Chevy and Honda. But Sonic derives revenue not just from sales, but from handling the financing and insurance, and providing parts and service. All of it is done digitally through the desktop. These days, the dealer PC "is the cash register," says Forrester Research analyst Mark Bunger.

So when Sonic acquires a new dealership, getting the right setup in place is key. Everdream usually is asked to replace all desktops at an acquired dealer. Sonic tells Everdream where a PC is going—the showroom, parts department or elsewhere—and Everdream outfits the machine accordingly.

The basic dealer package comes with Microsoft Windows 2000, Microsoft Office 2000 and Microsoft Outlook. Most showroom PCs are set up to access a dealer management system (DMS), which contains sales, service and other dealer-specific business applications. Sonic dealers use either the Automatic Data Processing or Reynolds & Reynolds DMS packages, each of which is hosted by its respective vendors and accessed by Sonic dealers over a secure network connection.

Everdream also loads each PC with a software agent, which tracks the attached hardware including printers and other devices and licenses to the installed software. Knowing how many software licenses Sonic has at a given point in time virtually eliminates the possibility that the dealer will waste money on unnecessary licenses; Everdream says such tracking might save a company like Sonic $25,000 a year.


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