Archive for September, 2009
Check out the list of countries that have visited the STAR XML Spec page since January 2009:
|29||United Arab Emirates||22|
|93||Bosnia and Herzegovina||1|
Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »
On July 21, 2009 STAR posted its second 2009 release of the Dealership Infrastructure Guidelines, more commonly referred to as the DIG. The DIG is a set of guidelines and best practices designed to aid a dealership’s IT staff in the implementation and maintenance of its network infrastructure. STAR has been providing support for the dealer community with the publication of the DIG and its predecessor document, for over 10 years. So it may come as a surprise to some that a majority of dealers are not aware of STAR, the DIG or the STAR data exchange standards. Why is that? Well, here’s my guess.
The spotlight of the STAR organization is typically drawn to its data exchange standards, its common architecture, and the need to promote the interoperable exchange of data between OEMs and DMS providers, the key players in the development and utilization of STAR standards. The data standards themselves are, by their nature and if properly implemented, meant to be transparent to the dealer. Basically, the standards remain hidden in the back-end of a dealer’s systems. The ideal situation leaves the dealer with only the benefits of the standards which are designed to increase and improve vendor choice, lower costs, eliminate redundant data entry, and improve overall business efficiencies.
Unfortunately, with the amount of attention given to the STAR data exchanges standards and the intended transparency to the dealer, in many cases the STAR message itself does not make its way to the dealer.
Then there are some cases where a STAR message or a STAR-related message is given to the dealer, but not necessarily one that conveys the value of the standards. In the case of a dealer’s IT infrastructure, the dealer may be made aware of changes resulting from franchise agreement necessities noted as addendums to STAR’s DIG. For example, an OEM may notify its dealer community that they must be off a proprietary satellite by the end of the year to be in compliance with that OEM’s new IT infrastructure requirements that are in the OEM’s Addendum to the STAR DIG. While this change could end up saving the dealer thousands in return on investment, it is not exactly a glowing STAR recommendation. Instead, the dealer only sees unexpected costs and changes being dictated with no clear understanding of what value or ROI is to be derived from the change and not much choice. Again a message, but not exactly the one STAR wants to convey.
When we are developing value propositions and marketing initiatives, we all too often forget that it is ultimately the dealer that utilizes the systems that implement the standards. Therefore, it is ultimately the dealer that is our end customer. If we miss this point, we are missing a valuable opportunity to grow and support a grass roots movement that has the ability to promote STAR from the bottom up. This is a voice that, to date, as has been under utilized.
Consider the possibility of dealers requiring their vendors’ to utilize STAR standards. What about the possibility of an entire dealer council urging its OEM to not only support STAR standards but to map a course for STAR compliance? Those and more are all possibilities with an educated and empowered dealer community.
So how do we get there? We need to bring STAR from the back-end of dealership systems to the forefront of the dealer’s day to day business. Dealers must understand what STAR is, what it has done for dealers, and what it can do for their business AND how they can support STAR.
Recognizing this lack of brand awareness, STAR has identified as a 2009-2010 objective the need to create more education and awareness within the Dealer community. Education and awareness are basic tools for empowerment when it comes to standards.
One way that STAR is doing this is by partnering with its members such as OEMs and dealer organizations like NADA, who have a common interest in promoting such STAR initiatives as the STAR DIG. Through these types of partnerships STAR can connect with dealers through its members’ dealer facing websites and dealer communications to promote the education and awareness of STAR and the DIG. A good example of this type of successful partnership would be NADA’s “STAR and Internet Guidelines for Dealers” web page. This page is dedicated to promoting the STAR DIG, to post the latest STAR Dealer Tech Sheets, and to encourage dealers to contact their manufacturers about STAR standards.
STAR is also looking to partner with members and their dealers to promote the success that they have had implementing the DIG. STAR would like to capture these success stories along with recommendations to expand and improve the DIG in the form of testimonials to be shared with the larger Dealer community.
Through these joint efforts and more, STAR and its members can ensure that dealers are aware of and have access to STAR materials such as the DIG.
The DIG is the dealer’s gateway into STAR. Once dealers are aware of STAR, aware of the benefits that they can receive from STAR standards both in terms of their network infrastructure and their systems, they themselves can become STAR advocates. They can use STAR compliance as a criterion for selecting vendors. They can encourage their OEMs to adopt and participate in STAR standards. Dealers can even participate in STAR’s Dealer Advisory Group and identify areas of operation within the dealership that could benefit from standards.
The Dealer Community is a critical component in the sale and service of vehicles and even more critical to STAR is it ultimately our end customer. With education and awareness, it is a community that can play an invaluable role in moving the standards movement forward.
Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »
One of the constant themes I hear about users in STAR is the size of the XML files. That there is a problem parsing them, processing them, and in general trying to cram them into legacy data stores and using legacy technologies. One of the unfortunate side affects of data binding of XML is that everybody tries to use it for everything. The first and typically last tool a programmer will go for now a-days is a data binding framework. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the best choice. In many cases, if you dig around in the xml tool bag you can find other choices.
Kurt Cagle has written an excellent rebuttal on the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) that XML is not right for BIG Data. When we are talking BIG we are talking 50MB or larger. In fact, he rightly says:
Frankly, if you ARE storing your XMLdata in a relational database repository, then you’re throwing valuable money away, because you’re adding a hideous performance penalty on every transaction.Kurt Cagle, XMLToday.com
He goes on to talk about the role of XML Databases and how in many ways they are out performing their relational database counterparts. STAR has several very large BODs that may need to be processed and queried. PartsMaster, LaborOperations, PartsPriceList, and RepairOrder are a few that come to mind. Processing these with data binding is definitely not the way to go. Supplementing an existing Relational Database with an XML Database can be very beneficial. It also allows you to work with XML natively without necessarily having to do a data transformation to get at the relevent information. Investigate your existing Relational Database as many have XML Data Storage abilities. XML can be a good fit for Big Data, it just takes using the right tool for the right job, and not trying to use the same tool for every job.
Posted in STAR, XML, bods, efficency, efficiency, standards | No Comments »