Mark Amszej: CDK Global

If you haven’t heard of CDK Global, don’t worry — it’s not exactly a household name. But if you’ve ever bought a car from a dealership, chances are good that you’ve been touched by their software without even knowing it.

From marketing, to insurance quotes, to pricing, to integrating with every car manufacturer you can think of it, CDK’s suite of car dealership workflow software pretty much does it all.

Managing such a vast suite of functionality for such a diverse group of end users isn’t easy – selecting and communicating your priorities is crucial. Here’s how Mark says he makes it all work.

1. The best place to understand your user is on-site.

Focus groups and big data gathering are all well and good for learning about your customers. But nothing beats seeing them in their own environment. At CDK, visiting the dealerships that use our software is a not-so-secret weapon that we try to put to use as much as possible.

Is it more time consuming and expensive to travel to individual dealerships instead of just running a survey? You bet. But so many things aren’t captured in a survey: The frustration of a sales rep dealing with a bug that hasn’t been patched yet; or the way your software is actually used in the heat of a crowded Saturday afternoon.

If you’re trying to get deep insights about your user so you can design a better product, do yourself a favor: Whenever possible, go to the source and go to where your product is being used heavily.

2. Know your strategy and what “mode” of business you’re in.

Before you develop a strategy, it’s important to know what “mode” your product is in.

Not all products are at the same stage in their lifecycle, and the difference matters. Are you in “growth mode,” just looking for more customers? Are you in “harvest mode,” an established player doing everything you can to maximize profits? If you’re in “land grab mode,” trying to expand, are you doing it by making more products or acquiring existing ones?

Each product in your portfolio needs to have a well-thought out strategy, and everyone working on that product should be well versed in how that strategy affects what they do on the day-to-day.

3. Communicate your strategy internally.

Once you’ve developed a strategy, it doesn’t do you any good if it’s not well communicated. Nowadays, there are hundreds of different ways to “socialize” information, whether that means putting it on a SharePoint site or sending it in an email memo or hosting numerous webinars.

I’ve noticed though, that no matter how interconnected our communication tech gets, the people seem to stay the same. In other words, they’re not likely to adopt an idea just because you posted it somewhere.

The solution? Good old fashioned elbow grease and conversation. Yep — infusing your strategy within your team’s core takes time and often one-on-one communication. If you have an important message to deliver (hint: your product strategy probably falls in this category), take the time to speak about it — and I mean really hammer it home — in person, with your team.

Great tips, Mark! I love how his interview shows that, no matter the industry, the same principles apply: Listening and talking face-to-face is almost always the first step to a better product.

That’s all for today. See you next time, and hopefully your next car purchase will be ever smoother, thanks to Mark and his colleagues!