Automotive leaders on a roll with iPhone and custom apps
Diversified automotive company JM Family Enterprises encompasses a number of different businesses: Southeast Toyota Distributors, the world’s largest independent Toyota and Scion distributor, JM&A Group, a group of industry-leading finance and insurance products companies, JM Lexus, the world’s largest volume Lexus dealership, and World Omni Financial Corp, a diversified financial services provider. It’s an $8 billion business — and iPhone is helping navigate the road ahead.
Driven to innovate
From punch cards to mainframes to PCs, JM Family founder Jim Moran believed that technological advances could expand his business. “He was always looking to drive technology”, says Ken Yerves, Chief Information Officer of JM Family Enterprises. “He was one of the first to network the dealer population, and he created the first-ever parts ordering and inventory system. He saw television as a medium to communicate, no differently than we look to iPhone as a medium to connect with our customers, business partners and associates”.
Using iPhone and business apps available in the App Store, JM Family associates can resolve important issues wherever and whenever they arise. For example, Yerves says, “I can use iPhone to pull up any of our distributed applications, almost anywhere. It's been a transformation, having information in your hands anytime”.
“iPhone bridges the gap between legacy systems and modern technology”, says Rajeev Ravindran, Chief Technology Officer. “Our IT folks use iPhone extensively to monitor applications. Our application developers have even fixed code through their iPhones”.
Secure mobile access
In the boardroom or in the field, iPhone keeps JM Family associates current on email, calendars and contacts from the company’s Microsoft Exchange server. “Adding calendar appointments or sending email on iPhone is very easy”, says Keith DeBickes, Manager of Technology Strategy. “With Outlook integration, everything was already there. And the iPhone setup process is simple. For most of our users, it’s pretty much hand over the phone and go”.
iPhone also keeps sensitive JM Family company data safe with built-in security features. “We can do a remote wipe. We can put in a password. When we build applications, we’re able to encrypt the data on iPhone," Ravindran says. "All these things make it more enterprise-ready than ever”.
A family of apps
Integrating iPhone into daily business operations is just one stage of JM Family’s mobile strategy. Using the iPhone Software Development Kit (SDK), an internal R&D team is building proprietary iPhone apps for the business. “iPhone started as a tool for the field force”, Yerves says. “Now we have an application that does real-time sales processing. We can see every dealership and district by volume. It started there and it’s propagated into other apps”.
“With the apps we've created for iPhone, the whole world's open to us”, says Ravindran. “We built an app for our Southeast Toyota dealers that’s used by the executives as well as the field associates. You can look up sales by district, see customer satisfaction and even get training videos”.
The company has also developed a suite of iPhone apps that make its extensive benefits— including on-site medical clinics and cafes—more easily accessible to its associates. “At JM Family, associates are our number-one resource”, DeBickes says. “We wanted to give them the tools to be successful and iPhone was essential to doing that. We started with business apps then looked at things that could make their day easier”.
iPhone SDK tools such as the Interface Builder enhance the creative process while simplifying development, DeBickes adds. “We can deliver a stronger user experience without having to worry about things like, ‘How do I make this button round?’ And the Tab Controller provides a great way to build small apps then bundle them into one application”.
For JM Family’s IT staff, it’s exciting to be at the forefront of technology with iPhone. But even more exciting is the realisation that iPhone-driven innovations are sparking fresh ideas throughout the enterprise.
“IT has gone from supporting things that are broken to becoming business enablers”, Ravindran explains. “With iPhone and apps, we’re partnering to drive the business in different areas. iPhone opens up avenues to think about technology in a different way”.
“Jim Moran was without question an early adopter of technology, and he would want us rolling out a newer technology to gain those efficiencies”, says Yerves. “He’d be thrilled. He’d be proud of what we’re doing today”.
- Based in Deerfield Beach, FL
- Toyota and Scion distributors; Lexus dealer; auto financing and insurance
- 3800 employees; $8 billion in annual revenue
- Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For
- Computerworld 100 Best Places to Work in IT
“With iPhone and apps, we’re partnering to drive the business in different areas. iPhone opens up avenues to think about technology in a different way”.
Rajeev Ravindran, Chief Technology Officer, JM Family Enterprises
“I can use iPhone to pull up any of our distributed applications, almost anywhere. It’s been a transformation, having information in your hands anytime”.
Ken Yerves, Chief Information Officer,
JM Family Enterprises