Did you choose, or inherit, a DMS that isn’t working for your dealership and now you feel stuck? Do you keep renewing your contract because you’re concerned about losing data and documents if you switch to a new provider?

The typical DMS contract lasts five years. But the law mandates you retain documents for seven years.

Welcome to the DMS “gotcha” moment. It’s no accident that many legacy DMS contract terms fall just short of what the law demands. These DMS systems have one goal: catch you in a repetitive renewal cycle so you never make it to the end.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You can break the cycle, avoid that “gotcha” moment, and be DMS independent.

Independence is as simple as owning your data. When you implement a third-party platform to scan your documents and/or retain your month-end DMS data, you truly own that data. Your DMS provider no longer has ownership over it. It’s yours to access, retrieve, and retain, anytime, and anywhere. You don’t have to worry about document retention periods and the overlap with DMS contract renewals.

The power struggle over dealers’ data is a fight that legacy DMS systems are willing to fight; just take a look at the data ownership laws being passed in Arizona. Also, the recent Authenticom lawsuits, which sparked additional claims about anti-competitive behavior. These will surely set the precedent for the rest of the industry moving forward.

DMS independence gives you control over your dealership’s destiny. Consider the leverage you’ll have in DMS contract renegotiations. With a copy of critical DMS data saved outside of your system, it becomes easy to tell a current provider unwilling to meet your terms, “I don’t need you, I have my data.”

The stress of an audit becomes much easier to weather. Say you sell a dealership. You can still be audited for a number of years, even though you are no longer the owner. When you store documents outside of the DMS you can provide access to an auditor or CPA so audits are fast and painless.

During these challenging economic times, you may be faced with losing a dealership. Whether it is a manufacturer’s decision, bankruptcy, or even lack of a succession plan; it’s a sad fact that sometimes a store must close. As when selling a dealership, audits are still possible for several years after a dealership closes Proactively using a third-party company protects you in the future, and eases the transition as the store close.

On the other side of the spectrum, some dealer groups continue to acquire stores at a fast pace. These stores likely use a variety of DMS providers. That leaves the corporate office with a difficult decision: move all stores to one DMS, or allow the stores to keep what they are used to and what is working for that store?

When you have a third-party document management platform, this decision becomes much easier. There’s no need to force every store to transition to a DMS that may not be a best-fit based on size, sales, or location. You have one consistent platform to store and retrieve documents. This opens up a big opportunity to allow every dealership to keep a system that is working, and there are no conversion costs.

Take for example one large multi-regional dealer group with 19 locations. They currently use five different DMS systems. Why? Since many stores are regionally located, they allow the flexibility to use what provides the most bang for their buck. Since they use a third- party platform for scanning and COLDing their month-end accounting books, corporate can access all data from all stores in one consistent platform. New DMS? New acquisition? No problem.

Finally, data independence frees you from any DMS “pay me now, pay me later” schemes. In this scenario, a provider charges you to input your data into their system. Then when you want to make a switch, they demand payment again to release your data. It’s your data, yet they hold it hostage as a way to keep you on the system.

A third-party document management platform is the most effective way to avoid the DMS “gotcha” moment. When you are DMS independent you have the upper hand. You decide when to leave a system that isn’t working. You decide what system to keep. DMS independence allows you to tear down any exit barriers before they can even be built.