AutoNation transforms the auto industry through leadership and innovation
Reduce severity 1 incidents by up to 90%
Gain deep, 360-degree visibility across the application delivery chain to proactively address issues before they affect the buyer journey
Eliminate silos and bridge the gap between IT and business teams
The customer experience superhighway
Americans love their cars, and few companies love selling Americans those cars quite as much as AutoNation. The country’s largest auto dealer has blossomed into a fully integrated automotive behemoth with 315 locations, including new car dealerships, auction houses, collision centers, parts warehouses and its AutoNation USA stores (all pre-owned inventory) and its own branded parts line. And now it has set its sights on the digital horizon.
AutoNation’s expansion beyond the brick-and-mortar storefront is part of an aggressive transformation initiative aimed at bringing car buying and servicing into the modern era. New generations of consumers are seeking the same touchless, hassle-free virtual shopping experiences they’d have when ordering takeout from their favorite delivery service or filling a prescription, and the company’s poised to meet — and exceed — expectations.
“Our goal is ambitious — we want to be the one-stop shop for everything automotive. We’re putting the infrastructure and innovation in place to provide our customers with the exceptional experiences they demand,” says Adam Rasner, Vice President of Technology Operations for AutoNation. “It’s forcing us to rethink how we utilize technology to achieve our vision.”
“In this new world, you have to stay ahead of the game; you can’t remain in reactionary mode. AppDynamics has allowed us to gain a proactive point of view — we now have the ability to look at our applications, databases and underlying infrastructure; correlate event data; and get ahead of issues before they happen.”Adam Rasner, Vice President of Technology Operations, Autonation
As America’s largest and most recognized automotive retailer, AutoNation is transforming the automotive industry through its bold leadership, innovation and comprehensive brand extensions. As of March 31, 2021, AutoNation owned and operated 315 locations from coast to coast. AutoNation has sold over 13 million vehicles, the first automotive retailer to reach this milestone. The company’s success is driven by its commitment to delivering a peerless customer experience through customer-focused sales and service processes. AutoNation also features a robust philanthropic program in which every car sold helps to raise cancer research and treatment awareness with a Pink Plate and a financial donation. Since 2013, the company has proudly raised over $25 million dollars to drive out cancer, create awareness and support critical research.
While many automotive retailers tout gimmicks like “no-haggle pricing” and “try before you buy” as major advancements in the customer journey, AutoNation is thinking bigger — revolutionize the industry bigger. The company’s introducing a wide array of state-of-the-art tools and services to the market aimed at delivering seamless, world-class buying, selling, auctioning and servicing experiences without the consumer ever setting foot on a lot. “Today, customers can complete 90% of the transaction online. We can bring the car to you and customers don’t need to set foot in the dealership if they don’t want to. We call it store-to-door service,” says Rasner.
In addition to personalized online vehicle searches and financing options, AutoNation customers can get first-rate deals on trade-ins thanks to the company’s AI-powered Equity Mining Tool and Customer 360 platform. The system leverages data from millions of sales and service transactions to automatically appraise a customer's used vehicle and identify a newer replacement for a similar or lower payment.
On the service center side, AutoNation professionals have access to virtual reality headsets that allow them to connect directly with auto manufacturers and quickly troubleshoot and resolve even the most complex mechanical and electrical challenges and get customers back on the road in record time.
“The automotive industry has never really pushed itself to meet the needs of the digitally native consumer, so this is a huge opportunity to literally reshape what we know as the car buying experience,” Rasner explains. “But there’s a good deal of innovation that has to take place in order to make this transformation happen. We’re enhancing some legacy applications that are more than 15 years old and developing new cloud native solutions, all the while putting systems in place that provide our IT teams with the end-to-end visibility across our entire application delivery chain that they need to ensure everything’s running properly and deliver exceptional customer experiences.”
It’s all about the journey
For years, AutoNation relied on a disparate mix of tools and systems to keep an eye on application performance. This siloed approach to monitoring and management created visibility gaps that forced its IT teams into a reactive position in their respective corners.
“It seemed like we had some kind of application or infrastructure issue to deal with nearly every day,” Rasner recalls. “And because the personnel responsible for maintaining and supporting our technology didn’t have visibility outside their operational areas, they weren’t able to see the problems coming — we were flying blind until a call came in from an affected associate.”
As the company moved away from the traditional on-premise data center model and began adding more flexible, scalable cloud platforms to its existing infrastructure, it became clear that the situation could not stand. It needed to connect its AppOps and NetOps teams and provide them with deep, actionable insights across the entire ecosystem in order to put its visionary plans in place.
“We have so many exciting things going on, from modernizing existing applications to building new ones in Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure clouds from the ground up,” says Keith Kelly, Chief Architect at AutoNation. “But despite all this advancement, the lack of a single source of truth about how every system and application was performing significantly increased the risk of downtime and outages that could negatively impact customers and our internal teams.”
According to Kelly, the practical implications of those visibility gaps created some friction and finger-pointing between the IT organization and customer-facing teams.
“We have so many interconnected systems that one application may be dependent on 15 others, and an issue with any of them could create a ripple effect that might cause an online transaction to fail or make it more difficult for our associates to effectively assist our customers in real time,” he says. “When the buyer journey is directly affected, it erodes our business stakeholders’ trust in our technology and the personnel that support it.”
Constantly moving forward
In an effort to bridge the gap between its IT teams and gain deep, real-time visibility into the health and performance of its entire application ecosystem, AutoNation deployed AppDynamics to accelerate its leading-edge digital transformation.
As long-time Cisco customers, Cisco’s acquisition of AppDynamics and the solution’s high marks from leading analysts heavily influenced AutoNation’s purchasing decision. But its extensive, industry-leading monitoring capabilities that provide comprehensive observability across the full technology stack made the decision a virtual no-brainer.
AutoNation IT teams use AppDynamics to see into every component of their application delivery chain — including end user and back-end applications deployed across on-premise and cloud environments — from a single platform. AppOps and NetOps now speak the same language and can work together to rapidly pinpoint the root causes of application issues down to the code level, quickly resolve them, and keep the entire operation running at peak performance.
“AppDynamics provides a common view across our AWS, Azure and on-premise applications, databases and server infrastructure delivering real-time, actionable insights based on transactions that help us improve our customers’ experiences.”Keith Kelly, Chief Architect, AutoNation
“AppDynamics provides a common view across our AWS, Azure and on-premise applications, databases and server infrastructure delivering real-time, actionable insights based on transactions that help us improve our customers’ experiences,” Kelly explains. “Since multiple dependencies exist across our application ecosystem, the ability to see the entire flow in one place is an exceptionally powerful capability that accelerates troubleshooting and incident resolution and ultimately leads to a better experience across the board for our customers and associates.”
But monitoring alone isn’t where AutoNation truly derives value from AppDynamics. Instead, Rasner believes the understanding of the impact of application performance on the broader business that his teams gain is what will allow the company to make the most significant improvements and successfully execute its visionary plans now and into the future.
“Unlike other tools that simply tell you when something’s wrong, AppDynamics actually correlates data and alerts to help us proactively address the underlying causes of potential performance degradation before it affects the customer experience and, in turn, our bottom line,” he says. “More importantly, the code we build now reports directly back to a single, configurable dashboard that gives us a true 360-degree perspective of every application, database and system so we can set, monitor and manage specific baseline thresholds across every user touch point with exacting precision.”
Paving the way for the future
Both Rasner and Kelly agree few solutions could’ve made the positive impact on AutoNation’s sophisticated operations that AppDynamics has. Delivered as a service, it frees the company’s IT teams from having to manage yet another platform while delivering unprecedented visibility, control, and direct correlation between every activity happening in the application environment and the frontline user experience.
“In this new world, you have to stay ahead of the game; you can’t remain in reactionary mode. AppDynamics has allowed us to gain a proactive point of view — we now have the ability to look at our applications, databases and underlying infrastructure; correlate event data; and get ahead of issues before they happen,” Rasner says. “And now that our developers have metrics to understand ahead of time how anything they produce can or will impact other systems across the company, it’s completely reshaped our approach to how we create and deploy new services during our transformation.”
Kelly feels that while AppDynamics has been instrumental in dramatically reducing critical service interruptions, the bigger impact has been on the company’s culture and interactions between teams. “AppDynamics has helped us reduce our severity 1 tickets by up to 90%, which is a huge accomplishment in and of itself,” he says. “But more importantly, it's allowed teams on both the IT and business sides to sort of lock arms and focus on what they're trying to do, as opposed to one side blaming the other and spending an exorbitant amount of time defending their turf.”
As the company continues pushing the boundaries of the automotive services industry, Cisco and AppDynamics will be there to provide the infrastructure optimization, network monitoring, performance management and security products needed to support AutoNation’s vision.
“Transforming a business is difficult enough on its own, but revolutionizing an industry is a totally different beast. Every new idea, tool or concept — every mobile app feature, next-generation technology or interactive experience — has the potential for either a hugely positive or massively negative impact on our bottom line,” Rasner explains. “Having a solution like AppDynamics in place gives us the confidence to aggressively pursue innovative products and programs that will fundamentally change how people participate in the automotive customer journey while significantly reducing the risk we have to take to do it. And that’s an exciting feeling.”
"Unlike other tools that simply tell you when something’s wrong, AppDynamics actually correlates data and alerts to help us proactively address the underlying causes of potential performance degradation before it affects the customer experience and, in turn, our bottom line."
Adam Rasner, Vice President of Technology Operations, Autonation
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