Jeff Lagges was named managing director of Minnesota-based vehicle diagnostics, repair and maintenance information provider Identifix in October, after departing ALLDATA. A 35-year industry veteran with roots as a technician, Lagges has big plans for growing Identifix, which serves nearly 55,000 repairers across the U.S., Canada and Latin America. Lagges met with Ratchet+Wrench to share his vision for the 28-year-old company.
WHAT MOTIVATED YOUR TRANSITION TO IDENTIFIX AND WHERE DO YOU HOPE TO TAKE THE COMPANY?
It was somewhat serendipitous that this position became available after I had left ALLDATA. I had known both Bill [Sauer] and Jeff [Sweet] (former Identifix leaders) a long time and we crossed paths many times. I was very interested in Identifix through the years. I had always found the company and their assets very interesting. I thought they were very complimentary to what we were doing at ALLDATA. To me it was an opportunity to say, “OK, how do I participate with a company that does it a little bit different in the same space and see how it develops?”
I think there are three levels that I’m focused on. I want to modernize the core business. We’ve been doing a tremendous job of servicing our customers and generating content through that one-on-one engagement with customers through our hotline. But I want to start looking at other ways of scaling that process, broadening the capabilities so that we really leverage that service to drive more and more content. There are lots of different ways for us to scale the business and do it differently, both technically and just process-wise. But ultimately it’s about the same core concept of helping that customer diagnose vehicles. The key is driving the content. That’s number one.
Number two is we’re expanding into other categories so we want to expand our influence into the shop management workflow applications. We believe our data is transferrable, not only to the back office, but to the front office, so we have some data assets that are a derivative of our core content, which is what we call Code-Assist and Symptom-Assist. So you can read the vehicle through the OBD, get a code and get a symptom for it. That’s derived from our original content.
We can use that not only from a technician standpoint but we can also use it from a service writer aspect; as they’re writing up service, they can instantly see some of the possibilities up front and we can start integrating that with telematics partners. All of that data becomes transferable through the supply chain and the repair event, going back to the service writer, back to the technician. It creates a thread that links all those actors.
The last one would be global opportunities. How do we expand what we’ve done well here and take it to an international level? Right now we’re looking at it from a standpoint of where we have application with our current assets. We’re looking at every market. We have the benefit of Solera being our parent company. They’re in multiple companies so they already have assets deployed. Really for us, it’s about deciding how much effort we have to put into a market to build it up.
HOW DO YOU SEE IDENTIFIX FITTING INTO THE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM SPACE?
My viewpoint is that people are going to be looking for mobility, and the companies that can do that will be successful; allowing the data to move around with the workflow. Traditional shop management was always engineered toward the business of creating a repair order and an invoice. I think the new wave of shop management is going to be based on workflow, based on what point of data do I need to have at what point in the repair process. It’s going to be about exchanging information quickly. How do I get authorization on a repair? How do I pump that information to a consumer so they can look at it and make a decision? It’s going to be a lot lighter. Shops shouldn’t be investing in major hardware upgrades, they’ll be moving to the cloud.
ARE THERE ANY NEW PLANS WITH YOUR SISTER COMPANY, IATN?
We’re looking at doing a couple other things with them this year. We’re looking at launching a mobile application that makes it easier for membership to exchange information. It will allow users to post questions to the community quicker. It will also ping the membership when a question is posted. They’ll be able to search the data quicker. We’re in beta now and hope to launch at the beginning of the year.
We also launched a product Wiki on the principle of sharing unbiased product reviews. So it can be stimulated by any of the membership and also monitored and responded to by the product managers of the companies themselves. We’re hoping to allow our users to have a more organized exchange about products on anything they’re using.