The Technology Behind a Modern Auto Dealership

Brand Story – At Dick Hannah, industry excellence and tech innovation go hand in hand.

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When Dick Hannah opened as a regional automotive dealer in 1949, over 30 years before the birth of the internet, technology comprised a small part of the company. Today, with 23 auto-related businesses in the Portland metro area, it relies on a 17-person IT team, expert partners and next-generation digital tools to optimize the client and employee experience.  

At first glance, family-owned automotive business and high-tech pioneer may sound like opposites, but in order to expand and lead the industry, Dick Hannah has learned to embody both. 

“The misconception is that, ‘It’s a dealership. What can they possibly be doing from a tech standpoint that’s interesting?’” explains Sean McKannay, CIO & Digital Marketing Director, Dick Hannah Dealerships. “But we have to integrate and work with the largest companies on the planet, while protecting a diverse network, delivering cloud services and supporting thousands of devices at the store level.” 

Sean McKannay

McKannay, who joined the organization in 1998 and has helmed most of its technology evolution, recalls his first goal: deliver a centralized internet connection and facilitate collaboration as Dick Hannah continued expanding.

“From the beginning, we were always optimizing, eventually setting up simplified LAN [Local Area Network], then WAN [Wide Area Network],” McKannay adds. “Then voice and video started putting a lot of pressure on the WAN and our equipment.” 

In 2016, Dick Hannah decided it was time to consolidate and enhance its network. It began reaching out to fiber network
providers, knowing that fiber would be the only infrastructure that could support the organization’s data, speed and reliability needs well into the future. 

“Most companies could only cover a few of our locations,” McKannay says. “I wanted to see if someone could cover them all, so we didn’t have to go to four different carriers. I was shopping for our whole footprint.” 

At that point, Comcast Business had already established itself in the fiber industry, recognizing it early on as a superior, durable technology for maximum-speed connectivity. The organization’s extensive fiber network almost perfectly aligned with Dick Hannah’s needs. 

“And for the one or two businesses that didn’t fit, Comcast was willing to build fiber into those locations,” McKannay notes. “Comcast was able to absorb a lot of that cost up front, whereas other companies could not. Between them having a good fiber footprint, and being flexible on extending to and dealing with about a dozen remote physical buildings, going with them was an easy decision and really our ideal scenario.”

The cost of building a fiber network can prove prohibitive for companies, particularly when connecting new locations. 

“Comcast Business is committed to investing in local businesses in the community like Dick Hannah,” explains Allison Lawr, Senior Enterprise Sales Manager, Comcast Business. “Comcast Business provides one dedicated project manager who manages all aspects of the project, from permitting to design to implementation. This allows a more streamlined approach for our clients and ultimately provides the best customer experience when going through a network change.”

Dick Hannah is currently working with Comcast Business, who is again managing and helping absorb costs, to build a second circuit into a newly acquired Sandy, Oregon, location. 

The success of its initial fiber project paved the way for a long-term partnership that has seen Comcast Business work with Dick Hannah to deliver SD-WAN: a software-defined wide area network.

With the move to cloud environments, Dick Hannah’s locations needed complete reliability, ultra-low latency and fault tolerance at the edge. In short, it needed SD-WAN. As McKannay was exploring the options, Covid arrived, forcing its accounting office to work from home, triggering the rise of voice-video applications and highlighting the necessity of optimizing network performance.

Dick Hannah became one of the first companies in the area to utilize Comcast Business’s SD-WAN service.

“SD-WAN implementations have a lot of moving parts. A particular challenge for this implementation was ensuring that all work was done behind the scenes and didn’t impact the employees or customers at their dealerships,” Lawr says. “Our project manager worked diligently to coordinate with the Dick Hannah team every step of the way to make sure that we met their deadlines, but also did not interrupt their day-to-day operations.”

All of Dick Hannah’s operations demand access to its network: opening a repair order, making a phone call, sending images or completing payment transactions. Any interruption could introduce costly issues across multiple businesses. 

“With past companies we worked with, updates meant decreased operational hours,” McKannay notes. “But Comcast Business has the resources to build a really good network up front. When they do upgrades on their side, we don’t end up with outages. That helps me deliver to our 1,200 employees.”

SD-WAN lets Dick Hannah optimize traffic flows and improve performance, even as networks get hit with massive downloads and instructional videos from automakers. For the IT team, SD-WAN translates into improved visibility and troubleshooting, while for employees, it promises seamless service without delay.

“A lot of problems at the WAN edge went away almost completely. It reduced my expenses to add more to the bottom line,” McKannay reflects. “It makes my department more efficient and better able to respond, and it allows for scalability.”

McKannay and his team continue to monitor evolutions in technology, evaluating how they can augment IT to benefit its automotive businesses, employees and end customers. At the same time, Comcast Business continues upgrading its portfolio of services to reflect new digital capabilities and corporate needs.

“Comcast Business services are designed to be flexible and adaptable, so we can keep pace with the changing needs of a growing organization like Dick Hannah,” Lawr concludes. “From cloud-based applications to advanced analytics and reporting, Comcast Business provides a suite of tools that can help large organizations stay ahead of the competition and reach their goals.”

Brand stories are paid content articles that allow Oregon Business advertisers to share news about their organizations and engage with readers on business and public policy issues.  The stories are produced in house by the Oregon Business marketing department. For more information, contact associate publisher Courtney Kutzman.