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“Hardware is Secondary, Software By John Van Horn

“The future is software develop- ment. But it’s very expensive;

most companies have difficulties sus- taining it.” When Steve Haralambiew, Datapark founder and CEO, talks about the parking industry and its relation- ship with revenue control suppliers, he gets specific. “Our customers are our developers.

They tell us what needs to be done. They want what they need, not what compa- nies happen to sell. Hardware is second- ary, its software that’s primary,” he says. Haralambiew believes in the equip-

ment his company sells, but talks expan- sively about how the equipment fits into the customer’s business.He speaks strong- ly about return on investment and the need to ensure that customers receive it. “Today’s parking operation is not

stand alone. When an operator runs multiple garages, they need to have con- trol and information at their fingertips. Not only is this good management, but it also greatly reduces their cost. There is the ROI.” “Many operators are working to

achieve this goal. Large companies like Central Parking and smaller ones like City Park are moving quickly in this direction. It lowers personnel costs, it increases their ability to ensure that con- trols are properly maintained, reporting is maximized. It can help in customer service. We manufacturers have to be ready and able to support this change.” “Clouds. Yes, the computing is in the

clouds,” Haralambiew smiles at the metaphor. “Unfortunately someone has to create the cloud, and in this case it isn’t Mother Nature.” Centrally run systems are the future

of the parking industry, he goes on. But the vendors have created a vast jumble of different types of equipment that don’t talk easily to each other, and are being asked to do so. So we try to make it work, and often end up in ‘finger pointing’ situ- ations where vendors blame each other for failures and little gets done. “The only solution I can see is either

having a single vendor provide the equip- ment, one that often requires an expen- sive replacement of systems, or the devel- opment of a ‘black box’ that handles the

38 Datapark CEO Steve Haralambiew

interface and facilitates the transfer of data between each system. But that, too, can be expensive.” “We live in an information age.

‘Information Technology’ (IT) depart- ments control the purchases of computer- ized equipment and let’s face it, that’s what we sell. IT drives the market. Pretty boxes and fancy displays are good for trade shows and necessary for closing sales, but it’s the software, the way the boxes work, that make a difference. IT knows that, and they are always there, sometimes in the background.”

“IT isn’t usually unreasonable in

their requirements, but what they want is very expensive. Software done right is more expensive than hardware. Our problem, as an industry, is that we can’t spread our development costs over hun- dreds of thousands of systems, the mar- ket isn’t that large. Manufacturers have taken different approaches including out- sourcing software and off shore develop- ment. These can save money, but you must keep control over the process.” “The key to success in this business is customization. Your systems must be

Parking Today

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