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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   July 2013

Shop Around for the Right Tech

Know what to look for before you invest in a software system

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Having buyer’s remorse over the purchase of an appliance, article of clothing or even an automobile is one thing, but regretting spending thousands of dollars on a software system that was supposed to make your company run smoothly is quite another. Buyer’s remorse is the result of not one or two bad choices; it can be a compilation of multiple mistakes that are not visible until after the software is implemented. 

Some common reasons for software-purchasing mistakes include:

  • Lack of pre-planning and not adhering to a budget
  • Buying features you may not need for years
  • Using a “follow the crowd” mentality
  • Succumbing to the idea that one solution can fix all problems.

Software is a tool, not a magic bullet. As any craftsman can tell you, a tool is only as good as the person using it to improve an existing system or create something new. Overbuying software is just as financially dangerous as underbuying. Often the biggest purchasing mistake companies make is overbuying. This includes buying software that is complex, difficult to implement, does not match current or future business needs, and exceeds the budget. Overbuying also can result from exaggerated vendor promises

Mortgage bankers or business owners looking to purchase new software systems should analyze carefully what their needs are and consider the following points before making a purchase they could regret. 

Before buying

First, recognize that purchasing a software system is a considerable investment for your company. Buyer’s remorse can be hard for a company to weather, but it can be avoided with a few simple steps.

  1. Understand the importance of what you are purchasing: For many mortgage companies, workforce management is the most important software investment. Workforce management provides a foundation for all other services. If a workforce-management system is not functional, or does not gather enough data to generate an accurate forecast, other software becomes secondary. For many software vendors, the majority of their install base is replacement systems. That idea alone should catch the attention of prospective buyers. Many mortgage companies purchase software based on features only and ignore other critical factors, such as scalability and flexibility. The software’s ability to grow with the company and meet ever-changing needs also must be considered. If the technology does not match your ability to implement and manage the software, the result is a purchasing mistake and wasted resources.
  2. Don’t follow the crowd: By buying into marketing tactics, you risk making a purchase that does not fit your needs. Be careful of the idea that “bigger is better” or the idea that because a vendor has more customers that they must be better; these can distract you from evaluating the software and vendor objectively. The market is competitive and all vendors position themselves in the most favorable light through revenue reports, analyst ratings, magazine endorsements and often exaggerated claims. Due diligence is important, but understand your needs and ensure they are being met. The best method of vendor evaluation is customer referrals. Ask other customers about promises made versus promises kept. Examine nuances that make a difference in functionality and performance, such as how frequently the software is upgraded and how changes in the software will impact your organization. Additionally, inquire about customer service and software support.
  3. Evaluate your vendor: The quality of the vendor is as important as the quality of the software. Many companies have been acquired and their products merged with other solutions out of their area of expertise. A company may have a solid reputation for developing their own solutions but lack innovation and functionality with acquired software. Vendor considerations also should include longevity factors, as well as the likelihood of the company being acquired and merged into an organization with which you have no prior relationship.

Evaluating

The most common problems that constitute purchasing mistakes involve inaccurate forecasting and an inability to generate requirements at the interval level. Both of these problems are tied to inadequate scheduling algorithms. Accurate forecasting is based on several components, including: the amount of historical data available; the nature of the data; the forecasting period; an infinite number of different service objectives on one or more work streams; and algorithms that reflect real-life customer behavior.

A workforce-management system should be able to maintain several years of historical data to generate an accurate forecast. Bottom-line criteria for a functional workforce-management system include:

  • How much data can it store and/or use?
  • Can it account for inflation because of abandoned calls?
  • Can it recognize seasonal and growth trends?
  • Can you input special-event information and apply correlation factors?

The biggest clue that you have made a purchasing mistake is if you are experiencing overstaffing or understaffing. Both scenarios are deadly to bottom-line revenue. Idle agents or unanswered phones lead to disastrous business results through wasted labor expense or customers lost to poor service.

Resolving issues

What do you do if your software doesn’t work for your company? The two basics choices are: Create a workaround with your current software, or replace the system entirely. This is a difficult decision and mortgage companies often are left with few good options. The likelihood of your vendor providing a viable solution is contrary to the fact that they put you in this precarious situation in the first place. If a solution is offered, be sure to consider what the chances of success are and how long the process will take. 

Replacing a workforce-management system can be costly and frustrating, but at the end of the day, it may provide the best option. Before replacing a system, ensure that the original software was implemented correctly and all users are adequately trained. Poor training can result in under-utilization or software not meeting service levels.

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Workforce management is based on science and should be approached from a scientific perspective. Only systems whose algorithms have been tested over time and proven accurate will produce forecasts that eliminate scheduling errors such as understaffing and overstaffing. Mortgage companies that want to avoid buyer’s remorse must take the time to carefully evaluate their business needs before investing in a software solution.


 
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