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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   May 2013

Insights Into E-Implementations

Follow these tips when incorporating new technology into your business

Mortgage bankers and lenders often are plagued by concerns about providing the best customer service experience while also staying ahead of constantly changing rules and regulations. Many lenders that face these concerns head on are turning to technology to speed up the time it takes to close and to make the loan process more transparent. Even for the most technically savvy bankers and lenders, however, technology implementations can be daunting.

Whether your organization is a small company or a large operation with numerous branches and origination channels, the following insights can help you simplify the technology-implementation process and ensure its success.

The “A-team”

Begin with considering who comprises your “A-team” or the stakeholders who are essential to your company’s loan process. Your “A-team” may include everyone from internal staff and technology providers to external third parties. Internally, it’s important to have a dedicated project sponsor and day-to-day project manager to move the implementation process forward and ensure company-wide adoption. Additionally, having a project advocate in senior management can speed up implementation by helping to prioritize competing projects and championing technology usage throughout the organization.

From a technology standpoint, it’s crucial to understand what other software and services are being leveraged. Integration points should be discussed early and often to ensure that information flows seamlessly between your company’s various systems.

Externally, it’s imperative that mortgage bankers and lenders communicate which trading partners they work with in the process. This discussion should be held in the evaluation phase to ensure that the appropriate integration points are in place and to guarantee that the loan-process workflow will not be interrupted in the implementation project.

In fact, the implementation of new technology often can make processes with trading partners even more efficient. For instance, if you’re implementing an electronic collaboration solution, investors that once required lenders to print, stack and mail closed loan packages now may be able to ingest the packages electronically, which in turn may reduce costs, eliminate errors and enable the lender to reallocate resources to more business-critical tasks.

Working with vendors 

Once your “A-team” has been identified, it’s important for your vendor to become an extension of your project-management team. Rather than adjusting the workflow to fit the solution, a high-quality vendor should strive to make its solution optimal for each company’s unique processes.

To do so, a vendor should complete an in-depth analysis of your business early in the process to gain an understanding of your organization’s intricacies and confirm that the implementation will match your company’s needs. The vendor can then offer suggestions on how to configure the technology to your workflow and perhaps even identify areas where the process could be improved.

Further, throughout the business analysis and implementation process, vendors should help identify where exception management will need to occur. For example, if the plan is to implement eDisclosures, a vendor should raise the possibility that some borrowers may not have access to computers or would prefer to sign loans in the traditional way. The vendor then can help you develop a backup plan to handle exceptions.

Be wary if your vendor is not providing this kind of strategic counsel. If the vendor is unable to support specific needs in the implementation phase, it’s unlikely that it will be able to support your business as it grows and changes.

The phased approach

It’s often the case that mortgage companies that roll out electronic initiatives in a phased approach are the ones that experience the most success in terms of long-term adoption. By first focusing on the essential, they can go live more quickly while their employees are not burdened with having to learn aspects of a system that they may not end up using. Once the system has been up and running for a while, a company then can see if any additional configurations and features must be added — while being armed with the knowledge of how its staff actually uses the system.

Surprisingly, one step of implementation that often gets overlooked is the testing process. The importance of testing cannot be stressed enough. This is the ideal time to get into the weeds of a new system and thoroughly vet every case scenario.

In addition, open communication should take place between the project managers and the vendor. More than likely, this is where many process exceptions — like in the eDisclosure example — will be uncovered. It’s the job of the vendor to provide sound counsel about how to address such exceptions.

It’s also important to remember reporting and auditing processes. As competitive pressures rise and the industry faces more stringent regulations, lenders will be required to report on even more aspects of their business. From service-level reports to productivity analyses, part of the technology-implementation process is validating that information can be accessed easily and in a manageable format. Data made available through technology often can serve as protection against audits, allowing a user to pull reports on who accessed certain folders within a certain time frame.

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Although mortgage technology may be designed for the masses — or at least for the masses of the industry — the implementation process is where a system should be configured to an organization’s specific needs. At the core of a successful implementation process is knowing who is involved and what to ask, as well as being treated as a unique business by your vendor. As is often the case with trading partners, transparent communication can simplify these processes and prevent last-minute hurdles.


 
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