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Shifting the doc prep paradigm

National Mortgage Professional
Mar 07, 2008

Don't let a program dictate your processJeff Cuniotechnology needs, price, purpose Companies can be seduced by the promises of a software product that may not fit the needs of their organization. The consequence of this seduction can be costly, spending thousands of dollars more than necessary every month with little or no proof of gain. Features that seem valuable in the demo go unused, and the ease of learning and navigating through a new program, which looked so easy at the presentation, is difficult when put in practice. The purchase may have seemed incisive at the time, but many buyers are left wondering, "What happened?" From my own experience, I liken this to the "resolution phenomenon." Every year, on Jan. 2, many brilliant and health conscious people venture to their local Costco or Wal-Mart and spend $1,000 on a treadmill. This phenomenon is so engrained in our collective psyche that on that day, one is likely to find a treadmill for sale at his local gas station convenience store. And how does this story end? For me, it ended with a $1,000 coat rack, no lost weight and a wife's "I told you sos" for the next few Jan. 2s. After 12 years of software development (and one coat rack/treadmill), I can say with some authority that some mortgage technology purchases can be equivalent of buying a $1,000 treadmill. They look great, smell new, have the promise of wealth and increased business but, after implementation, they fall short of delivering many promises. To aid companies evaluating mortgage technology solutions, we have developed a groundbreaking concept. We call it the "take my wife treadmill shopping" process. Honey, do we really need this? This is a common before-leaving-the-garage question. In the case of mortgage technology, the answer is yes. Companies need tools to help them track compliance issues, spot trends in borrowing or lending, drive productivity, manage leads more effectively, streamline credit billing, automate forms and the list goes on. The question remains: Does the program really need to butter toast, lick stamps for marketing mailings and give a color-coded whistle every time an application changes? That is getting into treadmill territory. Still, the answer is yes. So let's continue. But do we have to get the most expensive one? The first reaction of anyone with some success is, "I am successful. I want the best." Or, in the case of software, a manager may think, "I'll use all of the features, go to the four-week training course, the refresher course, the online courses, set the whistle program and, while I don't plan on using it, the integrated defibrillator--you can never be too sure!" The manager buys the most expensive option, only leaving the third Tuesday of every other month to grow and manage business. Blinded by the promises of what the software will do, the manager forgets that machines don't make sales. The reason for software is to aid the salespeople in their duties, help serve the customer more quickly and efficiently, automate and streamline menial tasks, and free up time for the creative, revenue generating aspects of their business. Software will not make sales. When evaluating potential products, determine if it is more than you need. What is the time commitment to implementation and what is the return of investment for that time? Babe, what are you trying to accomplish? In the software business consumers ask for odd things. For example, one customer began a call saying, "I need to have a button on the second screen, a third of a page down, that when I push it, it turns yellow, and if I click the borrower name it turns purple and jumps back to the first screen, and ... " Instead of reacting, "Sure, we can do that custom package--here is the bill," we asked, "What is your objective with this feature?" To which he replied, "Well, I need to know if anyone else changes a file." The solution we delivered was simple. We added a "modified by" field, so any time a file is altered, the manager can see who changed it. The solution wasnt the one he proposed, but it now does what he requested. When we began development of our loan origination management tool, rather than asking ourselves, "What computer program could we create to persuade broker/owners and branch managers to buy?" we asked our customers, "What are the most important and necessary functions in managing multiple originators?" When evaluating a potential product, determine which products include the features we need versus the features we want. Attempt to dispassionately "pre-reflect" After the asininity of the treadmill (well, truth be told, the treadmill, the car, the flat-screen TV, the Ab Master Plus and the pop-up lights), I committed to "pre-reflecting" before making any major purchases. This nonce word is my own way of saying that I will evaluate, in the present, how likely I am to use a given item in the future by basing the likelihood on my past. That is a confusing sentence, but a simple concept. With software products, pre-reflection is very simple. For example, Microsoft Outlook has literally thousands of features and functions. Even in one particular e-mail there are hundreds available, many of which may improve the look of the e-mail, and improve the scheduling of one's business and personal life. How many do I use? 10? 20? 250? Nope. Just one. I use Outlook to send and receive e-mails. That's it. So what does this mean in practice? I recently purchased a new laptop, and even though I wanted the super media maker plus, game creator maximum and deluxe picture edit master, I knew upon pre-reflection, regardless of my intentions, I would not use them. Now I have the laptop I need, and saved myself $800. Before making the final buying decision, take a moment for pre-reflection. Don't sell yourself short While 98 percent of the known universe uses Outlook for nothing more than e-mail, some are inclined toward effective usage of the available features. If adopting the many aids within the program helps you improve your processes and increase productivity, it is important to employ those tools for all they are worth. Most companies, however, are better served deciding what processes contribute most to their success than to finding the programs that fit best within their processes. In plain language, listen to my wife. The box that carries the five- or six-figure software may look good in the store, but it makes a lousy coat rack. Jeff Cunio is the president of the Bellevue, Wash.-based TeraVendo Inc. He may be reached at [email protected]
Published
Mar 07, 2008
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