Magazine Feature Story

*The Truth About BI*

**By Julie Piepho**

***Do we as an industry really need another buzzword? Of course not. But it seems that Business Intelligence or BI seems to be the latest buzzword to hit our industry. Let’s get beyond the buzz and get to the truth. What does BI mean really? To me, BI is about having defined parameters in which you can measure company performance and indicators instead of putting your finger up in the air to see which way the wind is blowing that second and basing business decisions on a hunch. That’s not going to work.

****We have used exiting technology combined with BI to bring the data out into the open and put it in a more manageable format. If you think about it, every mortgage company has enough data at their fingertips to make sound business decisions, but it’s not always used properly. You can’t just use spreadsheets or create a report to get there. Those techniques are static in that they only provide insight into a certain point in time. Those techniques are not dynamic enough to give you a full picture of your business. And let’s face it, these days our business is always changing.

****Here at Cornerstone Mortgage Company, we’re a full-service mortgage banker with more than 81 offices in 14 states, including Colorado, Nevada and Utah. The company itself was founded in 1988 and is based in Houston, Texas. Right now we’re the fourth-largest non-bank mortgage company in the country. A Top 30 National Lender, Cornerstone has more than 850 employees and a net worth of $24 million.

****My point is that we have a sizeable business to manage. Having said that, for me BI was not in the roadmap, but I saw a demo and was literally blown away. I saw this technology as a way to put information in a real-time and meaningful format. At the key of a successful BI tool is visualization and dashboarding. By using BI we created a tool for our president so she can see everything about the company and drill down to a very granular level. That’s what I like about BI. The technology gives the business confidence.

****In looking at BI tools we selected Motivity Solutions’ Movation product. Movation BI combines the data from your collective systems and allows users to instantly access relevant information and apply powerful analytics for use in forecasting and performance monitoring. Movation provides real-time access to key performance indicators, scorecards, executive and employee dashboards, and on-demand dynamic reporting.

****We started rolling out the BI technology from Movation about a year ago. We started by identifying key performance indicators for our productions staff, meaning the loan officers, the underwriters, the closers, etc. Why did we take this approach? You always know what you think you know until you measure it through technology.

****What we did was come up with minimum standards and worked on organization readiness to roll this out. Now all members of the production staff can go to this tool to see how they’re doing in relation to the goals set up by the company. You can also see how you’re doing in relation to your peers. The dashboards can really be very powerful.

****Why? When you think about it, dashboards provide companies with the relevant information necessary to drive their business. Users graphically see high-level summary data and have the ability to drill down to refined levels of data to instantly identify and solve the root cause of a problem. Movation’s dashboards are role-based and customizable to ensure employees only have access to relevant, job-specific data. Because all of your systems are connected within Movation, you can review information from every data source on one screen, finally giving you a holistic view of your organization.

****Prior we would set a standard and say that processors should do X-amount of files, but there was no accountability. Now we can offer clear incentive programs based on clear goals and objectives that the company wants to hit. We went down this path because we as an industry have to better define processes and performance. Like every other lender, we need to be as efficient as possible. Well, how do we know if we have too few or too many underwriters, for example? You can’t just count heads every morning, you have to be smart about it.

****And beyond that, we wanted to create dashboards so different people within the organization can get real visibility. We now see where we’ve been and what we’re doing today so we can better forecast what we’re going to do in the future. In essence, we’re getting dynamic reports along with the dashboarding.

****In order to be effective, business intelligence should link to underlying reports that drill down to a detail level and are electronically deliverable. These interactive reports allow business users to solve potential problems by viewing detailed information quickly on screen without having to print a report or open a file. Through Movation you can develop reports that are comprised from all of your systems – no longer are you required to manually piece together reports.

****All of a sudden your processors, Loan officers and closers are being held accountable. We have private labeled our solution Fusion. Now that we have this technology in place I see almost limitless opportunities. We started with production, but I want to go corporate wide and move it into accounting, HR, post closing, compliance, etc.

****If we go back to my earlier point, we lenders have all the data we need, it’s about pulling it together. You can measure anything if you have the technology. The biggest problem I think BI solves for us is accountability. People don’t want to see their name coming in below the company’s overall goal.

****As you roll out BI, you need a plan. On a high level you want to start with executive BI so you understand things like turn-times, origination objectives and overall goals. All of that has to be broken down by department from a KPI perspective so you can see how long it takes to go from point-of-sale to origination, from origination to closing, from closing to post closing and so on. You need to know the time it takes to move a file between those stages within the lifecycle of a loan by department.

****Before you can do that though, you have to first understand what you track today. All of that existing insight goes into an executive dashboard. Once we had that in a dashboard we could see how we were really doing and the technology takes it from there. What do I mean? We now know what departments to focus on so we can drill down into that department to see what we can do to better that department.

****What I’m describing is an accelerated, exception-based process so we can get the best results. It’s an interactive process designed to get you a maximum result. If we find that the maximum result is going to require us to do five things that will take a year to get done, now we can break that down into manageable parts so we can get immediate return on investment.

****This process also allowed us to train our users more quickly. Why? Because if we’re taking process change and dealing with it in parts, there is less to retain or train new users on. Along with that optimization, BI enables us to test dynamically as we go. If you need to streamline how you launch a campaign, for example, you don’t want theory on how to launch a better campaign, you want to do it. BI goes through that process, demonstrates how each task populates work and the users manage those tasks. This way the BI technology makes users experts.

****The other thing you need to do as you go through organizational readiness is align the company objectives with the tasks. Employees are very concerned with their day-to-day pain points. As a result, we look for maximum impact so we can get more buy in to use the system. If you give the user a benefit and eliminate their pain, they will be more likely to learn something new that helps them better meet the organization’s overall business objectives.

****You want to motivate everyone to use and learn the system. You want to create many win-wins. From there, you use the BI technology to tell you where to go next to get the biggest impact. This way you are going through a continuous cycle all designed to solve real business problems. You can’t solve all the company’s problems at once and hope to get the most out of any technology. Your BI investment is always relevant because it’s telling you what to change to get maximum ROI next.

****As we look around in the mortgage industry today, the only constant is change. If you are purchasing a big solution that you are looking to implement over 12 to 18 months, there are going to be a lot of changes in that year happening within our industry. You need to be nimble. Everyone has heard the horror stories of technology implementations that go on too long and end up costing too much. BI solves that issue.

****BI tells you where you’re going to get the biggest bang for your buck next. So, the investment maintains its relevance throughout, you get comprehensive user adoption and you solve problems that will get the organization the maximum results. This is a process whereby you start with your vision. What do you want the technology to do? From there, you need to look at how you use reporting today and isolate how you want to use reporting in the future. Through this process there are instruments to show you how to configure the system next.

****A lot of times people put a vision or a mission statement on the wall in a nice plaque. That vision or statement might read and look simply amazing, but how do you achieve that vision or mission? BI helps you get there.

****BI implementation can be a nice, quick process that gets you up and running with an executive overview. Once you have that executive overview you can drill down to find the biggest organizational problem, and what’s the biggest problem within that problem that’s hindering the company from growing. You may find that there’s a system problem with your LOS. BI can help you isolate that issue and maybe even solve that issue even though it is not coming from the BI tool itself.

****More a more we find ourselves using BI as our business management platform. BI has become a privately branded tool that helps us get to our vision. With BI you can truly inspect what you expect, measure efficiencies and determine ROI on things that used to be fuzzy or nebulous. You don’t have to rely on human error. BI is certainly becoming an overused term, but when used properly this technology really gives you the freedom to make better business decisions.

****ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Julie Piepho, Executive Vice-President of Cornerstone Mortgage Company, is a 30 + year veteran in the mortgage industry.  She has concentrated her mortgage career in retail sales and has held various positions ranging from a loan officer to the president of the first joint venture in the nation between Wells Fargo Bank and Norwest Mortgage.

*****http://www.progressinlending.com/TME1011-50.pdf*****

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