Spreadsheets, Reports, And Business Intelligence: What’s the Difference?

Mortgage business intelligence (MBI) seems to be getting more than its fair share of press lately. Is it really the next must-have platform, or is it just a fad? Let’s get to the bottom of what MBI is supposed to do, and how it does it.

MBI enhances an activity that all mortgage companies are already engaged in. That activity is analytics, and the vast majority of mortgage companies measure and track their business using some combination of spreadsheets and reports. Spreadsheets and reports comprise a toolset that has stood the test of time. The mortgage industry has been running on this toolset for decades. Simply put, MBI is a better toolset for analytics. Some say a much better toolset, akin to using a lighter if you’ve grown accustomed to rubbing two sticks together.

Is it really worth all the hype? A closer examination of MBI reveals a number of differences. The biggest and ironically the least obvious is that MBI platforms come with their own data management engines. It is said that 75% of any MBI undertaking resides here, where a lender’s production data is copied and reassembled into a high performance database. Although transparent to the user, this high performance data model is critical to carrying out the functions that users employ on the run side of an MBI platform.

The most obvious difference is how data is presented, where the focus is on how much information can be absorbed at a glance, how the eye scans a page or screen for information, and what shapes, sizes, colors and groupings make information easy to read, understand, and retain. As users of MBI have much more data at their disposal than ever before, an interface that takes human cognitive science into account is considered paramount.

But does this foster efficiency? Data presentation alone may not, but it’s the constant stream of data that can. MBI data visualizers are updated in near-real time, every couple of minutes. It is here that weíre introduced to the power of persistent situational awareness, as opposed to the periodic situational awareness provided by running periodic reports or spreadsheets.

A few minutes after a report or spreadsheet is assembled, awareness decays until another report is run. With persistent situational awareness, the energy within an organization can change. We’ve all seen and felt the ebb and flow of operational focus that corresponds to the rhythm at which management reports are run. Persistent situational awareness keeps this focus in place, and this can have a profound effect on production. Even a modicum of increased focus, if persistent, can transform any operation that involves manual tasks.

MBI is beginning to prove itself out. The pervasive human element within mortgage lending operations does seem to lend itself particularly well to optimization through MBI, if the rave reviews of CEOs across the country are to be believed. At the very least, itís worth a closer look.

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