By Bob Webb, Vice President of Sales, Pipkins, Inc.
Hosted solutions, also known as software as a service (SaaS), enable software to be delivered over the Internet, and its popularity and benefits are well documented. In fact, according to research from THINKstrategies Inc. and Cutter Consortium, more than 90 percent of SaaS users are satisfied with their solutions. SaaS offers an attractive alternative for mortgage companies that need the functionality of an enterprise solution, scalability to meet growing needs and consistent, predictable operational expenses.
SaaS has been available for more than 10 years. Now that many concerns over security have been mitigated, mortgage companies can place the burden of deploying and maintaining software on the vendor via hosted solutions. Many companies use multiple SaaS services, with the majority falling in the hosting and computing category, followed closely by storage needs. Hosted solutions allow mortgage companies to be competitive without technology holding them back. The following guidelines can help you determine if SaaS is right for your mortgage company.
Before deciding on any software solution, take into account all the aspects required for in-house installations and compare costs and benefits to a hosted application. After the initial purchase, there are associated fees with in-house installations involving: licensing; customization; development; deployment; maintenance; monitoring; support and upgrades.
These fees can add costs beyond the budget limitations of small to mid-sized mortgage companies. Companies are investing in SaaS at double-digit rates because of the low cost of implementation.
Don’t focus on IT
Mortgage companies should spend time creating new business opportunities, not worrying about the installation of various software platforms. One major advantage of SaaS is that it allows you to focus on managing your business and leaves the information-technology (IT) infrastructure to your vendor. Many SaaS applications address project requirements in less time than traditional custom software applications. This is especially valuable when you must create a specialized application.
The simplicity and speed offered by SaaS allows you to turn many business ideas into applications that allow for:
- Expansion into new markets
- Unique offerings
- Better service to your existing customer base
The result is cost savings, increased opportunities, improved customer service and greater flexibility. Investment dol ars can be spent on new business opportunities rather than IT infrastructure.
Benefits of SaaS
Before investing in SaaS technology, it is advantageous to ensure that you are getting features that will help your business and save you money. There are many features that will be included with your hosted software, but these are the most critical:
- Forecasting and scheduling software – Whether hosted or premise-based, forecasting and scheduling software are the most important features of your solution, and they provide the most return on investment. Make sure they are the best in class. Without accurate forecasting, you may not achieve your desired service levels.
- Pricing fluctuations to match seasonal trends – Your pricing should be based on the number of agents being scheduled. Otherwise, you are not experiencing cost savings.
- A separate and unique database – Customers should have their own separate and unique databases. Software is not multi-tenanted (multiple customers using a shared data model). For example, if Customer A experiences a security breach, software problems or database issues, other customers will not be affected. Additionally, upgrades can be performed independently, and hot fixes can be applied to the affected customer.
- High level equipment and redundancies – There is no single point of failure as redundancy is built-in at every level (power, network, servers).
- Test environments – These should be able to be configured.
- Advanced security features – Security is one of the most important features of SaaS. Look for a hosted facility that is physically hardened, and be sure that the firewall encompasses intrusion-prevention systems. Because mortgage companies often deal with industry or governmental compliance requirements, you’ll need a Statement on Auditing Standards No. 70 Type I level of security. This is especially important for mortgage companies, businesses in financial services, pharmaceutical or health care industries, or anyone accepting credit cards over the Internet. This level of security ensures that only authorized employees and customers are granted access to the data center; mechanical and electrical failures will not result in an outage; smoke detection, cooling and power are continuously monitored, inspected and serviced to ensure effective operation; and online connections perform optimally.
- Advanced routing technology/Multiple Tier 1 providers – Any quality network should have multiple Tier-1 providers. If your primary carrier fails, service is automatically transferred to another provider so that your business is not affected.
- Monitoring – Performance should be monitored and hardware added as necessary. Bandwidth also should be monitored, with capacity added as necessary. With SaaS, it is possible to invest in a software solution that grows as you grow. These solutions involve low-cost implementation, save money and eliminate the stress of maintaining IT infrastructure. Be sure to consider very aspect of a software solution — whether it’s an in-house installation or SaaS — before you invest your company’s time and money.
Bob Webb is vice president of sales for Pipkins, Inc., a worldwide supplier of workforce-management software and services to the call-center industry. Pipkins’ Vantage Point product lets managers solve the complicated operational issues in today’s multifaceted call-center environment. Pipkins’ systems forecast and schedule more than 300,000 agents in more than 500 locations across all industries worldwide. The company is headquartered in St. Louis. For more information, visit pipkins.com or call (800) 469-6106.
Reprinted from Scotsman Guide Residential Edition and scotsmanguide.com, November 2012.
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