The Right Tech for the Job

AUG 7, 2012 9:59am ET

Ok, I admit it. I am a gadget guy. Always have been always will be. I have an iPhone, iPad, laptops, old computers, all my music and videos are digital and I even own (and use) a wireless meat thermometer. I simply need every new piece of technology that comes around. In my personal life I don’t try to throttle this addiction, but professionally it is a different story. Purchasing some new little gizmo and forcing it upon my family without any real purpose is only mildly annoying (I hope), while the same cavalier approach can have a devastating impact for any mortgage lender.

To put it simply, technology at home is about wants, while technology at work should be about needs—business needs. I am often asked what the next big thing in mortgage technology will be and I always respond the same way: “What’s the next big mortgage problem?”

Perhaps an even better way to respond would be “What’s YOUR biggest mortgage problem or opportunity?”

Business drives technology and problems drive solutions. When I started my career as a programmer/analyst, I would meet with folks from sales, underwriting, funding and post-closing, and they would describe solutions they wanted me to build. Naïve and full of ambition, I would go back to my desk, put on my headphones and pound on the keyboard until I had done exactly what was requested.

Well, after several revisions of trying to get it right, I realized I had to change my approach. If I was going to get anywhere in this business, I needed to get to the root of the problem in order to ensure the solution created would do the trick.

To the delight of many I am no longer churning out code, but I have kept the approach I learned long ago. Before I go looking for solutions, I make sure I completely understand the problem or opportunity I am trying to address.

Yogi Berra once famously said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.” I heard a story once about a mortgage company that was frustrated with their loan officers’ lack of use of the lender’s online system for taking loan applications. Management was so eager to get everyone using technology, and not paper, that they began evaluating new systems for taking the online applications.

Well, to make a long story short, it was identified that there wasn’t anything wrong with the current system. Rather, after a root cause analysis, management realized that the loan officers being asked to use the system did not know how to type. When they met with prospective borrowers, they were embarrassed about their skills and decided to employ the old pen and paper technique to save face. Sending all the loan officers to typing school did the trick—and at a much lower cost.

There are a lot of great technologies out there. The trick is identifying the solutions that best line up with your business goals and objectives. Are you trying to cut costs, improve service levels, launch a new product, move into a new channel, or better manage compliance? Once you have that nailed down, you need to determine what’s keeping you from achieving your goals. Finally, you pick your tool to maneuver around those obstacles.

Have you ever heard of a failed technology project or initiative? One that took too long, didn’t fix the problem and was pushed aside in favor of the next hot project? How can that happen? I can’t say for sure, but I can tell you that it would happen a lot less if you were truly using technology as a tool to help you achieve your business goals and objectives. If you do a good job there, picking the right technology will be much easier. Just be sure technology is the tool you need—and not “tpying clssaes.”

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