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Desert Docs Invests to Let Lenders Match Electronic Docs with Data

When Desert Document Services Inc. announced having completing a massive XHTML forms conversion of 35,000 documents in October 2003, the news was that the conversion enabled sending data and formatted documents together electronically. The underlying story is that the DesertDocs change control system allows the company to manage and verify a billion forms changes each year.

DesertDocs provides software to manage and complete the templates lenders use to prepare closing documents for borrowers. Its Web-based system lets lenders combine information from loan applications and their DesertDocs software via an XML interface or by data entry to populate closing documents. The company's forms library boast 2,000 templates, each of which is subject to myriad change requests to comply with state and federal regulations, GSE requirements and various lender requirements.

DesertDocs stakes its reputation as a top-tier provider of Internet document providers on its ability to track and manage every change in an error-free manner. The issue that never goes away for DesertDocs and its competitors is that every change request can trigger hundreds of related changes because the document sets differ for every party and loan program in the mortgage origination process. Every change request has to be tracked and managed through multiple change channels.

With a clear mandate from its customers to move away from ad hoc changes and toward a reliable, integrated system for logging and tracking every change request, DesertDocs went looking for a cost-effective solution that could be implemented quickly. A key requirement was gaining the ability to backtrack easily to find the origin of the change request and to see quickly which forms were affected by the change. The system also had to offer ease of use by people with a wide variety of technical skills.

DesertDocs picked Computer Associates' AllFusion Harvest Change Manager for its ability to integrate the tracking process with actual file versions. "AllFusion Harvest separated itself from other products, with its integration of versioning control with the work flow process," said Desert Docs CTO Tim Underwood.

Because AllFusion offered a straightforward tool for entering the workflow tool, installation and configuration took only a few days. DesertDocs then rolled the system out in phases, over four to six weeks, to make sure users gained a solid understanding of how to use it.

The end result has been the creation of a single Desert Docs methodology throughout the company, based on the principle of "touching things only once," because the system eliminates the need for human cross-checking. With AllFusion Harvest CM, DesertDocs was able to implement a form change in minutes that used to take days or even weeks.

Customer satisfaction increased immediately. "It costs us more to do things quickly," stated Mr. Underwood, " but the number of customer complaints about mistakes made on our part has gone to zero."

Having AllFusion Harvest CM also has proven to be an effective sales tool with large financial institutions, he said, because they need to keep track of changes and carefully adhere to stringent regulations.

DesertDocs XHTML forms conversion paved the way for the 2004 launch of its SMART Pak software, which brings together MISMO-compliant electronic forms, data, and rules into a single complete package that transmits all elements together in an XML document, along with supporting tools. The newest version ties together origination, post-close and secondary systems, enabling integrated HUD 1 data to be exchanged with escrow and closing software. Electronically exportable data allows rules based auditing, so loan transactions can be validated for accuracy and completeness plus regulatory and lender-specific compliance.

"DesertDocs has been developing this technology for over three years," said Mr. Underwood, who serves on two MISMO committees. "We have done this to save the lending community from the intensely consuming IT and human investment that this transition will take in the near future," he said.

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