Magazine Article | July 1, 2001

Mortgage Service Trains Remote Workforce With Interactive ASP

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

When LoanCity began offering services via the Web, it faced bandwidth issues and an inability to support remote workers. A customized ASP (application service provider) solution supports three times as many workers and has doubled application performance.

Integrated Solutions, July 2001

Founded in 1987, LoanCity blends mortgage marketplace services with services as a technology provider and lender. In August 1999, the company launched in anticipation of growth in the online residential mortgage industry. The site was designed as a Web-based mortgage marketplace to originate and process loans in order to streamline the mortgage process for brokers and their customers. Its proprietary loan search and transaction engine lets local mortgage professionals instantly match each borrower to the best available loan from a selection of more than 50,000 programs. LoanCity also provides all of the underwriting, documentation, and funding services to close a loan and connects consumers to educational resources as well as a hub of professional brokers.

This new growth model was not without challenges. The majority of employees were situated at LoanCity's San Jose, CA, headquarters, but this new model called for remote offices in every state. Initially LoanCity users required LAN (local area network) access to the database and industry-specific, 32-bit client/server software applications. "New remote offices and users were coming on board in record numbers and our bandwidth requirements became an immediate issue," said Jim Dybalski, LoanCity CTO. "Running more and more instances of our specialized software application at 384K of bandwidth per user put significant stress on the entire network. Our business was booming, but our network was definitely ready for the next stage in its growth.

The bandwidth concerns were complicated by technical restrictions. Remote users were accessing the system through a variety of system configurations, network connections, desktop computers, laptops, and operating systems. For many brokers, using a 56K modem to dial in through a traditional ISP (Internet service provider) resulted in frustrating and potentially costly downtime and raised security concerns.

ASP Allows Monitoring Of Remote Workers
The widespread user locations also made it difficult to train new workers. "When you're competing in the mortgage loan industry, time is definitely money," said Dybalski. "We didn't just need new remote workers, we needed productive new remote workers." LoanCity sought a way to train and support hundreds of workers on its complex software applications, anytime and anywhere. Dispersing "on tour" training teams was too slow and costly to be an effective solution.

Encouraged by predictions about the growth of the ASP (application service provider) model, LoanCity investigated that delivery model. One advantage of delivering its software through an ASP was the reduced cost of ownership and the ability to upgrade software instantaneously from its main office. The disadvantage was that one-way delivery of applications couldn't create, train, and support remote workers.

LoanCity partnered with LINQware (Kirkland, WA) for a customized interactive ASP solution. Using LINQware's Channel Player 2000 Q-Support platform, LoanCity provides an expanding network of remote users with secure access to applications. Channel Player's interactive capabilities also allow LoanCity to monitor network users in real time. When user assistance is required, a LoanCity support specialist can actually take over the application in real time and remotely guide a user through the hosted software. LINQware's LINQsafe technology provides 128-bit encryption to protect the integrity, safety, and security of data being transferred via the Internet. The combined LINQware/LoanCity implementation team rolled out the system in May 1999. Administrators and staff were trained at LoanCity's headquarters, and the entire Internet-ready application was online and interactive.

Application Control Eliminates "Mystery Screens"
LoanCity support teams now have an interactive channel alerting them in real time when a remote mortgage broker selects the help button on the screen. While interacting on the phone or via live online chat, a LoanCity support technician can use the CoPilot application control to provide application support and real-time training. Users are not required to describe the screen they are working on. When they request help, the support specialist joins them on the exact screen they are using. Both the user and support technician can interact within the same document with a mouse and keyboard.

By eliminating the need to sort through faxed screen shots of confusing data fields, support staff help remote workers become productive more quickly. Training can begin the day an office opens, and workers can increase competency from at home as well as on the job. Since implementing the Channel Player Q-Support platform, LoanCity has more than doubled application performance, tripled system users, and is interactively hosting seven different applications. According to Dybalski, LoanCity plans to run more applications and add additional users within the next year.

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