Pillar 3: The Right Talent

PhoenixTeam introduced two of our three pillars to a successful Salesforce implementation: The Right Strategy and The Right Process. Once you have a good handle on the key components for defining the right strategy and you have aligned on the right process, it is time to turn your attention to the resources and skillsets you need to deliver Salesforce and delight customers. Some organizations say that talent is what separates the best from the rest. PhoenixTeam agrees but takes it a step further, knowing that having successful talent requires us to align our team members in a way that contributes but also drives, our client’s process and business strategy. As we dive into Pillar #3 – The Right Talent, we will discuss how to position your team to deliver maximum value.

Let’s face it – a Salesforce implementation is complex and can easily get derailed without the right team. Be real with yourself, if your organization does not have the skills, experience and resources to confidently implement one or more Salesforce Cloud solutions, admit it and consider working with an experienced Salesforce partner. Many consulting firms look at Salesforce implementation engagements as a “get in, get out” gig. This is not the PhoenixTeam way. The right Salesforce partnership goes beyond consulting to bring momentum to the solution through product and implementation leadership, training, and industry knowledge. The best partners provide support after go live. Here are some tips for vetting talent to make sure that they can “bring it” if selected.

  • Seek a consulting partner who has in-depth experience and a proven track record with Salesforce implementations of your size and complexity. Request referrals. If there is any hesitation in providing referrals, heads up, may not be the right talent for you. This insight will give you confidence that your Salesforce partner has the maturity, knowledge, and sophistication necessary for a well-executed implementation.
  • Take advantage of all that Salesforce has to offer from a training and learning perspective.  At PhoenixTeam, we are continuously learning and encouraging our talent to grow in their Salesforce expertise. We provide training and certification programs to build skills and stay up to date on Salesforce features. We gamify our teams’ developmental learning experience through Salesforce Trailhead leader boards, Superbadge contests, and Salesforce Certification training opportunities. In addition to Salesforce education, we train our team in SAFe, Lean Agile, and other relative frameworks to provide strong knowledge and value to our customers.
  • Search for partners who are experts in your industry. All time is valuable. Removing the ramp up time spent educating the team on your industry allows you to realize value quickly.  PhoenixTeam focuses only on the consumer lending and financial services space. As mortgage technology experts, we marry our mortgage and Salesforce knowledge to bring quick strategies, alternatives, and solutions for common and complex mortgage industry challenges.
  • Be open and honest about your goals and objectives. Giving this insight to consulting partners is vital for them to staff the implementation with the right talent.

When PhoenixTeam explores Salesforce implementation engagements, we listen to the needs and carefully curate our implementation teams to align with them. Our team members know the heck out of mortgage, but they are also visionary, empathetic and solution oriented.  This combination allows us to provide a team of talented individuals who:

  • Know the ins-and-outs of Salesforce. We identify the feasibility of potential solutions because we know the terminology, features, and configurations of Salesforce and what it means for your processes. We recognize when it is best to configure, code, or integrate and can translate “The How” to your business in an approach that everyone understands.
  • Think “long-run” rather than “end-game”. User adoption of the implementation will not be supported without the proper internal resources to change manage the solution. Your partnership is not complete after the initial go live. PhoenixTeam remains a go-to resource for your team and provides knowledge and training on the new system and stays up to date on Salesforce’s ever evolving features. Release updates are announced three times per year that include hundreds of new platform features and enhancements, some of which may benefit solutions. We anticipate these updates, presenting them to clients and preparing clients on potential impacts. As business needs change, so will your strategy and solution. We know this and design a solution that will carry your business long term.
  • Are committed to you and your company. When you work with PhoenixTeam, you gain a strategic partner and trusted adviser for your business. Unlike other consulting firms, our team members embed themselves into your team and organization. We stay laser focused on the engagement at hand and do not split our time between other clients or opportunities. We thrive on bringing team members together to envision, understand and create the desired end state. We believe in a “one-team” culture and mentality where a win is a win for all, and a misstep is equally shared.

The right strategy, the right process and the right talent. A simple, three-part recipe for any Salesforce implementation. PhoenixTeam believes in our team, in Salesforce and the value this combination can bring to any implementation. We constantly invest in our team. After all, if we want our team to invest 100% in our clients, we have to do our part and give them the tools, education and opportunities to showcase their skills. PhoenixTeam has more Salesforce knowledge to be shared – be on the lookout for our Salesforce Implementation Guide and White Paper as we continue to share out how PhoenixTeam knocks Salesforce implementations out of the park.

Pillar 2: Defining the Right Process

PhoenixTeam recently introduced the first of our three pillars to a successful Salesforce implementation: The Right Strategy. A strong strategy and a mutual understanding on the strategy sets the stage, the “what” and “why” for the implementation. Once we have the right strategy, it is time to put that strategy to work.  Allow us to share how we put that strategy into practice, building a reliable structure on top of the strategic foundation. Introducing Pillar #2: Defining the Right Process.

PhoenixTeam defines the right process as the use of one or more frameworks to achieve the desired results of the strategy. We see organizations primarily use one of the following frameworks:

  • Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)
  • Systems/Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC)
  • Customer Centricity
  • Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)
  • Lean Agile
  • Design Thinking
  • DevSecOps

So often, organizations go through a lengthy transformation process and come out an “insert framework name” shop. What we know from our umpteen years of working with Clients to build and implement mortgage technology products, is that one specific framework or process rarely results in achieving a strategy or the expected outcome. The organization does not always fit into the framework and does not have the expertise to pivot or incorporate a different approach. We encourage Clients to be open-minded and embrace that a blended framework or process structure will move the needle faster than trying to fit into one framework. Phoenix team members are experts in these frameworks, and we know our Clients well enough to help them develop a personalized framework, more importantly a mindset, that better suits their organizational structure and development approach. This is just one of our superpowers. Applying the right framework, mindset or process enables a team to iteratively deliver out-of-the-box Salesforce capabilities with speed and precision.

Here are a couple of nuggets we take into deep consideration when defining the right process for Salesforce implementations:

  1. Does our process enable us to concentrate on time to value? Before developing a solution, ask what Salesforce-specific tools, such as customization, flows or process automation, will add the most value and why? Aim to balance the use of declarative Salesforce tools and custom development to optimize the speed of delivery and maintainability of the solution. Throwing a slew of Salesforce features and capabilities together will result in more problems, not a cohesive solution. Consider the time and effort involved behind each tool; the most value is delivered when the solution (a) solves the problem without overcomplication, (b) does not exceed the capacity and capabilities of your team, and (c) is delivered successfully without delays. Then, build out a more complex solution down the line. This concept is at the core of software and product development, iteration.
  2. Does our process allow for iterative and agile development? Salesforce is built with iteration in mind. Apply the iterative techniques from the previously mentioned frameworks to problems that can be solved with out-of-the-box Salesforce capabilities. The features and functionality coming from the design and product teams will not be specific Salesforce features. They will be problems that need to be solved to realize the value that the strategy seeks to achieve. It is about affirming and refining your understanding of the problem through customer involvement, developing a strong process while keeping an open mind, and having the ability to successfully deliver the solutions.But what does it mean to truly iterate a solution within Salesforce? What is the cost and overheard of implementing and then reimplementing a solution? We recently worked with a Client seeking to  integrate a custom web application with Salesforce for internal support. The custom web application is a complete application with its own user interface, web server, and database. There were many ways that we could integrate the two systems, including using  REST APIs for Salesforce objects, a custom API endpoint within Salesforce, or even use the platform events for asynchronous ingestion. We heard the desired outcome and chunked out the solution so we could get something of value delivered quickly. We decided the best approach was to implement a lightweight Web-To-Lead solution. It would have limited negative impact, if any, and was easily deployed to production in the matter of a single iteration. Moving so swiftly allowed us to get just enough feedback to determine the next best chunk of value for the internal support team while providing the greatest level of flexibility for the custom web application team. Our strategy and process allowed us  to make decisions quickly, move nimbly and add value quickly.
  3. Does our leadership support and understand our process? If you have defined the right approach, now it is up to the leaders to communicate it out and encourage others to adopt it. One of the most common pieces of feedback we get from Client team members is that “leadership does not evangelize the vision for the desired process.” Time and time again we work with leaders, both Executive and boots on the ground, to appreciate the impact their support of a process has on their team members. From day one, it is vital that technology, business, and product team leaders align and work together as partners, seeking to achieve the same goal.  We love to see leaders dig deep, find time to get in the trenches with their team members to see the process in action and understand barriers to value delivery and where they can help course correct, or, in many instances, make a much-needed decision.Engaged leaders empower team members to flow through the process. They support, understand, and appreciate the process and the work done to make the strategy a reality. Allowing team members the time and space to create visualizations that illustrate the vision of Salesforce benefits to the organization, or its end users, takes a team from good to great. Some impactful, customer-centric, artifacts we promote within our teams are customer journey maps, storyboards, persona and empathy maps, and process flows. We focus on pain points, delays, and issues to gain a mutual understanding of the problem areas and their goals with Salesforce.

Salesforce is extensible. It is flexible. There is a myriad of solutions to meet your need. Let your process help you discover what approach to take and what solution adds the most value in the shortest amount of time. Keep your customer and their feedback at the forefront of any process – after all, it is the customer or end user that determines the success of the solution.

Now that you have a good handle on the key components for defining the right process, we must account for the folks doing the work. Before you kick start the process, ask yourself, “do we have the right number of resources with the right skillsets to knock this Salesforce implementation out of the park? Enter PhoenixTeam’s Pillar #3 – Defining the Right Talent.

Pillar 1: The Right Strategy

As Consultants, we see many organizations embarking on a Salesforce implementation or have one in process. In most instances we see similar themes in the strategy for implementing a world class CRM – better customer experience, increased sales pipelines, automation of team member or customer activities. However, the difference is that we are more centered around how to achieve these goals.  Some launched into the implementation believing they had the recipe for success figured out but then came to realize, often after a tremendous amount of spend, not so much. Others spend so much time analyzing and evaluating all the possibilities, that rabbit holes become the norm and before they know it, momentum is lost, and discourse sets in before taking one step forward. There is no way around it, a successful “Salesforce implementation” is not something that just happens. Salesforce is a complex tool with robust capabilities. Any implementation, in particular a Salesforce implementation, should be thoughtful, purposeful, and driven with intent to produce the desired and expected value. Implementing Salesforce iteratively and successfully means that we must have the right ingredients, specifically a foundation that sets all team members up for success. PhoenixTeam’s CEO and managing partner Tanya Brennan and partner Paul Weakley shared our recipe for knocking a Salesforce implementation out of the park during NEXT’s Winter ’21 summit. It comes down to three pillars: the right strategy, the right process, and the right people. This blog is all about the right strategy and setting the foundation for success. Let us dig in.

Companies want a plan, but plans are inherently inflexible. They want a roadmap, but roadmaps are aspirational and highly subject to change based on a multitude of factors, including ever-changing business needs. What you need is the right strategy. A strategy that allows you to move fast, fail, learn from failure and do it right. We know that one of the keys to any successful implementation is to have a strong strategy, and more importantly, clarity on the strategy.

Granted, having the right strategy applies to implementing any new product or initiative. It is especially important to have an effective and bullet proof strategy when implementing something like Salesforce. After all, the decision to purchase was likely made with great care and consideration. As you dive into developing the right strategy, remember that Salesforce is a platform on which you are building your product. Regardless of whether it involves only Salesforce or is a complex solution with integrations across your technology landscape, it still requires that you treat the Salesforce functionality as a product component of the solution. We recommend product leaders keep these four fundamentals at the forefront of their minds when developing the right strategy: (1) know the specific business problems you are looking to solve (2) keep the customer or end user at the center of all you do and every product decision to be made, (3) commit to delivering value incrementally, and perhaps most importantly, (4) always seek feedback to validate what has been delivered is truly valuable.

So, how do we at PhoenixTeam help our Clients develop the right strategy for their Salesforce implementation?

First, we work closely with critical stakeholders to understand, help develop and refine a rock-solid business strategy. Good business strategies are simple, to the point and easily understandable to others, particularly those working on the Salesforce implementation. Why settle for good when you can be great? A great strategy elicits alignment and excitement out of the gate. The vision and mission statements are direct, outcome focused and most importantly, reflect the value of the strategy. We spend the right amount of time with our Clients to learn the “what” and “why” of the current state functionality and processes. This sets us up nicely for a smooth transition to establishing a future state.

Next, based on our desired target state, we define solid, measurable, and clear strategic goals, objectives and key results that align to our strategy. Here are a few of our non-negotiables when it comes to developing, and gaining alignment on a strategy:

  • Do the business problems tie to the strategic goals? If not, take some time to re-evaluate. Misalignment between the business problems you are looking to solve, and the strategic goals will create churn and confusion across all team members. Lack of strategic clarity is a problem we hear often and seek to solve immediately.
  • Have you defined clear cut KPIs and success metrics? This can be hard – we know. But, putting in the brain power to clearly call out how you are going to measure value is critical to building morale, understanding and buy-in on expectations so you can achieve your goals.

Finally, given Salesforce is a highly extensible platform, forming the right strategy to balance the use of the declarative framework and custom development will optimize the speed of delivery and the maintainability of the solution. Your solution is not done after the first pieces of functionality are built and delivered. Remember, you are building a product, not implementing a Salesforce feature. Products are iterative with short increments to add value. It may be more beneficial for a quick solution to start realizing that value while a more robust solution is being developed over time. Salesforce was built with flexibility in mind. Use this to your advantage as this is a common theme with modern software development frameworks: maximizing the work not done to achieve the value. It is a multi-tenant infrastructure and sharing those resources means you will need to adapt your mentality. Embrace the platform. Define your strategy to make the most of Salesforce and embrace its strengths. Ensuring you have the right strategy is the greatest influence and input into Pillar #2: Defining the Right Process.

PhoenixTeam is a women-owned small business that provides mortgage technology solutions to improve the home loan experience for borrowers and help financial institutions, technology providers, and government agencies achieve their desired outcomes. With a focus exclusively on the mortgage industry, we delight clients and deliver better business solutions through technology implementation excellence.

Today is “Get to Know Your Customer Day”!

At PhoenixTeam we are laser focused on knowing our customers, understanding their desired outcomes and aligning our work so that we can help them achieve the value they seek. We avoid overpowering our customer. We listen, a lot and all the time. We incorporate our customers culture, color, and style into our work.

Here are the rules we live by:

1) Help solve our customers most complex problems.

2) Create success by working directly with our customer.

3) Create lifetime value with authentic engagement.

4) Know our customers by understanding their mindset

5) Deliver delightful, lovable products

Our team members have a rare combination of expertise and management ability. Our courage, confidence, and creativity distinguish us from other consultants. We help our clients find the right path to achieve their goals.

We deliver outcomes.

This guide informs mortgage companies and partners who seek to improve their current enterprise IT model, adopt a product-oriented mindset, and who are not ready to implement a tech product approach.

Read on to understand more about PhoenixTeam’s approach. You may also download the guide by clicking the button at the bottom of the PDF viewer frame.

At Phoenix, we have developed a Theory of Everything that helps describe why projects and organizations fail to meet their goals. We’ve seen the same culprits threaten to take down hundreds of mortgage technology projects repeatedly. Yet, it doesn’t have to be this way. Whether you are a technology provider, or a mortgage lender or servicer, at least one of three key gaps is most likely threatening your in-flight technology projects. The ability to close them can make the difference between failure and success on your next technology project.

Lack of Leadership

Often, implementations are plagued with a lack of leadership that ranges from the leadership abyss where there is no “one” leader, or a leader that does not engage until there is an escalation. When it comes to software implementations, we believe leadership fundamentally boils down to the ability to understand what needs to get done, and getting people motivated to get the job done well. A good leader not only motivates and teaches the team but also checks in and holds the team accountable for delivering quality results. Additionally, a good leader is decisive and makes the hard decisions while removing roadblocks along the way.

Here’s a little secret: your technology project will not go according to plan. You will need a good leader to help the team pivot to get to the finish line. The project team will need to iterate. We believe leaders come in two varieties: Fort Takers and Fort Holders. A Fort Taker will help the team navigate and resolve the unknowns, ultimately implementing change, while the Fort Holder will maintain the status quo. On your software implementation, find a Fort Taker to lead the way, and enable them to do what they do best. You will not be disappointed.

Lack of Skills, Experience, and Ability

Working in the mortgage technology industry over the last 20 years, Phoenix has found a lack of investment in growing individuals to become mortgage technology specialists. There are those that know mortgage operations, and those that know software, but it is rare to find qualified people who both know the mortgage industry and understand what it takes to implement mortgage technology. Too often teams lack training, skills, or the experience required to implement mortgage technology solutions.

At Phoenix, we know time is of the essence. A mortgage technology implementation specialist is a critical role for project success, serving as a project expediter. These specialists need to be “Swiss army knives”, comfortable wearing multiple hats to get the job done. Couple that with experience and training, and you will have a team member that will get done what is needed to deliver results.

Dysfunctional Team Interactions

As Max Isaac and Anton McBurnie so eloquently depict in their book Close the Interaction Gap, imagine a world record hurdler competing against a world record sprinter: ”as soon as the hurdler goes over the first hurdle, you realize he has lost even though the race has barely begun”. Hurdles, aka roadblocks, will slow your team down.

Promoting the ability for people to work together efficiently to clear those hurdles is a major success factor that is often ignored by management. What we usually see is confusion of who is responsible for what, finger pointing, and “that is not my problem” mentality. It is critical to note that conflicts and distractions kill creativity and the ability to resolve issues and roadblocks.

At Phoenix, we believe that people are a project’s greatest asset. Having a team where individuals understand how their role and capabilities fit into the team allows the overall team to reach their maximum potential.

Take a step back and think about the mortgage software implementation you are managing right now. Do you have a Fort Taker leading the team? Do your team members lack skills and expertise in either mortgage operations or software implementation? Is your team interacting effectively to clear hurdles to project success? Clearing these gaps can make the difference between hitting your next go-live date and becoming the next “troubled project.”

This article was featured in The MReport, August 2018. Read it online here.

This article was featured in The MReport, August 2018.

Read the full MReport online here.

Download PDF

With two of the nation’s top mortgage servicers recently announcing they will sell their remaining mortgage servicing rights in 2017 to focus on more profitable business lines, we are seeing a continued shift toward consolidation in the mortgage servicing industry. The servicers who remain need to act to stay competitive in this era of higher regulation and costs.

According to the latest MBA Servicing Operations Study, the cost of servicing a performing loan is $181 per year, three times higher than in 2008. For non-performing loans, the cost is a staggering $2,386 per year, five times higher than in 2008. So, what should mortgage servicers do now to lower costs and stay competitive?

1. Take a hard look at your processes.
The end-to-end mortgage servicing process is highly complex and constantly changing to comply with new regulations. Have you gotten bogged down with endless quality assurance processes? Is your loss mitigation team not talking to your foreclosure department? Do an honest assessment of your servicing processes to find ways to trim the fat, close holes, and reduce siloes.

2. Optimize your servicing technology.
In its June, 2016 special edition supervision report, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) warned that servicers are using “outdated and deficient servicing technology,” and that servicers should make improvements to their information technology systems to improve their compliance positions.

To keep costs down and avoid financial and reputational risk resulting from regulatory non-compliance, you need to double down on technology. Does your servicing technology automate workflow wherever possible? Does it include built-in functionality for regulatory compliance? Does it minimize the need to manage processes “outside the system”? If not, invest in these types of enhancements as soon as possible.

3. Squeeze the most out of your technology investment.
With any IT investment, the odds of completing your project on time and on budget are slim. In many cases, IT projects fail to realize business value due to poor requirements or lack of resources.

One way to increase your chances of success is to bring in the right team to help. Successful IT project consultants align your IT implementation with business value, define the right business requirements up front, and manage your project successfully using an “eyes on the prize” mentality. They can provide the temporary lift you need to get a big IT initiative across the finish line.

In this era of consolidation and regulation, being a profitable mortgage servicing operation is harder than ever. We’ll be watching closely in 2017 as mortgage servicers ponder that famous question: “should I stay or should I go now?”

Phoenix Oversight Group specializes in lifecycle solutions including software product management and solution delivery.

Federal agencies have long recognized the need to have options in system implementations. Electing to go inside the agency for information technology solutions or to collaborate with the private sector is a difficult choice. Unlike the maintenance and support of production applications, big technology projects frequently require specialized business insights and experience that can be scarce in federal government. Regardless of technology solution source, agencies often lack the time and expertise needed to make big technology projects successful. The level of effort required to support internal technology or private sector vendor teams who lack deep customer operational experience quickly mounts, especially as the project encounters problems. All large software project have problems and resource scarcity leaves the government ill equipped to “drop everything” and fix the problems. Hiring specialized teams who are ready to provide independent advisory services and business support can be the difference between a project that meets cost, schedule, and scope needs and one that fails.

What is Business Support?

Unlike the services that technology teams provide to agencies during system development projects, business support teams fill the gap between technology and federal business lines. Qualified business support teams help agency leadership, stakeholders, technology teams, and business partners as they source and implement technology solutions. Business support teams must have in-depth knowledge of the agency’s mission, objectives of the technology implementation, and the perspectives and needs of both the benefit recipients and the industry partners who support the agency’s benefit program.

Independent Advisory Support

Business support teams work with leadership to document and refine the overall vision and scope for the program changes including strategy, vision, scope, phased approach options, constraints, and timeline.

Business support teams are independent advisors to the government, offering advice and insight on system design and implementation, development and management of business rules, large-scale conversions, situationally appropriate risk management plans, troubled project remediation techniques, and preemptive approaches to technology problems. Business support teams provide daily verbal briefings to agency leadership, as needed. The goal is to eliminate surprises.

Business support teams create executive briefings, advise on government deliverables, support government change processes, and provide ad hoc deliverables as needed. Business support teams foster a culture of collaboration with internal or external solution providers while also helping ensure the end solution meets the government’s needs. Business support teams participate in briefings in addition to preparing materials for the executive leadership team.

Source Selection Support – Internal or External

Business support teams provide advice on how to select a qualified solution provider, whether internal to the agency or external as a commercial provider. They help agencies evaluate technology options and providers against the business requirements, technology requirements, and procurement needs. Business support teams leverage their industry and technical expertise to assess agency or vendor suitability for the project.

To aid agencies in their decision process, business support teams work with end users, agency lines of business, stakeholders, and internal information technology teams to assess the pros and cons of a “buy versus build” approach. They perform objective analysis of financial, quantitative, and qualitative factors to create the cost benefit analysis allowing agency teams to make a more informed and balanced choice.

In the event the agency elects to procure a commercial product or vendor solution, business support teams observe and document vendor presentations and provide expert opinions and advice along with follow-ups, risks, and issue documentation. Business support teams work with all relevant government offices in their evaluation of the vendors. Business support teams help author line of business content for procurements and, upon execution of confidentiality agreements, support government’s business review of bidder submissions and offers. Business support teams support the government all the way through the selection and award process.

Integrated Program Management

Business support teams develop and maintain the integrated project management plan (PMP) and provide business oversight support for the technology implementation. Business support teams create the PMP, encompassing all major activities across the technology provider, agency, and contractor scopes of work. Business support teams work closely with the agency project manager to execute and update the PMP as needed. Business support teams help the government oversee the technology provider, internal or external. They verify performance against the integrated PMP, manage risks and issues, and help the agency project manager with course corrections to maintain focus. Business support teams help agencies monitor financial, service level, and other performance requirements for the project.

Depending on the methodology selected, business support teams serve an integral part of the change, sprint/release planning, prioritization, validation, and adaptation processes during the implementation. Business support teams maintain the risk, assumptions, issues, and dependencies log.

Business support teams spend a lot of time on communications. They help agencies create and control the flow of information around the project. Business support teams find and analyze problems, understand project status, create status reports, and develop standard and ad hoc project communications.

Working closely with agency leadership and execution teams, business support teams engage directly with the system provider to aid their team, help ensure appropriate government participation, and aid the government as they provide needed deliverables and content to the system provider.

Regulation Development Support

Business support teams work with the agency leadership to determine if they need to update the regulations. Business support teams help agency leadership understand needs and create draft regulation updates. They elicit and document feedback from appropriate stakeholders on the draft regulation changes. Business support teams help agency leadership with reviewing and incorporating feedback, and assist with creating final regulation language.

Business Process Management and Redesign

Even the smallest technology changes require process tuning. On a large-scale system implementation, agencies can expect hundreds or thousands of process changes. Business support teams help agencies assess the current state, design the target state, document gaps, and recommend practical solutions for the differences. Unlike typical process redesign teams, business support teams emphasize real life solutions and workarounds that agencies can actually implement.

Business support teams use a variety of tools including source document review, process mapping, stakeholder interviews, facilitated exercises, and industry expertise to create tailored deliverables for agencies that fit right into technology provider needs.

Business Requirements Support

Business support teams identify and collaborate with agency benefit recipients, agency users, industry partners, and other affected stakeholders to understand their needs. Business support teams facilitate focus groups or use other appropriate techniques to engage in a collaborative and exciting way with the stakeholders.

Business support teams apply knowledge of technology options and agency objectives to gather and document business and user requirements from project stakeholders. As part of vendor selection and system definition, business support teams perform additional requirements definition. Business support teams use expert facilitation techniques to elicit and refine stakeholder requirements in a format and frequency defined by the government, and coordinate with agency staff to validate requirements against project constraints before producing business requirements documents.

The requirements can include application, interface, and reporting requirements. Business support teams help ensure delivery of reports that incorporate old and new data, and that the reports are fully tested and available at go-live. This area is frequently overlooked or left to the last minute.

Business Partner Onboarding Strategy and Execution Support

Agencies often have industry partners who perform delegated duties on behalf of the government. Business support teams work with industry partners and agency leadership to develop strategies, approaches, and plans for a successful implementation. Business support teams leverage industry knowledge and technology implementation best practices to develop the partner implementation plan. Business support teams support the agency with plan execution including interactions and agreements with industry partners. Business support teams work collaboratively to define creative strategies that help agency leadership reduce risk and successfully transition the business partners to the new environment.

Organizational Change Management

Business support teams provide organizational change management services to engage with stakeholders and prepare them for the new environment. Business support teams prepare a stakeholder management plan and help agency leadership implement and adapt the plan. Business support teams also support the agency with stakeholder communications throughout the project lifecycle, with a focus on maximizing awareness and acceptance of both the technology implementation and its associated policy and procedure changes.

Business support teams update existing procedure guides for application users and develop a training curriculum and training materials based on the updated guides. Business support teams deliver “train the trainer” training, and provide subject matter expertise support while the agency’s trainers deliver training to end users.

Business support teams facilitate sessions with relevant stakeholders to develop, seek approval, and launch new operational metrics for agency management.

End User Acceptance Support

Business support teams help the agency accept the solution and coordinate user acceptance testing. Business support teams work with end users to verify the solution throughout the development process, not just at the end. Business support teams help ensure continuous end user involvement and business validation. This includes recruitment, selection, and training of acceptance testers; subject matter expertise support for testers during test execution; and documentation and communication of acceptance testing results.

Transition and Post-Transition Support

Business support teams provide conversion/transition and post-transition support services to facilitate a smooth transition to the new solution. Business support teams work closely with the solution provider and agency technology teams to develop a conversion plan that identifies tasks required for a successful conversion of data from the existing to the target solution. This includes data cleanup and mapping along with a plan for parallel processing of data and for reconciliation to ensure that the data is accurately mapping to the next-generation solution. Business support teams help the agency oversee implementation of the conversion plan and assist with managing issues and risks.

Business support teams also provide business unit help desk support during the transition period following go-live to help end users with questions and triage/funnel true technical issues to the technology provider. Business support teams coordinate with the technology provider to prioritize issues and track issue statuses, and provide information back to end users as needed until issues are resolved.

Domain Specific Data Analytics

Business support teams work with agency leadership to develop a data analytics framework to provide insight into agency mission and performance, operations, and risk. In conjunction with big technology projects, agencies frequently want analytics that will allow them to better understand the value they deliver to benefit recipients, increase their ability to explore, analyze, and justify policy scenarios, and to better understand and manage risk. Business solution teams develop business requirements specifications that agencies can incorporate as part of the solution, either in part or in whole. Like reporting, technology solution providers frequently overlook or underserve this area.

Key Personnel Experience Requirements

Personnel experience is the most significant factor for enabling successful advisory services. Successful business support teams should have hands on experience with, and understanding of, the agency’s mission, objectives of the technology implementation, and the perspectives and needs of the industry partners.

  • Knowledge of the existing agency technology environment.
  • Experience planning and successfully executing large conversions.
  • Knowledge and experience with agency policies and processes.
  • Experience writing and successfully achieving publication of federal regulations.
  • Experience managing commercial software products.
  • Knowledge and experience with agency system interfaces and the technology ecosystem.
  • Experience working directly with service bureaus for data integration.
  • Facilitation and stakeholder management expertise with teams of at least 50 team members.
  • Experience writing and approving software requirements for large federal systems.
  • Offsite planning and execution for user acceptance testing of agency specific systems.
  • Prior experience implementing large numbers of industry partners at the agency.
  • Prior experience rolling out servicing industry wide program changes on a national basis.
  • Prior experience developing data and analytics software requirements through prototyping.
  • Direct experience conducting system and user acceptance testing of domain specific data and analytics systems. 

The mortgage servicing industry remains a challenging environment. Servicers must provide a high level of customer service, maintain compliance with rigorous and constantly changing regulations, and maintain a low cost of servicing per loan. These challenges can make it difficult to evolve and adapt to new technologies. This document addresses some of the key issues that servicers face today across the mortgage lifecycle and best practices successful servicers use to manage these challenges.

Practices and Struggles along the Mortgage Servicing Continuum

We address the primary areas across the mortgage lifecycle to include core servicing, loan administration, loss mitigation, foreclosure, bankruptcy and claims.

Servicing Themes

We have observed five areas where most servicers struggle today: the digital customer experience, digital transaction management, servicing system optimization, application integration, and reporting and analytics.

Digital Customer Experience

Customers today increasingly expect fully digital interaction with financial institutions. According a study by Accenture, over 20% of banking customers are now “digital only”, having used only web or mobile interactions to interact with their financial institution in the past six months.

The 2014 Cornerstone Performance Report notes that leaders in this space focus on creating deeper digital customer relationships with mobile functionality being paramount. Servicers should proactively seek new ways to engage customers online with new features and channels.

Phoenix helps clients design and launch web and mobile solutions with a modern, responsive user interface and real-time integration to existing client-server and mainframe applications. These solutions are often architecturally challenging and require leadership and coordination to deliver. We work with your teams and vendors to design and launch responsive customer products.

Digital Transaction Management

Paper-based transaction management has inherent problems including human error, lack of visibility, limited control, and lack of security. When servicers combine those problems with high volumes and the need to shorten timelines at reduced cost, the challenges mount. Add to this the absolute need to achieve regulatory compliance and this becomes one of the servicing communities’ largest, most visible challenges.

A way to achieve efficiencies is to move away from paper to digital processes. Many industries have adopted this new way of doing business because companies see benefits immediately.

DTM uses software and services to digitally manage a wide range of document-centric business processes involving people, documents, data and transactions. The vision for DTM is to automate workflow, manage the creation and assembly of data and documents, and enable parties to securely sign a document. DTM collects digital agreements, proves identities for all participants, and integrates applications and document sources. The resulting environment provides an audit history and a centralized secure transaction center.

Phoenix consults with servicers to develop the DTM approach. We work with you to perform a current assessment of your environment to develop your current digital footprint, desired state, and approach to bridge the gap.

Servicing System Optimization

The per-loan cost of industry leading servicing systems is often one of the highest individual expenses for a servicing information technology (IT) organization. It is critical that this expense delivers the maximum possible value. However, we find that servicers are unaware of many of the core capabilities provided by their servicing system, or have configured it in a suboptimal manner, causing inefficiency or redundant technology expense.

The 2014 Fannie Mae Servicer Total Achievement and Rewards (STAR) Best Practices study states that ongoing quality reviews and management oversight of how the servicing system is being used is critical. This proactive approach results in quick identification of a suboptimal setup or improper use of the servicing system.

Phoenix team members know the capabilities of leading servicing systems – including built in automation, workflow, reporting, and integration functionality, and can help your servicing operation realize significantly more value from your servicing system expense.

Application Integration

A modern servicing technology environment is a complex, heterogeneous environment made up of applications, databases, and document repositories from multiple vendors hosted on a variety of technology platforms – web, mobile, client-server, mainframe et al. While many of these platforms support modern integration paradigms like application programming interfaces (APIs), messaging, and web services, many do not. These systems often rely on integration techniques such as file extracts, extract, transform, and loan (ETL), and electronic data interchange (EDI).

Cornerstone noted that market leaders evaluate their own operations across functions to find ways to become more efficient. Evaluating integration points is the next steps to identify gaps in services and data that hinder your teams from working efficiently.

Phoenix team members have significant expertise at integrating these disparate systems. We know what technologies are available, and what integration paradigms are better for your environment and business requirements. We help you design integrated architectures that provide synchronized data and status across your application portfolio using cost effective and reliable technologies.

Reporting and Analytics

Running a successful mortgage servicing business requires timely access to accurate data from across the servicing continuum. Unfortunately, this data is often stored in siloes – internal databases, proprietary application databases, and data marts spread across the operation. This makes it difficult to provide the dashboards, reports, and proactive monitoring that your business users need.

The best practice, although rarely observed, is for servicers to implement and use a single enterprise data warehouse with multiple data sources normalized into a standard data model. This should be integrated in near real time, as appropriate based on business needs, and should include pre-defined queries and aggregations meeting frequently needs.

Phoenix team members have expertise designing data models for the mortgage servicing and default space and mapping and integrating data from disparate systems. We have experience building compelling dashboards, reports, and analytics using tools such as Business Objects, Cognos, or Tableau that can provide your internal customers with a 360°, real time view of their portfolio.

Core Servicing

Loan servicing is the management of a loan from the time the proceeds are dispersed until the loan is paid off. This includes customer service, management of payments, taxes and escrow, outbound mail campaigns, statement preparation and collections.

Core servicing is customer facing and differs from the more administrative or “back office” functions in loan administration. The nature of the challenges for each group differ.

For core servicing, the key focus is the customer experience. Successful servicers are moving towards a more digital customer experience and allowing customers to access payment and statement information online.

Phoenix supports servicer design and launch of development of mobile and web applications to improve end user experience and self-service capabilities.

Loan Administration

Loan administration focuses on loan onboarding, document management, physical storage management, and other servicing functions including loan transfers, assignments, and lien releases. Document management includes the functions of imaging, classification, execution, and recordation.

Smooth onboarding – the process of moving a loan from origination to servicing – is a complex process that typically involves multiple systems with inadequate integration and paper intensive processes. In addition, servicing can inherit compliance problems left over from originations.

Figure 1: Technology Gaps Disrupt Customer Experience. As a loan moves across the continuum, servicers store and manage customer data in multiple systems. This creates gaps that impact the borrower experience. Phoenix works with servicers to identify gaps, design application and process improvements, and improve your ability to demonstrate compliance.

Phoenix provides consulting services to define and document detailed requirements for how you can leverage DTM technology within the post close space. This includes the execution and delivery of lien releases, foreclosure-related documents, assignments and modifications.Moving towards digital transaction management (DTM) and the use of an eVault can resolve some of these challenges as data and documents start electronic and remain electronic throughout the mortgage lifecycle. This model also provides electronic evidence to include documents, the original source XML data corresponding to each iteration of a document, rules executed against data at a point in time, and electronic date and time stamps.

Loss Mitigation

Loss Mitigation encompasses actions taken by servicers to avoid foreclosure. Home retention options include repayment plans, special forbearances, and loan modifications. Alternatives to foreclosure include compromise or “short” sales and deeds-in-lieu of foreclosure.

Though default rates continue to decline, the cost to service a loan is still largely influenced by the continued high cost of default servicing due to constant change and increase in regulatory scrutiny. Servicers report that the rate of audits, and the corresponding cost of compliance, has continuously increased over the past five years. This scrutiny is most heavily focused on default servicing – specifically the early default functions within loss mitigation.

In addition to the sensitivity surrounding these functions, we find that many servicers use homegrown tools and applications to support these areas – leading to both high IT expense and acute compliance risk.

The 2014 Fannie Mae Servicer Total Achievement and Rewards (STAR) report states that the use of dynamic scripting to obtain borrower information and decisioning tools enables servicers the ability to provide on the spot solutions to borrowers. This concept is echoed in the 2014 Cornerstone Performance Report for loan origination. The STAR report also highlights that the use of workflow tools is critical as it helps prioritize and improve chances that the borrower can be helped at the earliest stages of delinquency.

Phoenix team members have built multiple solutions to support early default. We believe that the two most critical gaps in this space are workflow and automated business rules. Workflow helps you confirm your teams complete tasks consistently across your operation. Clearly defined business rules, ideally using a commercial business rules engine (BRE), codify key business decisions such as underwriting, and more importantly, demonstrate to regulators that you are making those decisions correctly and consistently. We can help your organization interpret regulations, understand the workflow and rules required to implement them, and deliver those capabilities to your business.

Foreclosure and Bankruptcy

Prior to initiating foreclosure, servicers conduct pre-foreclosure functions to determine if they have exhausted all options for loss mitigation and confirm compliance. Servicers must thoroughly evaluate the loan for conformity with statutory, investor, and federal regulatory requirements or moratoriums. As an example, servicers must ensure the borrower is not protected under Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA). Once the servicer completes the pre-foreclosure evaluation, servicers can proceed to foreclosure. This review process is frequently dependent on a committee and a manual checklist.

The foreclosure process starts with the issuance of a notice of default (NOD) to the borrower and goes through the foreclosure sale. Bankruptcy can interrupt the foreclosure process at any time and depending on the state and court requirements, may require the foreclosure process to start over.

Most servicers use workflow technology and business rules automation to drive down costs, reduce risks, and create supportable audit trails. The most effective use workflow data to continuous identify and resolve bottlenecks, incentive and reward high performers, and shift needed resources to support critical initiatives.

In addition, use of solutions such as bankruptcy monitoring, referral automation, and bankruptcy workstation set up, helps servicers automate high risk, manually intensive processes.

The Phoenix Team understands current bankruptcy and foreclosure technology. With several years of experience managing solutions used by several mid-size to large banks and servicers, our team provides business and technology insight to implement, integrate, and optimize foreclosure and bankruptcy workflow and automation solutions.


Claims remains the “long tail” of the mortgage servicing default crisis, with claims volumes that continue to exceed normal expectations. The ability to file claims timely and integrate directly with government sponsored entities (GSEs) and investors reduces financial losses associated with missing submission deadlines or incorrectly filing claims. Gathering fees and costs and correctly accounting for them on the claim is important and we see servicers leaving failing to capture all costs at time of claim.

Despite the need, commercial product selection is limited, and servicers continue to rely on home grown systems and manual processes that are expensive and prone to costly failures.

Successful servicers implement workflow and business rules to ensure timeline compliance to minimize potential losses, and create robust bidirectional integrations with GSEs and major investors to reduce manual effort and risk of mistakes.

Phoenix team members understand claims processes and existing commercial applications. We focus on helping our clients understand their requirements, choose a platform, and successfully migrate their in-house systems and manual business processes without business disruption.

Technology Solutions Applicable Broadly Across Servicing

Phoenix professional services enable servicers to improve their information technology performance, take advantage of their existing technology, and adapt to new technology innovations.

Implementation and Conversion Management

Our clients and partners tell us that the cost, stress, and risk of major systems conversions is a main reason that they are unable to modernize their technology platforms. Planning a successful systems conversion is a multi-faceted problem that includes planning, creating the requirements specification, defining the conversion business rules, converting application data, migrating existing integrations, migrating accounts and privileges, and training large numbers of users. Planning and executing a successful conversion with limited application downtime is one of the most challenging and risky projects a technology team can undertake.

Phoenix team members have led many of the largest conversions and implementations in the mortgage servicing and default industries. From years of working on conversions for top 10 banks and servicers, we have developed processes and techniques for planning conversion activities, mapping and translating complex datasets, and transitioning users with minimal pain.

Application Lifecycle Management

The ability to deliver high quality solutions to your business customers within a limited budget, and on an aggressive schedule is a key criteria used to evaluate a CIO and IT organization. New methodologies like Scrum, DevOps, Test-Driven Development, and Continuous Delivery have emerged to help IT leaders adapt and meet these demands, but many IT organizations have yet to adopt them, or have adopted them halfheartedly or incompletely.

Phoenix team members have led large engineering and IT teams in the mortgage industry and have been successful at implementing modern methodologies, deploying innovative tools, and developing engineering leadership. We can help you evolve your engineering discipline and build technical leadership within your organization through training and mentoring programs.

Product Management

Internal mortgage IT organizations often lack product management as a mature internal discipline. Strong product management leadership ensures that your IT efforts remain closely aligned with business strategy and needs, and work is selected and prioritized to maximize business value, and that distractions to the engineering team are minimized. This leadership is in short supply in IT, and it often leads to churn and lack of focus.

Phoenix team members have managed product strategy and execution for some of the largest and most influential products in the mortgage servicing industry. As consultants, we manage product pipelines for our customers, ensuring that work is focused on the initiatives that will deliver the most strategic value and that the products that are developed are user centric and meet the business requirements.