q2databaseconsulting

Archive for the ‘Goldmine’ Category

Data Centralization – Get it Together!

In ACT!, CRM, Database Management, Goldmine, Loan Officer, Loan Origination Software, Mortgage on February 25, 2013 at 11:44 pm

It is not uncommon to have data in multiple locations, this is especially true in the mortgage industry where your company may or not provide you with data/contact management tools beyond Loan Origination software. Regardless of the tools your company provides, if you wish to keep a record of your contacts over your career, and/or want to do all or some of your own data mining and marketing, your own central database is a must.

This article includes both a Concept and Implementation section. I wanted to provide you with both Best Practices guidelines as well instructional tips on how to implement. Sometimes further instruction or assistance is needed; however, I do my best to point you in the right directi I will be referring to ACT! as the database tool, however the same basic strategies apply regardless of the database system you are using.

CONCEPT:

Whether you are new to the mortgage industry, or are a veteran loan officer, it is very important to have a real and manageable strategy and everyday protocol for getting and keeping all your contacts and their information in one database.

You should look at your database as the central nervous system of your business. This means all your contact info in one spot from day 1 in the business until you retire and sell your database. It doesn’t matter where you work, it doesn’t matter how many times you change where you work, and it doesn’t matter where you think you may work in the future, you should always have your own database of contacts and information available. You may have a specific agreement with your company management about obtaining and recording information which may impact this, and I am not suggesting you circumvent this, however, in general, you should have a central database for your contacts and related information.

Everyone in the pool

All of your contacts, regardless of type (yes even personal) should go into 1 central database.

This includes; Borrower prospects,in process, and closed, referral partners both prospect and current ( ie Real Estate Agents, CPAs, Financial Planners etc), your vendors (ieAppraisers, Title Reps, Builders etc) ,as well as your personal contacts. Anyone that you may potentially be in contact with, regardless of their role, should be in your database. In terms of personal contacts , in ACT! you can mark these private so if you are working with a team or have an assistant, you are the only one with visibility to these contacts and their information.

Wait ! What if you have different pivots to your business ? For example, what if you are a Loan Officer but also have a separate business tangent such as being a Financial Planning Advisor ? Same answer, in almost every case, regardless of the different tangents of the business you are running, all contacts and database management should be done from 1 central database.

With everyone in the same database, how do I find what I need ?

Managing all your contacts in one central database is step one. A close second is database organization which I address in my next article for Database Organization.

IMPLEMENTATION:

Getting your Data into your Database – Does it have to feel like herding cats ?

Herding Cats

If you are just starting out in gathering your data, the answer is yes. At least initially, gathering all your data can feel like herding cats. If you have contact information, and any loan information pertinent to those contacts in a variety of places, you usually end up working in a disjointed manner until you get them all into 1 place. You may have information in one or more of these places: Outlook, XLS Spreadsheets, Encompass, Point, or virtually any other loan origination software, Word documents, PDF, or even hard copy (cringe )

As I mentioned earlier, for the purposes of this article I will be referring to the ACT! database solution when outlining specific instructions. If you use another type of database system, I may be able to provide you some specific guidelines, or you can contact your own database tool support staff for assistance. The most common places you may have your contact and any related loan information are listed below.

Outlook. You can import contacts and your calendar from Outlook to ACT!. There is a wizard that assists you in doing this one time. In newer ACT! versions, you can also set this up to auto synch. I strongly recommend only synching one way (ie from Outlook to ACT!), as with a 2 way synch, you will likely end up with duplicate records. The instructional article(s) that address these can be found at:

Synch Outlook contacts to ACT!:
http://kb.sagesoftwareonline.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/13907

Synch Outlook contacts and calendar to ACT!: http://kb.sagesoftwareonline.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/27076/kw/outlook%20synchronization/related/1

These links are subject to change. If a link does not work, try Googling something like “How to Import Outlook contacts and calendar into Sage ACT!”

Looking ahead. Best practices for keeping the link between your Phone,Outlook, and ACT! smooth is to have a direct auto synch between ACT! and your phone so adding contacts and working with the calendar is consistently synergized in a clean manner between the two. You would still use Outlook for email management since your emails can be auto linked to your ACT! database from Outlook,and then use your phone and ACT! only for your contact management and calendar.

ACT Import Wizard New
ACT! Import Wizard Figure. Find in ACT! by going to File – Import and then select Next

Loan Origination Software. Unless your LOS is proprietary, and/or your management team will not authorize exports, you can usually create a report or export from your LOS that includes borrower info for import into your database. You would need the file in CSV format, or with newer versions of ACT!, you can import directly from Excel. It is important to format the information before importing to get the results you want. For example, in ACT!, contact name is one field which contains both first and last name. If your export file has first and last name in two separate fields, they would need to be combined before importing. Also, turn off duplicate checking in ACT! as it would potentially merge contacts with the same first and last name.

Automatic LOS to ACT! synch. We offer a service to set up an auto synch from your LOS to your ACT! database. This provides an auto synch of your loan file to ACT! as the file is updated through the loan process. The auto synch provides the most consistency and is a significant time saver. It is also a very flexible solution which means that if your company changes LOS, and/or you move to a different company that uses a different LOS, your synch can usually just be updated and the auto synch continued.

Excel or CSV. The import wizard in ACT! , mentioned in the Outlook section above, will allow you to import data from these file types into ACT!.As noted in the Loan Origination Software section,you will need to format the data first to make sure it matches the field types etc in ACT! before importing. You would also want to turn off duplicate checking in ACT! before the import.

The instructional article(s) that address this can be found at :
http://kb.sagesoftwareonline.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/26828/kw/IMPORT%20EXCEL%20ACT!%202013
These links are subject to change. If a link does not work, try Googling something like “How to Import Contact Data from an Excel®, Comma Delimited (CSV), or Text Delimited (TXT) File into Sage ACT!”

Hard Copy. Gulp…right, no fun really. There are two basic approaches here:
One is manual data entry. Some LOs will do this in the evenings while in front of the T.V. Others will hire a temp to get it done. A college job board is a great way to find a resource to help you with this type of project. If you have someone other than yourself do it, I recommend checking their work frequently, at least at first. I have had LO’s hand over the reins to a temp or assistant without much guidance or quality control and find themselves having to not only re-enter information, but also unravel updates and mistakes the person did to other areas of their database.

The other is to try and take advantage of some technologies that will convert scanned documents to Excel or CSV. You would scan your hard copy files and then use a convertor to get the data into an importable format. I recommend you Google something like “Convert scanned document to excel” to find one of these products. Make sure you just try to scan one or two documents and then converting to see how it comes out before importing to your database.

Rock Your Database!

Q2 Database Consulting Services can assist you with veritably every need you have around your Contact Management and Marketing needs. Please call or email today, we would be honored to assist you !

Author: Donna Quisenberry
Q2 Database Consulting Services
donnaquisenberry@sbcglobal.net
http://www.q2dbconsulting.com/
760 434 3431

Donna has been providing expert database consulting services, specializing in solutions and implementation for mortgage professionals, since 2001. She serves teams ranging in size from 1 Loan Officer to teams with over 1000 Loan Officers. Q2 Database Consulting provides ACT! Hosting as well as ACT! Strategies, Licensing, Implementation, Customization, Automated Data Synchronization, Data Imports, Upgrades, ,Marketing Strategies, Turn Key Automated Marketing, Training, Troubleshooting and Support

Advertisements

Which CRM is The Best ?

In ACT!, CRM, Database Management, Goldmine on May 7, 2010 at 5:06 pm

I am often asked ‘Which Database System / CRM is the Best ?’.

I have been a contact management and marketing database consultant for over 12 years and serve my clients best by being agnostic about database solutions. In other words,although I have certifications and experience with specific CRM solutions,I am always assessing new solutions that are released,as well as re-visiting solutions that were not up to snuff previously but may have improved over time. I consider it a key value to my clients to be able to objectively assess and compare solutions in order to recommend the best fit for a client at any given time. There are so many solutions, and so many important elements within each solution, that it can be extremely intimidating and confusing to navigate the sea of database applications and tools. In addition, any tool of real value must continually evolve to remain relevant from both a business and technology standpoint. Many times, a user or an entire organization will ‘flip’ their existing system for something new because they feel their current application is too hard to use and / or does not have the feature set they require. Approximately 80% of the time, the system in place is completely sufficient to meet and exceed their business needs and a ‘flip’ into another system is unnecessary and usually costly.

The first key is ‘What database solution is currently in place and how much training have you completed for that system ?.’ Proper setup and training requires a short-term but notable time commitment from each user in order to execute a successful database management launch. This element is often overlooked because users want to save money and /or feel they are too busy to spend a lot of time on training. The reality is that no matter what system you use, it will often be an almost complete waste of money if you do not execute a formal training plan. The training plan does not have to be expensive or require a long term commitment; however, it cannot be overlooked or minimized. In many cases, with focused training and sometimes minor customization to an existing system, database management needs are completely resolved.

Outlined below is a high level summary of some of the most popular database management solutions available.
Windows Solutions:

ACT! – ACT! by Sage Software remains one the most popular and widely used database solutions. At this time, there are over 2.8 million ACT! users. ACT!’s reputation for being one of the easiest systems to learn is well earned. It is a highly customizable system with a pleasing user interface aka ‘pleasant curb appeal’. With millions of users worldwide, this is a solution with staying power. Beyond having a full feature set that provides for contact tracking, historical documentation, calendaring, email , marketing and reporting, ACT! has a strong development company behind it that will keep it relevant for the long term. It is critical that the software you use not only meets your needs from a feature set standpoint, but also offers extensive support options. In addition you should have a solution that is developed and supported by a company with enough resources to keep it compatible with major operating systems (ie Microsoft) over the long haul. On-going relevance as well as long-term development and support strength is a critical element when considering solutions. This is why I do not recommend ‘boutique’ solutions developed by smaller companies until perhaps that solution has a very wide and satisfied install base and has proven itself over a significant amount of time.

Goldmine – Goldmine by FrontRange is also a widely used solution. Compared to ACT!, Goldmine tends to have a longer learning curve. This is partially due to the fact that Goldmine offers a bit of a richer feature set than ACT! so there is just more available to learn. However, these additional features are usually not mission-critical to getting the results desired. A distinct difference between these top 2 rivals, ACT! and Goldmine, is the fact that Goldmine comes with an automation feature that allows for the set up of automated marketing (ie auto letter printing, auto email and task scheduling), ACT! does not come with this feature. However, automated marketing can be attained very successfully with ACT! using 3rd party automation or campaign products. There are also some areas in Goldmine that are a bit more cumbersome than ACT!. For example, more navigation routes and mouse clicks are required to manage email and letter templates in Goldmine than in ACT!. In addition, doing lookups or filtering is much more intuitive in ACT! vs Goldmine. The newer pricing and maintenance policies has been difficult for Goldmine users, especially single users and small teams, when compared to ACT!. Goldmine licenses are more expensive that ACT! licenses. This is true both historically and at the time this article was written. In addition, FrontRange has a mandatory annual maintenance payment policy that is considered extreme by many users and consultants alike. If the annual maintenance payment lapses, you have to pay not only for that given year, but for every year you have not paid maintenance, as well as a penalty fee. In other words, maintenance fees are forced on the user even if the user never contacts FrontRange for support.

Microsoft BCM (Business Contact Manager) – Admittedly I have not deployed this myself for any client to date and my knowledge is based on product documentation and/or actual users that provided me direct feedback about their experiences with the product. The compelling reason that I have not recommended this product is that it is just not as feature rich as ACT! or Goldmine…yet. Knowing Microsoft, I have faith that the BCM product will continue to evolve and give ACT! and Goldmine a run for their money, however, it is not in the cards today. A couple of examples is that BCM is installed with your local Outlook on the C drive. This means it does not serve as a collaboration tool for multi-user situations. In other words, an entire team cannot see one master database on a server and have the type of visibility and synergy a team can have with ACT! or Goldmine. Another example is that History details are not as accessible, if you want to see details of a meeting, call etc you must print a separate Journal or report.

SageCRM/SalesLogix – A beautiful solution, very feature rich with everything ACT! or Goldmine offers and more. The workflow /automation feature is state of the art. Proven interface with accounting and other business unit type software allows for a true end-to-end solution. The issue is cost. You will spend approximately 4 times as much just to get out of the gate with this product vs. ACT! or Goldmine. Notwithstanding the interface capabilities with other types of software (ie accounting etc), you can get database management results very close to SalesLogix with an ACT! or Goldmine solution.

Web Based Solutions:

ACT! for Web – This solution is a winner for users who need anytime/anywhere access to their contact management system. This is also a very efficient deployment scenario for larger teams since the setup time and deployment per user is very fast and efficient. This is because the CRM software does not need to be installed on the users local machine. There are 2 electronically provided connectors that are very easy for any user to download in order to interface with MS Outlook and Word. One difference to be aware of when using this, or any other Web based solution, is that fact that due to pages needing to load when you navigate etc, you will not get the same speed as you would with a Windows based product. This is normally not something that is a roadblock, we are talking seconds and 1/2 seconds here, but it is important to note from a user expectation. In addition,because it is a web user interface, some tasks may take more clicks than in the Windows version. One example is that you cannot drag calendar items around to reschedule. You must click the edit button and then make the change. One other consideration with any Web based product is whether or not you want to invest in any new hardware or hardware upgrades to host,backup, and maintain the database yourself,or if you would prefer to have the database and all the daily maintenance tasks taken care of by a hosting company. I have a partnership with a Class IV server facility that allows me to provide this hosted database service. Class IV is currently the highest rating for a hosting facility in terms of security. More and more users and teams are going this route because it removes all the responsibilities of managing hardware and the database off of the user and /or the IT organization.

SalesForce.com – Salesforce does look very attractive in the beginning with its seemingly low, upfront cost. But over the lifetime of the solution, the add on charges for additional subscriptions, access, and basic services really start to add up. This is one of the most significant and frustrating downfalls based on customer feedback. Salesforce charges you heavily as your requirements grow. For example, Group Edition does not accommodate more than 5 users, and if you want to add a 6th, you are forced to jump subscription levels and go from $8.25 per user per month for Group Edition to the $65.00 per user per month for Professional Edition—that’s over a 750% increase. Offline access is not available for Salesforce Group Edition and is an extra cost option for Professional Edition, increasing the cost to $90 per user per month. Data storage is limited to only 20MB for each user. After that, you will have to pay $1,500 per year for 500MB. Salesforce limits you to only one access method to your critical customer data—on-demand over the Internet. Imagine your team at a complete stand-still while Salesforce is down due to service disruptions, upgrades, and Internet outages.

Some single user and small team companies have gotten around the issue of database access anytime/anywhere by using a remote access service such as gotomypc.com or logmein.com

Automated Synchronization Solutions – Linking Disparate Systems – Automated Synchronization with other systems including but not limited to Loan Origination Software, Accounting software etc.

In a ‘perfect’ world, everyone would all be able to work from one system on a daily basis to run an entire business. There are some ‘mega system’ solutions that are Oracle based for example that can do the true end to end management,however, the price points are so high that these solutions are only realistic for mega sized companies. At this point there is nothing available,at least at a price point that is reasonable for small to large businesses, that will handle every single business aspect under the umbrella of one system.
For example, many mortgage teams need an automated synchronization between their Loan Software (ie Point, Encompass etc) and their contact management database. This is a significant solution from not only a time-savings and ROI standpoint, but also from a data integrity perspective. The marketing (automated or manual) and reporting strategies that reap significant ROI impact for your business are reliant on data integrity in your contact management system. Duplicate data entry either just does not happen at all, or opens the door to inconsistent or erroneous data. We have solutions for these automated synchronization and marketing needs. By the way, whether you have a locally installed database or a hosted Web solution (ACT! or iGoldmine)there is a way to set up an automated synchronization bridge with your Loan Software and/or set up automated marketing.

The Best Database Management Solution is the one with a proven track record that you will use to complete key contact management strategies (ie contact tracking, historical documentation, calendaring, email , marketing, reporting, etc). The key is that whatever system you chose,you must take the time and effort to be properly trained with Best Practice standard to get the most benefit from the system. I have had hundreds of users over the years lament that they have had their database around for while but they know they are not using it to its full tracking and marketing potential. In fact many were just using it to print labels for their holiday cards in December and maybe some light history tracking. The key is to take your database seriously enough to get some expert help if you are not using it to its full potential. Being proficient with your database in terms of tracking information and using it as a marketing tool is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it is a ‘need to have’.

If you are at a crossroads, either you have no database management system, or you are unhappy with your current system or your lack of knowledge with your system, you should leverage the expertise of an experienced database consultant expert. This should be someone who has long term experience in more than one solution to help analyze your needs and arm you with accurate ‘real world’ information so you can make the best decision.

Note: The observations provided herein are the opinions of Donna Quisenberry and are not to be construed otherwise. These observations are subject to change as the solutions noted herein change. This article is confidential to Donna Quisenberry and is not to be copied or distributed without express written consent..

Donna Quisenberry
Q2 Database Consulting Services
donnaquisenberry@sbcglobal.net
P  760 434 3431

Synching CRM and Loan Origination Software

In ACT!, CRM, Database Management, Goldmine, Loan Officer, Loan Origination Software, Mortgage, Synchronization on May 7, 2010 at 5:04 pm

“Can I synch my Loan Origination software (LOS) to my contact database ?”

Whether you use ACT!, Goldmine , Outlook, or many other types of Contact Managers, the answer is Yes. Unless your LOS or Contact Manager database is proprietary to your company, there is a solution that will provide for an automated synch.

The solution we provide is a closed loop, automated synchronization system. I have implemented this solution for many individual Loan Officers, as well as many multi-user teams all over the United States.

The Best Practices process works as outlined below using ACT! And Encompass as an example :
1. Loan Officer enters a new Prospect into ACT!
2. Whenever the Loan Officer is ready to create a new 1003, a click of a button from ACT! Sends the contact’s information to Encompass which creates a new 1003 that is linked to the ACT! Record
3. An automated synchronization engine synchs all new files and field updates back to ACT!.

The automated synch is controlled by a scheduler which I typically set to run every hour.

There is an immediate and significant benefit to automating the connection between your LOS and your Contact Manager database(s).

If you do not synch these 2 key elements of your business, you have to take the manual approach using manual export/import maps, manual duplicate data entry, or in the worst scenario, not updating your database with key loan information at all.

There are thousands of dollars in opportunity left on the table if you do not have robust and timely updates to key loan information fields in your ACT!, Goldmine or other contact database. Data search results are greatly impaired which results in a broken connection with your customers needs and loss of revenue for you.

Controlling capital expenses is critical to your business success. Many users are reluctant to spend money to streamline these 2 systems. In the big picture however, it is more costly to have no plan for a streamlined data flow between your LOS and your ACT!, Goldmine etc. If you plan to be in the business for more than one more year, it is always a sound investment to get these 2 critical elements of your business seamlessly synchronized.

The automated synch solutions works with ACT!,Goldmine and many other CRM’s. Virtually any loan origination software can be set up to auto synch to your CRM including but not limited to: Calyx Point, Encompass, LoanSoft,Agile/Avista,SQL types, Byte etc.

I would be happy to provide assistance for automated LOS synchronization or any of your database needs.

Donna Quisenberry
Q2 Database Consulting Services
Donnaquisenberry@sbcglobal.net
(760) 434-3431

Bringing database and marketing expertise and solutions to Mortgage Professionals since 2001