Field Services Technology: Directing Traffic, Driving Progress

Editorial
May 30, 2018

Source: DS News (Driving Traffic, Driving Progress [pdf)

Field services technology platforms have proven themselves most efficient in acting as traffic controllers on the property information highway.

Traffic systems in towns and cities were implemented to create order and organization. Marked lanes, established right-of-way signs, and mechanical signals keep the daily commute from collapsing into total chaos. Detailed rules and regulations also provide guidance and travel safety. But despite the efficiency of the traffic system, outside factors can derail even the most comprehensive plans.

When traffic systems fail due to accidents or other circumstances, traffic officers may be called in to monitor and guide travelers. To avoid major traffic congestion that can lead to complete gridlock, these officers use gestures and signals to regain safety and the efficient flow of traffic.

Much like a traffic controller, mortgage field services companies must maintain the flow of information between mortgage servicers, inspectors, maintenance contractors, and third-party service providers. To do so effectively, field service companies must design an efficient technology workflow that integrates disparate systems to guarantee data quality and integrity throughout the process.

MAKING THE RIGHT TURNS 

An effective workflow management system is required to automate order processing, routing, invoicing, and reporting services to ensure quality results for property preservation services across the country. Integrated workflow technology is a fundamental success criterion in this highly regulated and customer service-oriented industry. A streamlined business process is necessary to effectively identify, dispatch, assess, and review field work. This fact is amplified when considering the transaction volume involved. Thousands of properties daily must be inspected and/or maintained, each property with unique characteristics and requirements. To compound the challenge, each client and GSE has specific service level agreement and compliance requirements that must be met.

For a field service company to effectively meet clients’ expectations, a dynamic, business rule-driven system is required to store information regarding client, property, and work order attributes. It must act as the hub or “traffic controller” for workflow management and priority-based distribution. The system also must be able to integrate in real-time with contractor, third-party, and servicing systems. Batch file process, with its inherent delays and limited acknowledgement capabilities, is simply inadequate in today’s mortgage servicing industry.

FINDING THE FAST LANES 

In addition to real-time transactional integration, the field services company is required to provide cloud-based, full-service customer portal, providing self-service capabilities to servicers for managing order requests, order status, bid reviews, reporting, analytics, and property assessment reviews, including access to property photos and video.

Originating from the servicers’ mortgage servicing platform, a new order for a property service request enters the field services company’s workflow system, or “traffic controller,” which begins its job of directing and routing that order through the system. Field services companies set up a property record that ultimately will retain all of the attributes for that property throughout the lifecycle of inspections and preservation activities. The new property and its subsequent orders enter through an order gateway as a file or real-time integration with servicers’ systems. An efficient end-to-end property management system will track that property and order from its creation all the way through the invoicing process.

The “traffic controller” will then dispatch the order to the correct vendor—inspector or contractor. This automated transaction moves the order through a real-time mobile inspection and contractor network and administrative portal designed to provide full-service field support by defining crews, printing invoices, and even collecting and quality checking results in a single view. Built-in risk mitigation features include location-based services, an estimation and damage assessment module, and contractor registration portal with third-party background check integration.

From the field, contractors utilize a mobile app with “smart” scripting enabling customizable survey forms for different work types and multimedia technologies to properly assess each property, as specified by work order instructions and servicer and investor guidelines. The contractor work results are transmitted directly from the field to their back office for the first phase of the quality control process. This is accomplished by providing the contractors an integrated quality control module, which is configured to identify high-risk conditions that must be evaluated prior to submission to the field services company. If a high-risk condition or exception is identified, the remote field vendor receives a follow-up and must make compensating adjustments while on site. This workflow is only possible if the field vendor mobile app and the quality control module are integrated and designed to dynamically identify high risk exceptions.

Once the property assessment is complete, the finalized data is sent to the field services company near real-time. In some cases, panoramic photos or video are required to capture high risk property conditions. In addition, audio accompanies the video, which is a “game-changer” for the industry, allowing the contractor to provide specific details regarding the damage or other information that is impossible to convey in standard text or photos.

A SMOOTHER RIDE 

This multimedia approach to capturing rich information about the property condition is imperative to the efficiency of the workflow system. All of the data collected by the contractor using the mobile app is organized and processed by a rules-based engine, which identifies and flags exceptions. The workflow system then routes the order for internal audit review. Field services companies define business rules within the system to help streamline order assignments and identify exceptions in work orders. These rules are based on service-level agreements with mortgage servicing clients or previously identified risks. If a discrepancy is identified, those order results are placed in a queue to be reviewed by a field services employee. This integrated workflow helps field service companies focus on exceptions by highlighting them in the process. Special attention is drawn to the exceptions through the automated process developed into the system.

If a work order result passes the internal audit process, the data, photos, and videos are sent immediately to the mortgage servicer. Property results are accessed through an internal portal designed to assist clients in managing their portfolio by providing the most current status of a property, along with photos and video to support the work that was performed, allowing hem to review damages and bids submitted by maintenance contractors.

Supplementary reporting helps identify properties that trigger additional work, providing customizable current, historical, and location-based heat maps of field services operations through the life cycle of property inspections and maintenance. Workflow system efficiency has reduced the timeframe from order creation to completion from weeks to days—or in some cases, hours. System automation and rules-based workflow is a key success factor to improving the quality of preservation services, and significantly contributes to reducing the amount of time to complete a work order.

AUTOMATING THE SYSTEM 

Automation proves to be one of the most important elements in an integrated workflow system. It ensures accuracy and quality by enforcing consistency and eliminating human error when evaluating field results. The business rules defined in the system, from order creation to invoicing, make automation possible. It also allows the field services company to set specific exceptions that need validation from an internal quality control associate. Examples include a change in occupancy status, or electricity shut-off when a sump pump is present. Real-time changes for updates to rules are imperative for the automation to be effective. The system must adapt just as quickly and be easily configurable, even able to schedule changes in advance.

Additionally the ability to index the data collected to allows servicers to make better business decisions regarding their property portfolios by aiding in designing compliance, risk mitigation, and cost control strategies. The millions of data points passing through the workflow systems can be used to recognize trends, such as how properties are progressing through the convey process, and reoccurring damages or complaints in specific municipalities. Field services companies are able to capture the appropriate data to proactively identify and recommend remediation strategies to the servicer.

An effective “traffic controller,” or field services workflow management system, ensures process integrity with a full visual assessment of mortgage servicers’ properties and provides quality information, automation, and integration with the servicers’ systems. Technology is at the forefront of innovation, and field services companies are managing the traffic pattern by identifying the most effective ways to streamline property assessments. An automated and integrated workflow management system helps eliminate congestion and gridlock on the property management super-highway.

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CHEIF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

Alan Jaffa

Alan Jaffa is the chief executive officer for Safeguard, steering the company as the mortgage field services industry leader. He also serves on the board of advisors for SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Alan joined Safeguard in 1995, learning the business from the ground up. He was promoted to chief operating officer in 2002, and was named CEO in May 2010. His hands-on experience has given him unique insights as a leader to innovate, improve and strengthen Safeguard’s processes to assure that the company adheres to the highest standards of quality and customer service.

Under Alan’s leadership, Safeguard has grown significantly with strategies that have included new and expanded services, technology investments that deliver higher quality and greater efficiency to clients, and strategic acquisitions. He takes a team approach to process improvement, involving staff at all levels of the organization to address issues, brainstorm solutions, and identify new and better ways to serve clients.

In 2008, Alan was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business in its annual “40-Under-40” profile of young leaders. He also was named a NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® finalist in 2013.

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Chief Operating Officer

Michael Greenbaum

Michael Greenbaum is the chief operating officer for Safeguard. Mike has been instrumental in aligning operations to become more efficient, effective, and compliant with our ever-changing industry requirements. Mike has a proven track record of excellence, partnership and collaboration at Safeguard. Under Mike’s leadership, all operational departments of Safeguard have reviewed, updated and enhanced their business processes to maximize efficiency and improve quality control.

Mike joined Safeguard in July 2010 as vice president of REO and has continued to take on additional duties and responsibilities within the organization, including the role of vice president of operations in 2013 and then COO in 2015.

Mike built his business career in supply-chain management, operations, finance and marketing. He has held senior management and executive positions with Erico, a manufacturing company in Solon, Ohio; Accel, Inc., a packaging company in Lewis Center, Ohio; and McMaster-Carr, an industrial supply company in Aurora, Ohio.

Before entering the business world, Mike served in the U.S. Army, Ordinance Branch, and specialized in supply chain management. He is a distinguished graduate of West Point (U.S. Military Academy), where he majored in quantitative economics.

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CHEIF INFORMATION OFFICER

George Mehok

George Mehok is the chief information officer for Safeguard. He is responsible for all strategic technology decisions, new systems deployments and data center operations supporting a national network of more than 10,000 mobile workers.

George has more than 20 years of leadership experience dedicated to high-growth companies in the mobile telecommunications and financial services industries, spanning startups to global industry leaders.

George played a senior role in the formation of Verizon Wireless, leading the IT product development and strategic planning team. He led the integration planning for the Verizon merger including: GTE, Vodafone-AirTouch, Bell Atlantic Mobile and PrimeCo.

As chief information officer at Revol Wireless, a VC-backed CDMA wireless communications network operator, George’s team implemented an integrated technology infrastructure and award-winning business intelligence platform.

George holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from Eastern Michigan University and an M.B.A. from The Ohio State University. He is a board member of Akron University’s School of Business Center for Information Technology, in addition to an advisory board member for OHTec.

In 2013, George won the Crain’s Cleveland Business CIO of the Year award for his team’s work in completing a major acquisition and technology transformation at Safeguard. In 2015, George’s team was recognized by InformationWeek’s annual Elite 100 ranking of the most innovative U.S.-based users of business technology. The mobile inspection technology developed at Safeguard was selected as InformationWeek’s “One of the top 20 ideas to steal in 2015”.

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General Counsel and Executive Vice President, Human Resources

Linda Erkkila, Esq.

Linda Erkkila is the general counsel and executive vice president for Safeguard, with oversight responsibilities for the legal, human resources, training, compliance and audit departments. Linda’s broad scope of oversight covers regulatory issues that impact Safeguard’s operations, pro-active risk mitigation, enterprise strategic planning, human capital and training initiatives, compliance and audit services, litigation and claims management, and counsel related to mergers, acquisition and joint ventures.

Linda’s oversight of the legal department along with multiple compliance and human capital focused departments assures that Safeguard’s strategic initiatives align with its resources, leverage opportunities across the company, and contemplate compliance mandates. Her practice spans almost 20 years, and Linda’s experience, both as outside and in-house counsel, covers a wide range of corporate matters, including regulatory disclosure, corporate governance compliance, risk assessment, executive compensation, litigation management, and merger and acquisition activity. Her experience at a former Fortune 500 financial institution during the subprime crisis helped develop Linda’s pro-active approach to change management during periods of heightened regulatory scrutiny.

Linda previously served as vice president and attorney for National City Corporation, as securities and corporate governance counsel for Agilysys Inc., and as an associate at Thompson Hine LLP. She earned her JD at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Linda holds a degree in economics from Miami University and an MBA. In 2017, Linda was named as both a “Woman of Influence” by HousingWire and as a “Leading Lady” by MReport.

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VP, Finance and Vendor Management

Joe Iafigliola

Joe Iafigliola is the vice president of finance and vendor management for Safeguard. Joe leads the accounting and information security departments, and is a key leader in the management of SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets. He also leads the service supply chain including vendor sourcing, field quality control, and delivery, in addition to the quality assurance function for the company.

Joe has been in a wide variety of roles in finance, supply chain management, information systems development, and sales and marketing. His career includes senior positions with McMaster-Carr Supply Company, Newell/Rubbermaid, and Procter and Gamble.

Joe has an MBA from The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), and holds a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University’s Honors Accounting program.

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AVP, High Risk and Investor Compliance

Steve Meyer

Steve Meyer is the assistant vice president of high risk and investor compliance for Safeguard. In this role, Steve is responsible for managing our clients’ conveyance processes, Safeguard’s investor compliance team and developing our working relationships with cities and municipalities around the country. He also works directly with our clients in our many outreach efforts and he represents Safeguard at a number of industry conferences each year.

Steve joined Safeguard in 1998 as manager over the hazard claims team. He was instrumental in the development and creation of policies, procedures and operating protocol. Under Steve’s leadership, the department became one of the largest within Safeguard. In 2002, he assumed responsibility for the newly-formed high risk department, once again building its success. Steve was promoted to director over these two areas in 2007, and he was promoted to assistant vice president in 2012.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve spent 10 years within the insurance industry, holding a number of positions including multi-line property adjuster, branch claims supervisor, and multi-line and subrogation/litigation supervisor. Steve is a graduate of Grove City College.

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AVP, Operations

Jennifer Jozity

Jennifer Jozity is the assistant vice president of operations, overseeing inspections, REO and property preservation for Safeguard. Jen ensures quality work is performed in the field and internally, to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations. Jen has demonstrated the ability to deliver consistent results in order audit and order management.  She will build upon these strengths in order to deliver this level of excellence in both REO and property preservation operations.

Jen joined Safeguard in 1997 and was promoted to director of inspections operations in 2009 and assistant vice president of inspections operations in 2012.

She graduated from Cleveland State University with a degree in business.

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AVP, Human Capital

Jennifer Anspach

Jennifer Anspach is the assistant vice president of human capital for Safeguard. She is responsible for the company’s national workforce of approximately 1,000 employees. She manages recruitment strategies, employee relations, training, personnel policies, retention, payroll and benefits programs. Additionally, Jennifer has oversight of the accounts receivable and loss functions formerly within the accounting department.

Jennifer joined the company in April 2009 as a manager of accounting and finance and a year later was promoted to director. She was named AVP of human capital in 2014. Prior to joining Safeguard, she held several management positions at OfficeMax and InkStop in both operations and finance.

Jennifer is a graduate of Youngstown State University. She was named a Crain’s Cleveland Business Archer Award finalist for HR Executive of the Year in 2017.

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AVP, Application Architecture

Rick Moran

Rick Moran is the assistant vice president of application architecture for Safeguard. Rick is responsible for evolving the Safeguard IT systems. He leads the design of Safeguard’s enterprise application architecture. This includes Safeguard’s real-time integration with other systems, vendors and clients; the future upgrade roadmap for systems; and standards designed to meet availability, security, performance and goals.

Rick has been with Safeguard since 2011. During that time, he has led the system upgrades necessary to support Safeguard’s growth. In addition, Rick’s team has designed and implemented several innovative systems.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Rick was director of enterprise architecture at Revol Wireless, a privately held CDMA Wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana, and operated his own consulting firm providing services to the manufacturing, telecommunications, and energy sectors.

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AVP, Technology Infrastructure and Cloud Services

Steve Machovina

Steve Machovina is the assistant vice president of technology infrastructure and cloud services for Safeguard. He is responsible for the overall management and design of Safeguard’s hybrid cloud infrastructure. He manages all technology engineering staff who support data centers, telecommunications, network, servers, storage, service monitoring, and disaster recovery.

Steve joined Safeguard in November 2013 as director of information technology operations.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was vice president of information technology at Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana. He also held management positions with Northcoast PCS and Corecomm Communications, and spent nine years as a Coast Guard officer and pilot.

Steve holds a BBA in management information systems from Kent State University in Ohio and an MBA from Wayne State University in Michigan.

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AVP, Mobile and Analytics

Jason Heckman

Jason Heckman is the assistant vice president of mobile and analytics for Safeguard. He is responsible for both Safeguard’s mobile development and strategy as well as the company’s data warehousing and business intelligence. Jason oversees the design, development and release of all Safeguard’s internally developed mobile applications. He also oversees the development and delivery of operational and analytical data technologies throughout the organization.

Jason joined Safeguard as manager of mobile in 2012. During that time he led the development and integration of Safeguard’s mobile applications across the company’s vendor network to provide real-time data from the field. In 2014, he was promoted to director of mobile applications and named assistant vice president in 2017.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Jason was the director of application development and business intelligence for Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana.

Jason holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.

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Director, Business Development & Marketing

Tim Rath

Tim Rath is the director of business development and marketing for Safeguard. He is responsible for developing innovative growth strategies for Safeguard and developing and overseeing potential partnerships, mergers and acquisitions.

Tim joined Safeguard in 2011 as project director and has filled numerous roles within Vendor Management, most recently serving as director of vendor management, a role he assumed in 2011.

Prior to Safeguard, Tim worked as director of supply chain at PartsSource Inc. in Aurora, Ohio, a provider of medical replacement parts, procurement solutions and healthcare supply chain management technology services. He also has held sales positions with Rexel, ComDoc, and Pier Associates, all based in Ohio.

Tim holds a degree in marketing and sales from The University of Akron in Akron, Ohio. He also earned his FAA Certified Commercial UAS (Drone) Pilot license in 2017.