by CIO Staff

Problem: Bandwidth – Solution: Slim Down Applications

Feb 15, 20023 mins

For eight years, Jim Pathman, CTO of Option One, a wholesale sub-prime lender and subsidiary of H&R Block based in Irvine, Calif., thought about putting salespeople on laptops. The company’s 200 account executives were spending more than 80 percent of their time in the field, and they relied entirely on phone and fax. Pathman knew that laptops would help them obtain important loan information, such as a pricing application, but he worried that the cumbersome technology was more trouble than it was worth. He imagined them wandering around a gas station with a briefcase sprouting spaghetti wires, searching desperately for a phone jack.

Then wireless appeared on the scene, and Pathman began to reconsider. Still, the documents that salespeople routinely received?such as 12-page faxes and other reports indicating the status of loans?were so large that downloading them over a wireless connection would take forever. What Option One needed was a wireless connection that could run large applications and move large documents quickly, and there weren’t any. So the company found a way to make large documents small and large applications simple enough to work with a wireless connection.

In doing so, it had to reduce the capabilities of several applications, such as the bandwidth-hogging loan pricing engine.

The five items that survived were: its loan-pricing engine, underwriting guidelines, e-mail, send-and-receive fax applications, and reporting tools.

In April, Option One salespeople finally got their laptops and their initiation to wireless communication with all of its warts, such as slow data transmission.

“You get used to knowing what the turnaround is,” says Kathleen Kaylor, an Option One account executive. “If you are synchronizing into the VPN wirelessly, you know that it is going to take a while and you can do something else while it is syncing.”

Pathman says salespeople have about 15 percent of the functionality they will have two years from now. The system will become faster and more personalized. The laptops will be tied in to the workflow system, and there will be real-time notification of action items on specific loans. Option One also hopes to combine the two applications used to give loan estimates.

Option One has even started to see signs of a return on its $750,000 investment. The up-to-the-minute information on loans and loan rates allows salespeople to make immediate decisions. In at least one case, says Pathman, a salesman’s wireless connection allowed him to quickly match the rate offered by a competitor.

“From a revenue and commissions perspective,” says Pathman, “you only need to do one or two more loans and it pays for itself.”