Overwhelmed by Data? This Tool Could Help

South & Associates was buried under data. The law firm focuses on foreclosures in Missouri and Kansas. With the sub-prime mortgage mess triggering a rash of foreclosures, they were in a good position to capitalize on new business opportunities – if they could find a way to keep up.

Foreclosures are complex and highly regulated transactions. Each case must adhere to a slew of regulations, and if any of those regulations aren’t met, businesses like South & Associates can face steep fines and penalties.

Regulatory control wasn’t even the biggest headache. South & Associates handles loans for large note-holding financial organizations, each of which has its own set of requirements, along with penalties if they aren’t followed precisely.

“Each foreclosure may have different requirements based on the type of loan that was issued, the state it is in, the county, the municipality, and even the specific judge who will handle the case,” said Michael Zevitz, a shareholder at South & Associates.

Several people within the firm work on each case, and the flow from person to person was a problem. “What we used to do was stack case files onto a cart that rolled from desk to desk,” Zevitz said.

Each person worked on a small piece of each case in isolation, so inconsistencies and inefficiencies were inevitable. Documentation wasn’t always accurate or up to date, and when changes were required, they were tough to track and verify. Time was wasted tracking down specific files, and one person could bring the whole system to a halt.

“Our people couldn’t work efficiently if we didn’t find a way to automate the way cases moved through the office,” Zevitz said. After a prolonged search, the company determined that business process management (BPM) was the answer to this problem, and they chose the software suite from Workpoint.

South & Associates is part of the growing adoption trend for BPM solutions. While the technology is relatively new, BPM already has a foothold in many IT shops and analysts see it growing. Forrester Research, for instance, believes BPM will expand from a $1.2 billion market in 2005 to greater than $2.7 billion by 2009.

The goal of BPM is to make key business processes more efficient – to monitor, standardize, integrate, better manage and, where appropriate, automate them. For today’s information-age companies, the common denominator among those processes is one thing: data.

“BPM can certainly be used to automate and improve processes, but only those ones you put into it,” said Colin Teubner, an information management analyst for Forrester Research. “The trouble is that it is still fairly manual, and it’s mostly slanted towards efficiency.”

In other words, if you have a fairly well-defined process, such as the flow of case files through a law firm, and all you need to do is optimize it, then BPM is a boon. If, on the other hand, you have more complex and messy processes, such as product creation or managing intellectual property or optimizing customer interactions, BPM might not be enough.