Big data in the field service industry.

Author:Mehok, George

When you come right down to it, property preservation companies are in the risk-mitigation business. Our primary job is to help reduce the financial and reputational risks that vacant, defaulted and foreclosed properties pose to our mortgage servicing clients and communities across the country. [paragraph] The month of January 2014 certainly raised our awareness around two major challenges for the mortgage industry from a property preservation perspective: reducing the negative effects of severe weather on vacant and abandoned properties, and ensuring vendor compliance with expanding regulatory requirements, [paragraph] During January, severe cold weather gripped much of the Midwest and Northeast, greatly increasing the risk of potentially costly freeze-related damage to millions of vacant and abandoned properties across the country. [paragraph] On Jan. 10, the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rules took effect--the latest of a crush of federal, state and municipal regulatory requirements imposed on the mortgage industry in the wake of the housing crisis.

Unrelated as these issues may seem--protecting properties against severe weather damage and compliance with regulatory requirements--they share a common resource to help mitigate their associated risks: data and the technology to turn that data into valuable information to make more effective business decisions.

"Big data" has become the big buzzword in the business world, especially as Facebook[TM], Twitter[R], Yahoo and any number of social media and online companies peg staggering market values to their ability to capture and sell vast amounts of data about their users. Nearly every major consulting firm is promoting its ability to help companies harness the power of big data to drive market share and revenues.

The mortgage industry certainly relies on data to support loan origination and track the quality and performance of loans. It utilizes data to evaluate and mitigate risk and monitor compliance with regulatory requirements, including tracking the performance of vendors and agents representing them in every facet of the mortgage process.

Without data, the mortgage industry, like every other industry, simply couldn't function.

At the same time. The Wall Street Journal's CIO Journal reported in October 2013 on a survey conducted by Boston-based Bain & Co. Inc. that found only 4 percent of business leaders at large companies believed data analytics helped them make better business decisions or improve financial performance within their organizations. This study included companies in the financial services industry.

The fact is, not all data is useful. It can be trash or treasure, depending on an organization's ability to effectively capture, store, categorize, mine, analyze and use it.

As the largest property preservation company in the United States, Safeguard Properties gathers millions of data points into its system every day from internal and external sources that can help us and our clients make informed decisions about millions of vacant, defaulted and foreclosed properties across the country.

In addition to using data for decision-making about properties, we use it to develop analytics to monitor our operational performance and continuously improve the quality and timeliness of services we deliver to our clients. We also use business intelligence data to maximize the efficiency of our vendor network, ensuring that we recruit the right types and quantities of vendors needed for each geographic region, and that we allocate work based on the best performance.

The use...

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