As Published in the NEFA NewsLine

Business Evolution Supported by Internet-Centric Automation

By Steve Lundergan
Vision Commerce, Inc.

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus professed that "By cosmic rule, as day yields night, so winter summer, war peace, plenty famine. Everything flows and nothing stands still. All things change.”

Evolution is inevitable. Business is not exempt to this rule. Although commonly resisted by some, change will ultimately be forced upon companies by competition that thrive on innovation and thereby command the evolution of successful business enterprises in the Leasing and Finance industry.

How do companies embrace evolution as a core value in their business models? First, is the acceptance and recognition that change is necessary. Whether that change is a complete overhaul of the Company or minor tweeks to marketing programs, most things in a Company will require change at some time. Once the need for change is accepted, the next challenge is to innovate. Finally, is the selection of the right tools to implement your innovation and accommodate the changes in your business. Those tools include the right people using the right technology. What is the right technology for today’s evolutionary business environment?

The most notable technological advancement in recent history is how the Internet has changed the way businesses process information. If a company’s technology is unable to give it direct access to the world of information via the Internet, they will fall behind those business entities that are consistently collecting, analyzing and distributing information electronically through the Web. Business owners and managers need to understand how technology impacts their current and changing business models; and what they must do in the future in order to remain successful and continue to grow in an Internet-centric world. Today, the vast majority of emerging technologies use Internet technology as the medium. Only when an organization is ready to completely embrace this technology and implement Internet-centric solutions will the organization arrive at a higher evolutionary plateau.

Motivating Factors Supporting Internet-centric Solutions in the Leasing industry

Aside from the basic conventional functionality delivered by solutions, including CRMs, Lease Origination and Accounting Solutions, there are additional features that are intrinsic to Internet based solutions. These Internet-centric attributes help to increase sales, improve customer service, bring greater value to partner relationships, control costs and boost productivity.

Some industry factors driving the growing need for Internet automation are:

The Creation of a Paperless Environment – While the paperless environment is not a new concept, new Internet tools and capabilities have made the creation, storage and retrieval of electronic documents easier, less restricted to local or remote storage and seamless from within electronic credit files/applications.

Web Services for Transferring Data Electronically – The use of Web Services has increased dramatically and will continue to do so in order to securely move data via the Internet to and from Companies, their customers, partners, lenders and other service providers. Services such as electronic signature, chattel management, sales tax, property tax, insurance, and residual valuations can be integrated into a company’s Internet-centric solution. Lenders are also making web services available to accept application data electronically sent from a Lessor’s solution through the Internet. Companies using Internet-centric solutions can take advantage of these services, thereby accelerating the speed at which credit decisions are rendered and communicated between the parties. In certain small ticket scenarios, the data is sent directly into a Lender’s automated scoring system by a Broker or Lessor with a simple click of the mouse. Turn around time is cut to within seconds instead of minutes or hours.

Automated Credit Evaluation – Internet-centric solutions can electronically send a request for critical credit data to outside agencies and automatically pull that data back into the application for scoring or profiling. The data is manipulated for evaluation based on predetermined underwriting criteria set forth in the automated scorecard or profiling system. This can be accomplished in seconds, thereby cutting credit processing time by as much as 90% and getting documents to the closing table sooner.

Internet Marketing Tools – Companies employ effective email campaigns and telemarketing services with existing clients and prospects through Internet-centric CRMs. Lessors create private label vendor web sites to support the vendor relationship through Internet-centric front end solutions (the private label vendor portal). These add great value to the Vendor relationship and promote more business through better communication with the Vendors, 24-7 secure access for tracking their applications, direct access to formal proposals or quick, simple lease quotes. Web enabled accounting solutions or client server solutions integrated with an Internet based origination system can deliver portfolio information to lenders or back to customers.

Support Remote Work Environments and Sales Distribution Network - In 1988, approximately 350 firms in the United States had some employees working from home. In 2004, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 20.7 million people or 14% of the civilian work force worked from home. Based on US Labor Department estimates, there will be more than 26 million people working from home by the year 2014. With more Internet-centric solutions brought to corporate America, the growing numbers of companies offering “flex hours” and performance driven compensation packages will most likely be greater.

Through secure authentication processes into a Company’s Internet-centric solution, home based employees can access their workload and perform the same tasks as if they were sitting at their desk in the office and do so any time of day or night.

The other most notable work environment that requires support via a 24-7 Internet-centric solution is that of the sales distribution network. Whether these are corporate branch offices, manufacturer sales networks or individual vendors across the country, they can all meld into the Company’s programs, processes and procedures with nothing more than a browser.

The basic premise behind the value of Internet-centric technology is the well grounded evidence that any given client, employee, lender, partner or vendor with a working internet connection, can have access to specific and important applications and processes required to promote operating efficiencies and drive business to the Leasing company – easily and from anywhere.

Change is exciting. Embrace it. Take advantage of it. As our old friend Heraclitus put it - “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man." Take the plunge.