This is the first in a series of profiles of executive leaders who are making mobile innovation a reality. No enterprise exec needs to be told that mobile presents a transformative opportunity for their business. But these are the folks who are showing us how it’s done.
George Mehok is Chief Information Officer of Safeguard Properties, the largest privately held mortgage field services company in the U.S. He was recently named CIO of the Year by Crain’s Cleveland Business in the large private company category. He draws our first spotlight for his work in guiding a team that’s developing and implementing genuinely strategic mobile initiatives – that is, ones that are pushing Safeguard’s industry leadership.
Safeguard inspects and maintains defaulted and foreclosed properties for a wide range of clients in the mortgage industry. Its clients hire Safeguard to inspect and maintain these defaulted and foreclosed properties, and Safeguard in turn manages a nationwide network of subcontractors to swiftly carry out inspections, preservation, and maintenance care wherever it’s needed.
As you might imagine, this is massive scale operation. For example, Safeguard commissions more than 2,000,000 inspections per month and subcontracts with over 10,000 service workers – nearly all of whom are mobile. They also oversee the cutting of more than 6,000,000 lawns per year!
Even from its earliest days, Safeguard has been an early adopter of new technologies to drive quality and efficiency, starting with the shift from paper to fax, and again from fax to email. So it’s not surprising that since arriving at Safeguard in 2011, George has placed mobility at the heart of innovation. Working with Appcelerator, he’s embarked on a transformative mobile development program that’s yielded increases in both company productivity and customer satisfaction.
And he’s doing it by driving internal business efficiencies first. Where others have sought to prioritize consumer-facing apps, George started by re-engineering his most critical business processes through a mobile lens – which have netted an immediate impact on Safeguard’s bottom line.
The Mobile Difference
Safeguard’s INSPI app takes property inspections fully mobile. In the past, contract inspectors would take notes and snap multiple pictures per house inspection. At the end of the day, they would upload their pictures from their digital cameras to a PC, then collate their notes and complete an online form for each property. With each inspector performing tens of surveys per day, errors were common (mixing up pictures from different properties) and the time for each was significant (10-15 minutes each).
Using INSPI, they now fill out surveys within the mobile app, in the field in real-time. They take and attach all their photos on their mobile device as they go, resulting in inspections that are both faster and higher-quality (an unusual combination). The app also contains driving instructions and mapping features to create a one-stop solution.
A second app, VendorWeb Mobile, creates a dynamic schedule for individual work crews that can shift as orders change throughout the day. Managers can monitor where their crews are at all times for better planning. Crews can attach ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos of the landscapes they’ve worked on that are shared instantly with clients, and used to calculate work times for compliance, performance monitoring, billing, and honing future bids. The app also enables service workers to connect with their supervisors remotely via in-app video to resolve issues or answer questions.
In both cases, the flexibility, stability and the broad functionality of the technologies underpinning the apps were key – all reasons why George chose to deliver them with the Appcelerator Platform. It wasn’t workable to bet so much of the business on these apps, and then count on lagging indicators like calls to the help desk to learn whether the apps were working. Rather than fly blind, George used Appcelerator’s unified analytics to understand how his mobile apps were performing in every phase, whether build, test, or live in the field. And his mobile solutions are already having a serious impact:
- Safeguard can now receive an order and get to any property in the 50 states in less than two hours;
- An inspection that used to take ten minutes now takes just three and is more accurate;
- Thanks to INSPI, inspectors are now able to complete between 50 and 150 inspections a day;
- More than 70% of the one million inspections Safeguard performs in a given month is reported within minutes of completion, up from 5% the year before.
As George says: “We always strive to be leaders in industry best practices, and we felt we needed to be first in mass adoption of mobile to maintain our leadership. Mobile is a key competitive differentiator for us. In fact today mobile is a competitive necessity. If we didn’t do this, we’d be fundamentally less competitive.”
Of course plenty of executives share his sentiment, but George has been quick to turn words into action, translating enthusiastic but vague injunctions to ‘go mobile’ into a realistic, smart, and commercially aggressive mobile strategy.
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