Going without IT support is a bad idea, but which approach should you choose?
Having a consistent, powerful and reliable digital presence is a must for any business. Without it, you will be hard-pressed to convert new customers or maintain a competitive edge. Of course, this presents interesting challenges, especially for small businesses, as you’ll need to decide on the best approach for your IT: make an in-house, full-time hire or outsource your needs to a contractor.
Why is IT support necessary?
It can be tempting to skimp on IT resources. After all, for many firms, budgets are tight. And really, if you are small enough where you only have a few devices and employees, it seems logical to ask if there is a need for such a significant investment.
The answer is simple: absolutely. Even small businesses have significant IT needs. Cybersecurity concerns alone merit seeking IT support. For industries like title insurance, the need for IT help has additional urgency, as agents and underwriters routinely deal with large quantities of sensitive information.
Having an IT expert pays off in other ways as well. From staying up to date on the latest trends and keeping your systems properly updated, there is no doubt that dedicated technology professionals can bring exceptional value to any title agency.
Contractor vs. employee
Let’s discuss some of the big differences between a contractor and an employee. While pay and taxes are critical ways in which they diverge, perhaps even more substantial is the issue of autonomy. Employees are hired with the understanding that the work they perform will be done per the direction of the company. Contractors on the other hand typically have far more control over when, where and how the work gets completed.
To hire or to contract, that is the question!
So, should you hire an IT expert or simply contract with a firm or individual? Ultimately, it depends on your agency’s needs. Contracting with a professional can carry significant financial benefits, helping you save money on everything from health insurance to vacation time, but other questions are equally important to consider:
- How urgent are your IT needs?
- Making a full-time hire often takes considerably more time than contracting a professional. Can your projects wait, or do you need to move immediately? Keep in mind that the “Great Resignation” has squeezed labor markets like never before, and the IT field is not immune from these trends.
- Do you need continuous support or project-based assistance?
- Do your systems and operations require continuous IT support, or does it make sense to hire on an “as-needed” basis as projects pop up? Quite often, businesses have one-off projects that require highly specialized skillsets, such as cloud migration or data engineering. In those cases, it may not make sense to hire someone full-time.
- Can you absorb the losses if you make a bad IT hire?
- Some estimates put the cost of making a bad hire as high as 30% of that employee’s full-time salary,[i] which for an IT generalist could easily eclipse $10,000. Hiring a contractor lowers those stakes considerably, as they are understood to be temporary workers.
- What are your concerns about regulation and liability?
- With title insurance being a heavily regulated industry, you must consider regulation and liability concerns when bringing in technology contractors, and also think about how long it will take a contractor to get up to speed.
No two businesses are the same
Just like any other aspect of a business, no two companies are the same when it comes to IT. What is straightforward for one firm might be more complicated for another. What’s universal, however, is the need for high-quality technology professionals, which can help agencies become more innovative, efficient and profitable. By approaching the decision strategically and weighing all considerations equally, agents can find a solution that works for them.
Find out more about hiring an IT contractor here.
 The Cost Of A Bad Hire And Red Flags to Avoid (2022) (apollotechnical.com)
Data is all around us. Why not leverage it for better business decision making?
Most people know that modern business runs on the internet. But what does the internet run on you ask? Data, that’s what! How can you leverage your data to drive better business decisions? Let’s explore.
Data Sources and Why They Matter
It may surprise you how much data exists about your business. Whether it be from Google Analytics, social media or a business intelligence (BI) platform, there are multiple ways to gain actionable insights into your customers’ demographics, not to mention your business’s projects, performance, costs and revenues.
But why does any of this matter? Well, by better understanding your customers, their behaviors and your own internal processes, you can adjust buyer journeys and touchpoints, optimize your operations, reallocate your resources and more. Changes like these can lead to improved customer sentiment, increased employee morale and a stronger brand.
Google Analytics is a free tool and a great place to start gaining insight into how your customers are interacting with you online. To begin, establish your credentials for the Google suite and link the website you want to track. You’ll have to embed the Google Analytics code snippet on your site to accomplish this. While this isn’t exceptionally complicated, many people are uncomfortable trying to read HTML. Consult with your webmaster if you need assistance.
Once your account is set up, it’s time to start tracking some metrics. Some of the most important metrics include sessions, users, average time on page, bounce rate, acquisition sources and entrance and exit pages. These will give you a good starting point to understand how people are finding your website and what they’re doing once they’re on it. After that, you can take steps to encourage positive trends or address negative ones, such as putting more marketing dollars toward your most effective acquisition sources or optimizing your landing pages to make them more effective.
Although it may not look like it at first, social media can also be a powerful source of business intelligence. The medium has become a primary method for sharing business updates, but prospects and customers now often use social media to collect information on companies’ product and service offerings.
Many of these platforms offer free, built-in analytics where you can gain these insights. Facebook’s business suite, for instance, provides exportable, in-depth reports on your audience, including age and gender breakdowns, as well as top cities where they are located. It can also shine a light into whether your posts, updates and offers are resonating with these followers, and allow you to provide more effective content that will encourage them to engage with you.
For those who are serious about BI, however, nothing beats the power and depth offered by investing in a business intelligence solution. These platforms are designed with the specific purpose of helping firms gather and analyze large amounts of business data. These platforms often include striking data visualizations and can create a comprehensive, 360-degree view of your business. Not only will you gain a better sense of your audience through these platforms, but you can also track your company’s projects, resources and revenues. Staying up to date on this information may help you make tough decisions in real-time that can ultimately benefit your bottom line.
Take a look at some of the best platforms currently on the market.
Better Insights Equal a Better Business
In a fast-paced world that shows no signs of slowing, understanding all aspects of your business is critical to making the best possible decisions. Luckily, we live in a data-rich world. By deploying a BI platform or even leveraging free, pre-existing data sources like Google Analytics and social media, you can gain information to help position your company for even greater success.
After years of incrementally slow progress on the e-mortgage front, the pandemic succeeded in catapulting the mortgage and settlement services industry into the digital mortgage and closing age in short order. As state legislatures quickly rushed through a variety of pending remote online notarization (RON) laws, more agents jumped at the chance to add this capability to their tool belt.
In an April 12 release, ALTA reported that the number of title professionals offering digital closings more than tripled over the past two years, from 14% participation prior to 2019, to more than 46% in its most recent survey.
The question for agents is, do your partners and potential customers know about your new digital closing capability? And how can you get the word out?
MISMO has provided a national solution that you can capitalize on immediately to ensure potential customers who are looking for a service provider with RON capability can check on your status.
The MISMO e-Eligibility Exchange was created to accelerate industry-wide adoption of digital closings. According to a recent release from MISMO, the e-Eligibility Exchange provides centralized access to acceptance criteria that enables lenders and other industry participants to easily determine the right type of digital mortgage closing for each loan, including the use of electronic promissory notes (eNotes) or RON.
How Can Agents Get Into the e-Eligibility Exchange?
The only way to get into the exchange is by first getting registered in the ALTA Title and Settlement Agency Registry. ALTA announced that it will be the sole provider of title and settlement data to MISMO through the registry, which currently includes more than 9,000 locations, with more than 2,000 of them indicating they have RON capability.
The registry is free and ALTA membership is not required. After you register, your underwriter will confirm your information. According to MISMO, this verification, along with the uniqueness of the ALTA ID, ensures the accuracy of the data in the e-Eligibility Exchange for users.
If you are not yet signed up with the ALTA registry, here’s what you need to know:
- Visit alta.org/registry to learn more about the ALTA Title & Settlement Agency Registry.
- Download materials to register on the ALTA resources site to begin the registration process.
- ALTA will provide you with a unique 7-digit identifier, called the ALTA ID, which is automatically assigned to each new database record as a permanent ID number.
- ALTA ID numbers are available for free to title agents and to real estate attorneys.
- Once you are registered, your underwriters will be contacted to confirm your status.
Recent legislation has helped grow adoption of e-recording and e-notarization, but the lack of uniformity still makes it difficult for lenders to universally adopt electronic practices, forcing lenders to make a loan-by-loan decision about what documents can be electronically signed.
MISMO’s e-Eligibility Exchange helps address this challenge by allowing lenders to quickly assess requirements for individual loans.
More importantly for you, it allows lenders to identify the availability of title and settlement agents with electronic capabilities. Hop on the digital train in 2022. With the advent of the e-Eligibility Exchange, you now have the perfect opportunity to put yourself front and center for digital closing opportunities in the coming years.