PrimeLending CIO: 5 ways to apply a disruptive mindset to your next IT project

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Like most disruptive innovations, ours began with a simple idea: Let’s put the consumer more firmly in the driver’s seat.

In the mortgage space, we hear more all the time that consumers don’t want to talk to salespeople. They want to do it all themselves whenever they’re making any type of purchase. The challenge with mortgages is that they’re confusing to people. There is a lot of paperwork and they’re messy. There are confusing terms and choices, like what the role of a title company is or which kind of loan product you might want, since companies like mine have hundreds of different loans on offer.

Against all of this potential confusion we posed a few basic ideas that have guided our strategy as we’ve tried to radically simplify the mortgage process and help the consumer do most of it themselves, even on a mobile device. Consider these ideas as you’re planning your own disruptive innovation.

1. Transparency. In our case, we wondered how we could we lift the veil for consumers so that they both understand what’s happening in the mortgage process and make their own choices about it. More transparency is what just about every consumer is demanding these days. And if you’re transparent enough, consumers will suggest ideas to make the entire experience even better.

2. Simplicity. Our focus groups showed that most consumers don’t know what a "loan product" means, so we aren’t calling our loans "products" in our mobile application. It’s crucial never to use terms your target audience might not understand, no matter how commonplace they sound to you, and never to add complexity to any process.

3. Empowerment. If the consumer feels more in control by taking an important step on their own – a pre-qualification letter, for example – it’s our responsibility to let them do that. Allowing customers to compare and contrast different options is important as well. Let them drive the transaction instead of being dragged along.

4. Realism. If you’re in a heavily regulated industry where some steps in a transaction have to happen in a specific order or a large amount of information is required to get it going, you may want to rein in your expectations for disruption until you have all the details ironed out.

5. Optimism. Then again, just because you’ve got to be realistic doesn’t mean you can’t rewrite the rules in your industry. Do the steps in your application or purchase process have to be in the exact order they’ve always been? Perhaps engaging directly with regulators will give you some flexibility. Or maybe you can use regulation as an opportunity to invoke technology to meet the regulation while improving the consumer experience. For example, if your application will be especially tough to carry off on a mobile device, can you pre-populate fields of information based on a few key pieces of data the consumer enters?

It’s amazing how much you can learn when you apply a disruptive mindset to a traditional challenge. You may even beat a startup at their own game.

Tim Elkins joined PrimeLending in November 2008 as Senior Vice President, Chief Information Officer. In October 2012, Tim was promoted to executive vice president, chief information officer, and he is responsible for information security, IT operations, and technology initiatives.

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