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The Internet Title Plant Solution

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January/February 2000 - Volume 79, Number 1

by Neal Morris

Almost daily, the news media report astounding statistics regarding the phenomenal growth of the Internet. The number of Internet users is doubling nearly every ninety days and is expected to surge to more than 500 million worldwide by 2003. Internet e-commerce is projected to exceed $180 billion annually within the next five years. These statistics confirm the opportunities available to those companies that move quickly to stake out their virtual territory. As with other historic innovations, early implementers generally reap the greatest financial reward. Unfortunately, many of us are uncertain about exactly how the Internet can be a tool for business development. While there are numerous applications of the Internet to the various aspects of the title business, this article will hopefully provide insight into using the Internet to enhance the value of your title plant.

Reasons for Publishing

There are numerous reasons why publishing your title plant over the Internet a good idea: the Internet can improve access to your title plant information, reduce employee involvement in responding to inquiries, expand your market area, and create new revenue sources. There are also significant benefits that may not be evident from a superficial analysis. As we all know, perception is reality. Each of us wants to be perceived as the leader in our particular field. This can go beyond even traditional customer relationships. Publishing your title plant over the Internet can be a catalyst for new strategic business alliances.

Title plant managers can use clarity and experience to automate the redundant and menial processes in their title plants. They can focus their experience and efforts to create the greatest value. Most title plants have gone through internal automation processes. This has increased productivity and reduced staffing requirements for indexing, document retrieval, viewing and internal researching. Most title plants can automate the delivery and accessibility of this information through the Internet using the data created by these automated internal processes. Title plant information can become easier to understand and final products can be delivered automatically by emerging artificial intelligence based on scoring, defined rules and metrics of the indexed document information. This is similar to credit scoring standards used in credit reporting agencies. A major software company serving the title industry is developing artificial intelligence which can be used during the research process. It will be a strong feature addition to automated title plant systems.

The Real Estate Transaction War

Related industries are packaging products and services around title plants. Industries are protesting the costs associated with products and services. These same industries are becoming risk managers, assurance providers or product creators. The successful title plant of the future will make sure their products are in these packages. The steps in hindsight will be obvious. The title plant of the future will reduce the cost of its products, create new products to meet client’s conditions, make the products easy to access and make products easy to use and understand. The title plant will remove the middle person. The solution will be the Internet.

These industries are compiling similar data from courthouse records. They are looking for ways to expand their products and reduce their cost of processing and gathering courthouse data. Can the title plant justify expanding their indexing fields to successfully market to new industries? Can the title plant create standards or share their existing data with other industries to manipulate and publish? Yes. Though the title plant industry has not been good at answering these two questions in the past, the Internet will be the solution.

Related industries are no longer happy at being a participant or a consumer of the real estate service and assurance transaction. These industries want to be the transaction managers or closing providers. The industries are becoming managers and directors of the process earlier. The title plant and title company will secure its role in the real estate process by continuing to develop and enhance the relationship with the end user and business providers. Add the middle person. Your experienced staff and reputation will be the solution. Create products that are available earlier in the process. The solution will be the Internet.

The Internet Solution

The solution is simple. Deliver products quickly through automatic delivery systems; reduce the cost of producing products; create new products; make the products easy to access, easy to use and understand; and share data and provide greater customer-centered relationships. Use technology systems to remove distribution and research staffing costs and add customer-centered staff as relationship builders. The chart shows an action plan for various ways to improve title plant functions using automation and the Internet.

Unless we force other industries to circumvent our information due to high costs and low accessibility, we are a necessary part of the title transaction. Even in this case, title plant information will be used at some point in the resolution of any problem created by circumventing the data originally. Lets force other industries to use our products due to low cost, high availability and the quality from our experienced staff.

Selecting the Path to Publishing

Once you have determined that Internet publishing can work for your business, the next step is deciding how you want to publish. Do I create and maintain my own website or use a third party vendor? The greatest benefit of creating and maintaining your own website is control. You will control the content and access of your website. However, maintaining and marketing your website may be beyond the technical capabilities of your staff and your budgetary constraints. By using a third-party vendor, you obviously give up some control of the delivery and access of the content. However, a third-party vendor can provide a very cost-effective way of publishing your data. Some of the attributes to look for in a third- party vendor are:

  • Experience and knowledge of the title industry. They should know land records and how they are used.
  • Experience and knowledge working with the web. Check out the vendors other websites.
  • Flexibility. Will the vendor warehouse your data or allow you to warehouse it locally?
  • Facilities. Does the vendor have the physical plant and equipment necessary to successfully implement your project?
  • E-commerce. Can the vendor’s website accurately account for the financial transactions?

Your third-party vendor should provide a detailed description of the marketing plan for their website, the search engines they are published on, cooperative local marketing programs, and agreements. They should also provide you with a fee schedule and the types of searches that will be allowed on the website.

Preparing Your Title Plant Data to Publish

The next step is to prepare your records for the Internet. Documents and data must be in a file format that is Internet friendly. An example of one database standard is SQL (pronouced Sequel). An example of one imaging format is TIFF Group IV. (Your in-house tech person will know more about these.) For companies still using manual systems, this means that your documents must be scanned and indexed. This can be accomplished internally or through any number of document conversion vendors. Unfortunately, this can be a time-consuming process. If data and/or images already exist in a digital format, then conversion can be more straightforward. The hardware requirements can be significant. You should expect to store between 5,000 and 11,000 images per gigabyte and approximately 500,000 to 1,000,000 index records per gigabyte, depending on the file format of your software.

Data security can also be a critical issue in evaluating Internet publishing. Software programs, called fire-walls, can be installed on your system that will limit and control access to your title plant information. Of course, posting a duplicate copy of your data and images to a dedicated Internet server, either yours or your third-party vendor’s, provides further protection against compromising the integrity of your in-house plant. An added benefit of using a third-party vendor, is that if your in-house system goes down, you can access your plant just like your customers by going on-line. The same backup protocols employed by your in-house system should be used with your Internet plant. Digital audio tape, CD-ROM, and raid server configurations are just a few backups and on-line backup devices.

Start the Process Today

The Internet can be an important tool to enhance the value of your title plant. If properly implemented, it can be a very cost-effective way to expand your marketing opportunities and revenue sources. However, time is of the essence, so begin your evaluation process today.

Objective

Action Plan

Automatic delivery system

Publish indices on the Internet

Publish document images on the Internet

Reduce the cost of  products records

Automate indexing and document producing

Import and process more source data

Provide unattended searching capability on the Internet

Provide unattended document viewing on the Internet

Automated billing and receipt

Joint plants  Adopt industry specific emerging artificial intelligence in researching

Create new products

Mine and compile existing data

Make easy definable reports available

Make products easy to access

Publish title plant information on the Internet

Make products easy to use

Internet browser searching

Reports in accessible file formats like PDF

Make the products easy to understand

Create easy-to-understand title chain scoring similar to credit scoring based on emerging artificial intelligence in researching

Share data 

Use open databases and architecture like SQL

Use widely-used market-driven products as database standards

Use products supporting industry standards

Make data easily available for other industries using the Internet

Provide greater customer-centered staff members

Reallocate existing experienced relationships

Provide customer relationship training


Neal Morris is Director of Internet Services for the Ultima Group. Ultima Software is the developer of the award-winning Title Plant software, TitleSearch. Ultima also publishes TitlePlant information for it’s customers @ eTitleSearch.com. Morris can be reached at 870-856-3055 or nealm@ultima.com



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