PHH Mortgage Takes Control of Development

 
 
By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2006-11-07 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Case Study: A leader in private-label mortgage lending updates its systems with Borland tools.

When potential home buyers apply for mortgages on their dream homes, they may very well be doing so with the help of Borland Software technology. PHHs PHH Mortgage and Private Label Solutions department, in Mount Laurel, N.J., three years ago chose Borlands ALM (application lifecycle management) software to help automate the mortgage companys SDLC (software development life cycle) processes and to support its development teams dispersed around the world. PHH Mortgage has an internal development team of more than 320 software developers and has outsourced development to teams in locations such as Jacksonville, Fla., and both Bangalore and Calcutta, India.
Kim Wetten, lead process specialist at PHH Mortgage, said the teams work on creating systems to support new client initiatives and maintenance software releases every six to seven weeks. All the systems support new mortgage regulations such as those from the Department of Housing and Urban Development or the Federal Housing Administration.
"We chose the Borland ALM solution because it spanned the entire development life cycle, was customizable, integrated with existing technology investments from Microsoft and Mercury Interactive [now part of Hewlett-Packard], supported our distributed development initiatives, and fit our needs without forcing us into a new process methodology," Wetten said. The Borland software has paid off for PHH Mortgage, particularly in the areas of requirements management and software change and configuration management, PHH Mortgage officials said.
Borlands CaliberRM requirements management tool has been a leader in its segment, the Borland officials said. The same is true of its StarTeam software change and configuration management offerings. The Borland tools have helped PHH Mortgage gain more control over its development processes, PHH officials said. Before they used Borlands tools, PHH Mortgage business analysts used to collaborate and generate all business and technical requirements in Microsoft Word documents—a clumsy and tedious manual process, according to PHH officials. Moreover, this process provided no way to trace requirements or track requirements changes, PHH Mortgage officials said. Wetten said PHH Mortgage is one of the countrys largest providers of private-label mortgage services and a leader in arranging mortgage loans by phone. In 2005, PHH Mortgage provided $48 billion in mortgage financing for homes in the United Sates, company officials said. The company provides mortgage services to financial institutions, real estate brokers, affinity groups, credit unions, corporations and government agencies. However, PHH Mortgage faces increasing competition for customers and cannot afford to have its systems fail or not keep up with the latest trends and regulations. The companys Private Label Solutions department provides private-label mortgage services for affinity groups, credit unions and financial institutions. Another department focuses on real estate companies and provides mortgage services through four brands: PHH Mortgage, ERA Mortgage, Century 21 Mortgage and Coldwell Banker Mortgage, said PHH officials. With that portfolio of opportunities, the company has grown at a considerable rate, Wetten said. That growth has challenged the companys development team to keep up with the needs of 15 different internal business units. Click here to read about Borlands Lifecycle Quality Management solution. The first step was to improve the companys IT systems, starting with the SDLC. And part of the overall scheme was a move toward parallel development—so that development teams could create new applications and work on maintenance releases at the same time. To improve visibility into the development process, PHH Mortgage acquired Mercurys TestDirector tool for quality assurance and also moved to standardize on Microsofts Project for project management support. Meanwhile, the company was using a tool developed in-house to track software defects. However, that tool was disconnected from the other tools. Before making its move to update its systems, PHH Mortgage also had initiated a partnership with an offshore development team. That partnership proved unsuccessful because the offshore team had poor communication with and visibility into the operations of the U.S. teams. PHH therefore set out to find a tool set that could support distributed development and collaboration. Analysts at PHH Mortgage today use Borlands CaliberRM to capture and manage a variety of business, functional, operational and technical requirements. These requirements are then fed into Project and synchronized into Borlands StarTeam as development tasks, Wetten said. Meanwhile, Ed Briggs, PHH Mortgages configuration management team lead, wrote a set of custom triggers using Borlands Star-Team MPX Server to publish the functional requirements from CaliberRM to StarTeam and link them to the development tasks at hand. "The Borland solution has improved communications and collaboration tremendously among our teams," Briggs said. "It also has reduced manual processes and duplicate information, ultimately providing all of us with more opportunities for reuse. As a result, our overall development is more reliable and less prone to manual error." Moreover, the StarTeam tool supports PHH Mortgages parallel development effort with its software change management and configuration management capabilities. PHH Mortgages developers use Borlands Datamart for StarTeam, which provides change management, defect tracking, file versioning, and project and task management, Borland officials said. "We believe that distributed development is the single-biggest challenge and opportunity software organizations will face over the next two years," said Marc Brown, senior director of product marketing at Borland, in Cupertino, Calif. Process-centric SCM (software configuration management) solutions are particularly valuable in distributed development situations, where software development teams are dispersed across different locations, Brown said. Moreover, distributed development can significantly amplify the complexity and cost of software development, exacerbating communication challenges, increasing rework and reducing time to market for software projects, he said. StarTeam is designed to address the specific needs of distributed teams, providing a scalable multiuser environment that supports effective communication and collaboration across geographic and organizational boundaries, Borland officials said. Star-Teams central repository can be securely accessed from multiple locations, and it serves as the infrastructure to define workflow processes to increase control and visibility over distributed development projects. Moreover, replacing a formerly time-consuming task within PHH Mortgage, all database change requests are now automatically extracted from Borlands StarTeam. Previously, this involved printing out a list of Sybase PowerBuilder objects and then checking pages to find which items needed to be put into production and which were duplicates, Briggs said. "Like Borland CaliberRM, Borland StarTeam helps us promote team communication and collaboration through centralized control of all project assets," Briggs said. "The tools also help to more effectively manage change, so projects stay on schedule and IT management is alerted earlier in the life cycle of [any] potential impact to [the] schedule." Meanwhile, PHH Mortgage is moving to a services-based model so that its IT department can charge back for its services, and the Borland tools can help to enable that, Briggs said. "Right now we are working on automating our merge solution in order to further remove risk from the business," Briggs said. "If we can automatically propagate nonconflicting code from one branch to another, it will reduce the manual merging efforts for developers by around 80 to 90 percent." Overall, the move to Borland has paid off, PHH Mortgage officials said. "When a new regulation came down from HUD or the FHA, we used to have to stop new development projects to go back and work the regulation into existing releases," Wetten said. "With the Borland ALM solution, we can take advantage of parallel development, which means we no longer have to stop new development in order to handle changes in requirements efficiently." The Borland software works well with the Mercury and Microsoft solutions to update the PHH Mortgage systems. "Now we can see requirements through the life cycle and confidently answer questions about how solutions are working and if this release is better than the last release," Wetten said. Case File: PHH Mortgage, Mount Laurel, N.J.
  • Organizational snapshot: A provider of private-label mortgage services and mortgage loans by phone
  • Business need: To increase the capabilities of its IT and application development departments to support geographically distributed development teams and parallel development
  • Technology partner: Borland Software, of Cupertino, Calif.
  • Recommended solution: Borlands CaliberRM and StarTeam for software requirements management, as well as software configuration and software change Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis in programming environments and developer tools.
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    Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

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