Quicken Loans Inc., the number one online retail mortgage lender in the United States, has helped more than 930,000 people finance their homes. Quicken Loans is the largest in a group of companies, referred to internally as the “Family.” Quicken Loans provides IT resources to its sister companies in order to help “pull the threads” together across the organization. The IT team wanted to build a solution the organization could use to bridge islands of expertise and experience across company boundaries. Quicken Loans used Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 to build an organizational extranet where team members from every company in the family can find one another and share resources. Now, people can collaborate across business groups and IT environments to strengthen teams, accelerate projects, minimize redundancies, and exploit cross-company opportunities.
For more than 25 years, Quicken Loans has integrated mortgage expertise with advanced technology and dedicated customer service, helping more than 930,000 people finance their homes.Solution
Quicken Loans is the number one online mortgage lender in the United States—according to National Mortgage News—and the fifth largest retail mortgage lender in the United States. In 2009 the company originated U.S.$25 billion in home loans.
Headquartered in Livonia, Michigan, with more than 3,000 team members in five regional offices throughout the United States, Quicken Loans is the largest enterprise in a family of companies. The individual companies—known as “sisters” within the organization—are as diverse in size as they are in their line of businesses, ranging from Protect America home security systems and the Cleveland Cavaliers professional basketball franchise of the National Basketball Association, to Ready Financial, which markets special-purpose credit and debit card products for consumers, to Quizzle.com, an online service where consumers can manage their home, money, and credit in one spot.
As the largest company in the organization, Quicken Loans provides IT services for many of the sister companies; however each company has its own independent IT infrastructure. There is no enterprise IT standard for Quicken Loans and its sisters, and Quicken Loans cannot control the IT infrastructures and policies of the other companies. Quicken Loans does manage a network for itself and eight of the other companies, but the remaining companies independently run their networks and manage a variety of IT environments supported by different servers, operating systems, Web browsers, and productivity software.
The organization knew that it had islands of expertise and experience within the sister companies that could create synergies if they could be shared across the organization. To make it easier for team members to find and collaborate with colleagues across sister companies, Quicken Loans developed a centralized enterprise roster. However, to effectively identify expertise across the organization, people still relied on existing relationships to point them in the right direction. The challenge was finding people and sharing information across the diverse companies and their contrasting IT systems.
Quicken Loans wanted to develop an organizational extranet portal in which every sister company could identify and share information and resources. Furthermore, it wanted to provide a simple, single-sign-on user experience, even across the different networks and Web browsers.
“We needed a business collaboration platform for multiple companies on multiple infrastructures over multiple networks in multiple configurations,” says Brian Dool, Technical Project Leader at Quicken Loans. “We knew this would be a significant challenge.”
Quicken Loans began evaluating Web-based technologies that incorporate content management systems, collaboration portals, and advanced search capabilities. It needed an enterprise-level solution so that it could manage and centralize information for all of the sister companies and maintain control over content access.
||We used SharePoint Server 2010 to leverage the strengths in all of our various companies and tie them together for maximum synergies. At Quicken Loans we call this ‘pulling the threads.’
Chief Architect, Quicken Loans
After it evaluated several technologies, Quicken Loans decided that Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 would provide the combination of capabilities, flexibility, and scalability the organization needed. The company moved quickly to take advantage of an opportunity to participate in a Rapid Deployment Program for Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, which Quicken Loans saw as a way to help meet its aggressive six-month timeline and take advantage of the updated business collaboration capabilities in SharePoint Server 2010.
“We set some pretty high expectations,” says Dool. “One of the reasons we chose SharePoint Server 2010 was we wanted an enterprise solution that matched the level of expectations and synergies of the different companies.”
Working with Microsoft Services and Sogeti, an independent solutions provider and Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, Quicken Loans used Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 to build an extranet portal called ThreadNation.com. Sogeti helped design the architecture of the portal and built early stages of the portal interface using Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 and a beta version of the Microsoft Visual Studio 2010
Sogeti avoided writing a lot of custom coding by using SharePoint Server 2010 as a development platform
. With enhancements to Microsoft Visual Studio 2010, developers can use more out-of-the-box tools to build an application in SharePoint Server 2010 and customize the user interface within the same development environment.
Quicken Loans worked with the other companies in the family to inventory their IT environments in order to deploy an extranet that would work consistently across the organization. For instance, users can access ThreadNation.com using multiple Web browsers, including Windows Internet Explorer 8, Safari, and Firefox.
The organization will launch the first phase of ThreadNation.com in 2010. The portal includes company news, career postings, team listings, information about each of the companies, and an organizational roster search. In future phases, Quicken Loans will add business collaboration capabilities such as secure file sharing, group security, and sub-site management.
To provide single-sign-on access to all team members in every company, Quicken Loans intends to set up a one-way trust that will manage access to the extranet across the entire organization. The company plans to use Active Directory Domain Services and Microsoft Identity Lifecycle Manager 2007 to help manage rights authentication between its existing nine-thread domain and an extranet domain that will include the remaining threads.
Initially, most site content and the roster index will be managed by Quicken Loans’ marketing, public relations, and human resources teams, though postings in the Careers link will be managed by the individual companies. As the extranet matures, Quicken Loans will transfer more content management responsibility to the sister companies. Users will be able to upload, edit, and update content with the Content Editor feature in SharePoint Server 2010 without having to rely on help from the IT department.
By building and implementing ThreadNation.com with SharePoint Server 2010, Quicken Loans created a business collaboration platform that allows people to collaborate effectively across separate business groups and IT environments. The sister companies can now find talent and expertise they need to help their individual units—and the larger organization—grow and succeed.
Collaboration Across Companies
Team Members at Quicken Loans and its sister companies can easily access and share business knowledge, collaborate, and find common information such as career postings, news, and events—
||We set some pretty high expectations. One of the reasons we chose SharePoint Server 2010 was we wanted an enterprise solution that matched the level of expectations and synergies of the different companies.
Technical Project Leader, Quicken Loans
even though the companies use different IT environments. “Building something that would interoperate across many different technologies was a major accomplishment,” says Dool. “With SharePoint Server 2010, we can connect everyone to the extranet while making sure they have a choice about their own IT environments.”
With a feature on ThreadNation.com called, “Search the Family,” team members can search a Microsoft SQL Server 2008 database for other team members in all companies by name, job description, teams, tags, and other metadata. Search results are presented in a visually engaging and informative list of employees, with thumbnail pictures and basic information. By clicking a search result, users open a window with detailed information about the person.
Team members at any of the companies can use ‘Search the Family’ to find people, obtain advice, and assemble teams quickly. In addition, by pooling their experience with common vendors, partners, and customers, team members can replicate the success of other teams, projects and relationships.
“We used SharePoint Server 2010 to build a search solution where we can find the people required and get the information needed for a particular job,” says Kevin McCallum, Chief Architect at Quicken Loans.
Simple, Positive User Experience
At Quicken Loans, team members already have a working familiarity with Microsoft Office programs such as Word, the Excel spreadsheet program, and the Outlook messaging and collaboration client. They can rely on that familiarity to easily adopt similar tools in SharePoint Server 2010, such as the Ribbon, part of the Microsoft Office Fluent user interface.
When people develop and update content for the extranet, they will be able to seamlessly operate SharePoint Server 2010 with the productivity tools they use every day.
“An Office user is already a very powerful SharePoint Server 2010 user,” says Dool. “So we can empower our users to be self-sufficient and accept a lot of core responsibility with minimal training.”
More Efficient Organization
With a business collaboration platform for sharing information between groups, Quicken Loans and its sister companies can promote knowledge sharing, identify redundancies, consolidate communication infrastructures and resources, and exploit cross-company marketing and purchasing opportunities. Managers can build teams more quickly and more efficiently, and projects can start faster. The organization can minimize duplicate efforts, and take advantage of synergies between companies to produce improved products for customers.
“We used SharePoint Server 2010 to leverage the strengths in all of our various companies and tie them together for maximum synergies,” says McCallum. “At Quicken Loans we call this ‘pulling the threads.’”
Future Platform for Sharing Information and Resources
After its initial launch of ThreadNation.com, Quicken Loans will be able to expand its extranet to meet its evolving needs. The company intends to incorporate social computing features like executive blogs or an “Idea Factory,” in which business proposals can be reviewed and rated, and add business collaboration tools like workflows and document libraries. It also anticipates using SharePoint Server 2010 to build intranet portals for the other companies in the family.
“Eventually, we will have a single portal in which to store anything that crosses the boundaries of these companies,” says McCallum.”With SharePoint Server 2010, we’ve taken the first steps toward this exciting goal.”
Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 is the business collaboration platform for the enterprise and the Web.
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