The Alliance Portfolio Wins Microsoft Makeover

Over the past few months, we’ve been reporting on Microsoft’s Technology Makeovers contest. You read about how winners Andrew McLeod of the Pigeon Internet Group and Denise and Carlos Nunez of Japanese Car Care improved their businesses with their winnings. This month, we take a look at how this technology windfall will affect Microsoft’s third and final winner &#151 The Alliance Portfolio.

Profile 3
Company: The Alliance Portfolio
Business: A Private Money Mortgage Banking Corporation
Location: Newport Beach and Laguna Nigel, California
Owners: Thomas L. Testa and James Perry

Thomas L. Testa and James Perry run an eight-year-old lending company with 12 employees. They provide loan funding, processing and underwriting for borrowers and loan servicing and trust deed administration for investors.

“We have two offices,” says Testa, “and for a long time, now, we’ve wanted to connect them and have one single database for all our customer information. We wanted to reduce the redundancy we had in our data processing.” When The Alliance Portfolio( TAP) hired Orlando Flores as its IT director, Flores started researching how to do this. Because of the sensitive nature of the financial business, TAP didn’t want to use the Internet to connect its offices &#151 it opted for P2P instead.

“I saw the ad for Microsoft’s contest while I was looking for server software,” says Flores. “I entered it figuring, at worst, I’d get a bunch of brochures and sales calls.” A couple of months later, the call they received had nothing to do with sales: it was Microsoft confirming they had won.

Aside from the two offices not having a network connection, task redundancy was a huge issue for the company. Each office has its own specific tasks. The Newport Beach office handles borrower relations and loan originations. An employee would enter new customer info into the computer. From there it would go through four more departments &#151 and each department required more and often repetitious data entry. The system was slow and provided lots of opportunity to input errors.

Once the loan was set up, the file would go to the Laguna office for servicing &#151 and yet another round of data entry stops. “We desperately needed a better system,” says Testa. “A centralized data base will remove all the extra steps and provide a smooth, seamless handoff between the two offices.”

The technology makeover began with an analysis of TAP’s business by Microsoft advisors. Testa, Perry and Flores met with Microsoft reps and Integration Technologies, an Orange County Calif.-based Certified Microsoft Partner that integrated all of the new hardware and software &#151 a total value worth over $75,000.

HP provided the hardware for TAP, some of which included MS Small Business Server 2003, notebook PCs and two wireless Tablet PCs. Microsoft provided software for servers, along with specialized database and business contact applications. “We’re in the final stage of deploying the hardware,” says Flores. “Today we’re connecting the two offices and testing the server connection.

The Alliance Portfolio Team

The Alliance Portfolio team (l – r): Jim Perry, president, Orlando Flores, IT manager, and Tom Testa, chief executive officer.

Even though TAP hasn’t yet fully completed its makeover, Testa already anticipates big improvements over the old way of doing business. “In just the data entry process alone, we expect to see significant improvement,” Testa says. “Company-wide, we’re looking at 25- to 40-percent time savings.”

The new server technologies will also let TAP be an automatic clearinghouse. The company will be able to perform a variety of automatic, electronic banking services, such debiting customer accounts and distributing payments to investors. “I write hundreds of checks a day,” says Testa. “The automated debit and deposit will help us save time and the cost associated with mailing out all those checks. Having one central system where everyone can access our customer information will make it easier on everyone.”

Both Testa and Perry look forward to using the notebooks and Tablet PCs in the field. “I give a lot of sales presentations to investors,” says Perry. “Having it on a notebook will make reaching my audience more effective.” Testa plans to use the Table PCs on client calls in the field. “It’ll make entering data and closing loans faster,” he says. “We’ll be able to improve processes across the board and improve our productivity, efficiency, accuracy and speed.”

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of

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