Vision Implementation Case Study GreatAmerica Leasing Corporation Cedar Rapids, Iowa January 2008
 

Highlights

  • GreatAmerica consolidated origination processes from program management to booking with Vision
  • Vision customized collaboratively to meet unique and complex origination requirements
  • GreatAmerica provided with tools and training for future independent customization
  • Vision allows GreatAmerica to utilize complex functionality in the legacy lease accounting system
  • Vision provides flexible workflow, eliminates common mistakes, and gives management visibility

Introduction

GreatAmerica Leasing Corporation selected Vision Commerce to provide a front office solution to meet its diverse lease origination needs. Founded in 1990, GreatAmerica has exceeded $750 million in assets by delivering high-integrity, convenience-based financing solutions and business services to providers of office, telecommunications, health care and retail distributor focused equipment. The Vision Commerce lease origination system, Vision, provides GreatAmerica more flexibility and better control of all origination activities from dealer program management to booking.

From its beginning, GreatAmerica developed mutually beneficial relationships tailored to the individual dealer’s needs. With consistent growth in dealers and services, this approach naturally led to an increase in the complexity of origination and the creation of many data silos.

While many lessors apply technology for standardization and commoditization, GreatAmerica emphasizes the uniqueness of each dealer relationship. With customized relationships, there are hundreds of options available that impact every aspect of origination. Vision allows for mass customization while taking advantage of a consolidated framework for managing all origination data.

Working collaboratively, GreatAmerica and Vision Commerce leveraged the core Vision framework to design and deploy proprietary dealer program, pricing, lease application and scoring interfaces containing more than a thousand custom attributes. The Vision system is providing increased productivity and better management visibility with fewer errors and faster turnaround time.

GreatAmerica will continue leveraging the Vision Commerce platform as business challenges and opportunities arise. Due to the low cost of customization, GreatAmerica has already independently added significant functionality to Vision for scoring, reporting, and program management.

Some highlights of the Vision implementation at GreatAmerica are discussed below.

Partnership

As with all licensed customers, Vision Commerce’s relationship with GreatAmerica is a very close partnership. Vision Commerce provides an extension of the GreatAmerica workforce with a responsibility to provide the best solution possible. This duty requires Vision Commerce to have a firm understanding of the leasing industry, GreatAmerica’s business, and technology. Both companies challenge each other and suggest alternate approaches, and both companies are better for the relationship.

The Vision Commerce implementation team understands that sometimes you need to say no to a request and work with the customer to find a better approach. A large number of technology implementations fail because technology companies promise to deliver functionality that does not make business or technology sense.

As the companies collaboratively designed and deployed more custom functionality, GreatAmerica technology personnel became more involved at the technical level. The Vision framework is fully open and extensible. After the initial consolidation of dealer program information previously housed in dozens of systems, users identified additional elements stored in various files and asked the GreatAmerica technology staff to add them to Vision. GreatAmerica independently incorporated these fields.

Dealer and Program Management

With nearly 3,000 active and 10,000 historical dealers, dealer relationship management is at the core of GreatAmerica’s business. Depending on need and business relationship, a wide array of promotions, incentives, and pass-through revenues are available to dealers. The Vision interface was enhanced to track hundreds of proprietary data elements once stored in dozens of disconnected documents and databases.

GreatAmerica makes pricing and promotions available to dealers through programs. Generic programs can be rolled out to hundreds of dealers, but special programs might be developed for a single dealer’s use. With each dealer assignment, the default program rules can be can be overridden. GreatAmerica has nearly 1,000 active programs assigned to 13,000 dealers. The rules established for the business unit, dealer, and program are prioritized to provide a context for processing an application.

Application Workflow

In the real world, applications do not always flow down a direct or predictable path. Equipment, pricing, location, dealer, lessee and guarantor information can change. GreatAmerica’s workflow complexity is compounded by the varied business lines and wide array of dealer programs.

GreatAmerica needed four kinds of applications, each with its own distinct layout and workflow:
 
  • Screen
  • Standard
  • Line of Credit
  • Takedown on a line of credit

The sophisticated workflow capabilities built into Vision allowed GreatAmerica to establish 26 distinct application statuses that define requirements for each application format. Vision supports workflow at the field level. This powerful and configurable approach allows for the definition of a field as invisible, read-only, optional, or required for each application format, level of user, and application status.

Vision workflow also supports:
 
  • Warnings – they let the user proceed, but document a condition that is not optimal. An example would be an overridden residual that does not meet company policy.
  • Showstoppers – conditions that do not allow an application to proceed.
  • Approval authority – credit analysts are assigned primary and secondary approval authorities. Each application can be approved by up to three credit analysts, and their combined authority must meet company policy for an approval.
  • Yield authorizations – applications that do not meet yield policies must be properly authorized.

Workflow is not limited to applications. GreatAmerica also established business rules for dealer acquisition, program creation and program assignment.

Prior to implementing the Vision workflow, it was common for an application to get to the booking phase with incomplete information. This would cause a delay in booking and often resulted in the approval of conditions that were not acceptable. With a well-defined but flexible workflow in place, mistakes and miscommunication are nearly eliminated.

Advanced Scoring Engine

With an increasing volume of applications approaching 10,000 per month, GreatAmerica depends on scoring automation. GreatAmerica had several proprietary scorecards coded in legacy languages and a need to incorporate additional scorecards to support expanding business needs. Vision developed an advanced scorecard framework to support existing and anticipated scoring criteria. This framework allows for evaluation of information from credit reporting agencies, the application, and the lease accounting system. Proprietary scoring criteria and credit policies are table-driven allowing for the easy addition of new scorecards. Since the initial deployment of four scorecards in March 2006, GreatAmerica has added five more.

Aside from the ease of implementation, GreatAmerica enjoys several other benefits from their new scoring engine:
  • Validation – when a new scorecard is under construction, data from historical applications can be used for validation.
  • Scoring against multiple scorecards – a default scorecard is assigned based on application and lessee information, but the analyst can select from other scorecards as needed.
  • Use of custom packets – custom packets from Dunn & Bradstreet are used in scoring reducing credit evaluation costs.
  • Autoapproval – deals within policy limits are auto-approved reducing credit costs and turn time.

Because of a pressing need to add scorecards, the scoring interface was implemented prior to the full application. Vision Commerce was able to respond quickly to an urgent GreatAmerica need.

Asset-Level Tax Calculation

With equipment in every state, GreatAmerica found that the calculation of jurisdictional taxes was often complex, time-consuming, and prone to error. GreatAmerica challenged Vision Commerce to develop an asset-level tax calculation system to figure the jurisdictional taxes at the city, county, and state level correctly regardless of the address of the vendor, lessee, and asset.

The Vision tax calculations incorporate:
 
  • Tax basis (upfront on purchase price, upfront on gross receivable, on stream, not taxed) for each component of an asset (asset, labor, freight, training, supporting software)
  • Tax percentages at the state, county, and city level for all domestic jurisdictions
  • Address validation and geocoding
  • Special rules for states like Tennessee, Florida, Hawaii, Utah, Illinois
  • Special rules for Chicago

All tax calculations are now performed in Vision eliminating calculation errors and hundreds of hours of manual labor per month.

Backoffice Integration

Integration with the InfoLease lease accounting system was a critical requirement for GreatAmerica. Users have access to historical company and lease information directly from inside Vision, and booking an application is done with a single button click. The lease accounting system is used exclusively for contract management without the need to use any of the character-based application entry screens. The number of employees who need direct access to the lease accounting system dropped dramatically resulting in a significant reduction in licensing expense and IT support costs.

Lease accounting integration required more than just exchanging data. Like many growing companies, GreatAmerica was a victim of its own success. As its need to track data increased, creative workers found ingenious ways to stretch the capabilities of their legacy lease accounting system beyond its design limits. Fields were used for unintended purposes and sometimes housed multiple data elements in a non-normalized form. GreatAmerica and Vision Commerce unraveled the many elements shoehorned into the legacy system and determined where they really needed to be. Because the Vision framework is easily extensible, dozens of elements were transferred to Vision where they could be properly maintained.

GreatAmerica wanted to use some powerful features in the lease accounting system that could not be easily implemented due to the overwhelming amount and complexity of data entry. Examples included true asset-level allocation of points, discounts, upgrades, and miscellaneous billable items. The Vision interface was deployed to seamlessly transfer this data. The necessary information is entered into an intuitive interface, and Vision is responsible for behind-the-scenes calculation and mapping of the complex data.

Integrated Security

GreatAmerica did not want to maintain separate credentials for internal users in the Vision system. The Vision authentication protocol was augmented to support windows domain architecture. When a GreatAmerica user opens Vision from their authenticated desktop, they are immediately logged on without further action.

Documentation

Due to the many customized private-label programs and special dealer relationships, GreatAmerica had developed thousands of contract document templates. Maintenance of these documents was difficult and time-consuming. Using the integrated documentation capabilities, GreatAmerica was able to reduce the number of document templates by an order of magnitude. Document packages are easily constructed, and document administrators can script complex business logic and calculations for use on documents.

About GreatAmerica Leasing Corporation

Founded in 1990, GreatAmerica is a national lessor dedicated to helping manufacturers, vendors, and dealers sell equipment and operate their businesses in a way that makes them more successful. Headquartered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, GreatAmerica is known for its culture of hard work, integrity, and excellence. The company originates leasing transactions through numerous vendor and manufacturer relationships and provides financing in all fifty states and some US territories. GreatAmerica has grown to over $750 million in assets, virtually all of which is organic. Visit GreatAmerica at www.greatamerica.com.

About Vision Commerce, Inc.

Vision Commerce, Inc. (www.visioncommerce.com) was created to serve the leasing and finance industries. Vision's goal is to provide its clients access to e-commerce solutions that satisfy the diverse business requirements found in the equipment leasing industry. The company’s philosophy is that technology should automate routine processes and provide real-time information, but can never replace industry experience and product knowledge. The leadership team offers finance industry experience, technology expertise and a commitment to listen to and learn from the customer. Vision Commerce is a closely held, employee-owned company.