HUD's e-case system offfers framework for other services

SOA application for mortgage lenders cuts processing time by 30 percent

Program executives at the Housing and Urban De-velopment Department are beginning to buy into the idea of a service-oriented architecture, even if they're not sure what it is.

A new HUD program, which took effect last month, is designed to streamline the processing of mortgage loans guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration. The initiative will let major lenders endorse FHA loans without first having them reviewed by HUD. And it's built on an architecture that can be applied to other programs.

'This is the first set of business processes that we're tackling as an enterprise using this type of architecture and the service-oriented approach,' said HUD CIO Lisa Schlosser.

An SOA, which defines components in an IT infrastructure and links the results of various applications, can allow components to be reused for other purposes.

'The term service-oriented architecture went over my head,' said Margaret Burns, FHA director of single-family program development, who sought Schlosser's help in working more efficiently with major mortgage lenders, such as Wells Fargo Home Mortgage of San Francisco, to eliminate paper and get costs down.
Schlosser saw the opportunity to create a framework that could serve other business requirements as well; she didn't want to build another stovepiped system.

Through the SOA, HUD is reusing the architecture that supports the single-family mortgage electronic case binder for other programs.

Lenders submit to HUD a sample of the mortgage loans for quality control purposes in an electronic case binder through HUD's FHA Connector online system, Schlosser said.

The system updates a previously burdensome paper process that included copying and shipping two-inch-thick paper binders back and forth between lenders and HUD.

At its most basic level, the e-case binder system tracks workflow and manages documents and records, functions that other HUD programs could use.

For example, HUD is using the same architecture and content management software to support the e-case binder and to track HUD's internal correspondence related to Freedom of Information Act requests and the hundreds of rules, new requirements and grants it publishes annually. HUD had been using a 20-year old system running on a Unisys mainframe for the correspondence tracking.

Many of HUD's business processes that require tracking workflow and document and records management will now use the same Sun Java 2 Platform Enterprise Edition-compliant architecture, XML standards and Web services, and content management software from EMC Corp.'s Documentum division in Hopkinton, Mass.

HUD is using Documentum Content Server and Documentum API Developer Studio to automate its business workflow and document management'initially for the e-case binder and eventually for an internal Correspondence Tracking System and Electronic Records Management System.

Essentially, this creates one of the first reusable service components in HUD's new SOA.

By eliminating paper, HUD saves about 25 percent on loan insurance costs and processes documents 30 percent faster, Schlosser said.

Other HUD business and program managers now are sending Schlosser their requirements to use the system to assist with workflow and the grants application process.

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