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Volume 11 Number 1    Winter 2013

Spotlight on title plant upgrades
Rounding third and heading for home

In 2012, Property Insight began the most ambitious plant conversion project in its ten-year history, migrating data from the Security Union Online (SOL) plants, used in eight Southern California counties, to the new TitlePoint plant format. In this article, we interview key individuals for their role and perspective on the last of the plant conversion initiatives.

The Product Manager’s Perspective

When Lisa Roessler joined Property Insight in 2003, the company had a plant presence in 40 counties and managed 13 title database formats. When she joined the TitlePoint product team in 2005, she remembers agonizing over search functionality design that had to be constructed different ways to accommodate the different plant formats.

“It was challenging...we were building things multiple times because of the differences between plants,” she recalls.

With the release of Santa Barbara, CA as a TitlePoint county, Property Insight turned the corner on plant conversions and began the process of retiring the mainframe Security Union Online system, the last of the remaining legacy plant formats supporting TitlePoint.

From 13 titles database formats in 2003, soon to be one.

Some never thought they’d envision a time when home plate was in sight, let alone being reachable. But Lisa recalls a company-wide commitment.

“Everybody’s energy level around plant conversions was so high,” she said. “There was so much knowledge. We knew this would be a huge challenge and take a long time before it came to fruition, but we’re almost there.”

The View from Sales

Fay Crisologo, Account Manager, recalls when users would perform plant searches using a dumb terminal. The upgrade to TitlePoint was a giant step forward, even if the underlying plant was in the original format.

In the old plant, Santa Barbara users had to be familiar with legal description formats that evolved over time in order to construct a property history. Now TitlePoint users can automatically retrieve property history, and view the “from” and “to” legal variations.

A new feature, Subdivision Look-up, allows users to easily search for and retrieve information about subdivisions, such as maps and legal descriptions. It’s one more locating tool designed to improve searching efficiency and accuracy.

Users also enjoy an upgraded name search function that allows for easier searches, especially for business names.

“The Santa Barbara conversion opened customers to a new world of functionality made possible in the TitlePoint format,” said Tere’ Traill, Account Manager. “Now they’re excited about more counties coming into this format, because we have whetted their appetite.”

Fay looks forward to the day when the last of the Security Union Online plants is converted and “… data limitations go away.”

Through the Eyes of Development

Mike Odorizzi leads the plant conversion team, the developers and data specialists tasked with mapping the plant data from the legacy systems to the TitlePoint format. This is accomplished by employing a methodical process to manage the change-over, which includes a painstaking review of the legacy plant and an understanding of how records are keyed and posted. A team from FNF India also plays an important role in the project.

“We divide the programming work into logical pieces and assign them to different developers,” he explained. Team members have already supported major plant conversions in Arizona, California, Washington and the Midwest. Some take on complex development assignments, while others scrutinize the data, looking for defects prior to the conversion. One member has more than 50 years of plant automation experience.

Understandably, Mike is reluctant to single out any one individual for recognition.

“If not for the efforts of all involved, the project would not have been a success,” he said. “I have confidence in the entire team and the methodology we have constructed over the years. Since 2005, when we converted our first California counties, we have grown progressively stronger as a team,” he added.

The final steps in the plant conversion process are outlined in what Mike calls the launch sequence.

“We begin several days in advance of the switch-over and start by extracting data from the legacy plant,” he explained. The actual conversion takes days and requires a systematic, step-by-step process that involves several teams within Property Insight.

“From our experience with prior conversions, we have found better and more efficient ways to convert the plant data,” Mike said.

Also, the plant quality actually improves during conversion, a major goal in a plant conversion project

The View from Operations

Erik Bauer is Data Administration Manager in Southwest Operations. His focus is on achieving a 100% cross-reference in plant matching, or linking every parcel number to very top-layer property.

To accomplish this, Erik and his team employ a proprietary software application that creates the property control file, the backbone of a modern geographic plant. And while this application employs numerous automated QC checks and validations, it doesn’t mean your hands don’t get dirty.

“Every map – recorder and assessor – has to be touched,” he explained. “You can’t cut corners when you’re connecting entities in the data. And you still have to deal with historical data, regardless of how challenging that becomes in a conversion,” he added.

The Santa Barbara plant conversion paled in complexity to the Santa Clara, CA plant conversion, completed in the summer of 2012, when 1.8 million parcels were rolled into the TitlePoint format. There, software automation played a key role in producing a quality plant under much tighter time constraints.

Erik believes that the high level of cooperation between the teams involved in plant conversion, subject matter experts in plant operations, plant structure, applications development and quality control is the underlying factor in the success of a plant conversion.

“The collaboration between teams is incredibly strong,” he said.

Erik also credits a plant operations team that is becoming more tech-savvy and capable of running queries on data and performing diagnostics. Systematic testing allows plant operations to test plant quality more thoroughly, elevating confidence.

“The transparency in the process is terrific,” he said. “The visibility into what the data represents eliminates guesswork.”

The Outlook

Looking ahead in product design, the prospect of a single, national title database format excites Lisa Roessler.

“The doors are just wide open,” she said. “Our offerings will be consistent across counties, making it easier to train and support clients who are taking their businesses to a regional model.”

For Mike Odorizzi, the prospect of finishing the conversion of the remaining legacy plant formats, which involves the largest automated plant in the country – Los Angeles – seems daunting, but not impossible.

“With L.A., we're going to have to change our design for the way we convert the data,” he said. “But we have the benefit of having completed dozens of plant conversions and creating checklists of what to look for.”

To Erik Bauer, the attention to detail in plant conversions is all part of the company’s passion for data: “If it’s not accurate, you can’t build on it,” he explained.

Tere’ Traill believes that the Santa Barbara plant created credibility. “It showed real progress… real commitment to moving our technology forward.”

Now, change can’t come fast enough.

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