Compete By Creating a Better Experience

July 11, 2014

A few years ago one of our competitors completed a successful IPO, effectively dissolving the anchor of “financial lack” that companies like Cogent Road wrestle with daily. Competing against a public company’s deep-pockets requires courage and dedication. It also requires that the smaller company fully understand its singular competitive advantage, in order to pump all its creative energy into it.

Customers spend money with your company for one reason – to achieve the “experience” you’ve promised to provide. We may speak of features and benefits, but these are akin to the planets orbiting around the central sun of a “promised experience”.  To compete successfully, public company or not, your business must be able to deliver an experience that prospective customers prefer over other options. If your solution creates a more valuable experience, customers will direct their currency into your company. As long as you focus on creating new ways to increase this experience, more and more currency will flow your way.

Cogent Road creates enterprise software that helps our clients more easily attract customers and currency into their businesses. We focus on creating solutions that produce “scalable-growth” while removing “friction” from their operational processes. Since we currently operate in the mortgage banking space, our software must be an engine that attracts borrowers more easily, processes loans more quickly and ensures compliance with increasingly complex federal regulations. We want our clients’ businesses to experience “growth”, therefore our software must be the engine that drives this evolution.

Once you’ve identified the experience you wish to create, the second step is to identify the competitive advantage you will use to deliver it. What unique skills and abilities do you possess within the combined intellect of your company? As I have mentioned in other blogs, a company is never a product or solution, it is the aggregate of your employee’s capabilities. Therefore, in what way can you focus your employee’s potential to create a laser-sharpened advantage in the market? And how will this advantage create an experience more highly valued than that of your competition?

A good example is the way Apple focused on creating an experience of elegance – through the competitive advantage of design superiority. Like beautifully wrapped presents, every Apple product, icon, retail store and even its advertisements, provided its customers with an experience of elegant design. Apple used design to create harmony between hardware and software in ways that significantly enhanced our experience with digital music and mobile phones. Apple’s strategy created market superiority and hundreds of billions of dollars in economic value. What I admired most about Steve Jobs was the way he was able to align an entire company of talented people, in a multitude of disciplines, into a singular focus on design excellence. Apple attracted huge volumes of currency because its customers desired the experience offered through its elegantly designed solutions.

How then can Cogent Road create software that promises customers the experience of scalable business growth? We do this by focusing on our singular competitive advantage; we try to get better and better at increasing the economic value of “data-transit”. Our software is designed to convert data from “source” into “economic value” as quickly as possible. The better we do this, the more economic value we create for our customers. The greater the economic value, the greater the “growth” in our client’s businesses.

The bottom line is this; when you focus on enhancing your customer’s experience, your customers will happily support your business.

And whether IPO or start-up, happy customers are always the best source of funding.

Our Kind of Toys

June 20, 2014

Back in September of 2011 all of San Diego county experienced a power outage that lasted almost 12 hours. While we were all happy to know that our datacenter backup power worked as expected, our office wasn’t as fortunate. The length of the outage quickly burned through our office back-up generator and quickly cut us off from clients. It was a situation that made us rethink the idea of continual power to the office itself, not just the data center.

We were able to solve the problem with a diesel powered generator that can run for nearly 15 hours. Fuel fill-ups can keep us going through an Armageddon.

We are just getting it hooked up and will be simulating a full power outage to test our failover capabilities. Check out our new toy below.

20140620_141240     20140620_141321

Roohmz Enterprise in a Soft-Launch

May 9, 2014

I am happy to announce, that after many years, Roohmz Enterprise as a complete, end-to-end loan production and knowledge management exchange has entered a “soft-launch” with less than a handful of lenders. The Roohmz “soft-launch” is a “closed” launch so that we can focus on these clients and ensure that everything happens smoothly. In fact, we are not even demonstrating the software to any other prospective lender right now. Overkill? Maybe – but rolling out such a big, complex application is new for us, and quite frankly we may not be very good at it at first. The entire company is focused on these few, new customers involved in the soft launch of Roohmz Enterprise.

For the past two years we have been thinking of how Cogent Road would bridge the gap between building the digital realities of our enterprise systems – and the “physical” realities required to integrate our software into the client’s work experience. This is no small chasm as the expertise needed for one doesn’t overlap much with the other. In short, we are adept software engineers, but complete novices regarding deep client engagement. Consequently, we needed to conceive, create and execute a client implementation strategy.

We started by creating a team we call “Blue Sky”. In addition to Alan and myself, this team consists of our COO, quality control manager, vp of corporate messaging, vp of account leadership and our director of education. This team is focused on creating the system we now call “Streamlining”, in which a client learns not only how Roohmz Enterprise operates, but most importantly how its operation improves individual job performance.

We’ve modeled the Streamlining process after our flow-based, software development model. Consider that true enterprise software is never completed. If properly architected, an enterprise application should grow continually as new solutions are uncovered through the use of the software itself. Otherwise, the software will eventually die.

To create a definable system that accommodates perpetual growth means you have to incorporate the concepts of “growth” into its development. We do this by building our software in “sprints”. A sprint is a short period of time, say two weeks, in which we begin coding what we believe to be most impactful at the beginning of the sprint. While engineers code out the objective, others work to define the next sprint based on the vision of the application as a whole. Thus, each sprint gives us the opportunity to reflect, prioritize and execute that which is most impactful. String a bunch of sprints together – and you have a perpetually growing, impactful software application.

We are taking the same approach with Roohmz Streamlining. We communicate to the client what we hope to accomplish for a week long sprint, and then interact during the sprint to ensure all is going smoothly. As the sprint progresses, the Blue Sky team assesses the most impactful strategies needed for the next sprint. In this way we hope to leverage our current software development expertise to smoothly integrate clients into our Roohmz platform.

Can we do it? Yes. Will it go smoothly? Probably not, because we have only now begun the experience.

But we do have a plan, strategy and system in place to get to “smooth” as fast as possible.




The Symphony of Harmony

May 4, 2014

During the integration process with a vendor we were asked to define our competitive advantage. I’ve been thinking about the question this weekend and wanted to share a few ideas here.

In a sentence, Cogent Road’s competitive advantage is our software’s ability to increase the economic value of our client’s data.

We are “road-workers” in the literal sense in that our business is building data highways, so to speak. We create the networks through which data travel – and we tighten up these roadways so that there are as few slow spots as possible.

This may not mean much to our clients initially because data exist only as a probability. Unless you are a theoretical physicist, or maybe a gambler, its hard to get excited about probabilities. Until you realize that in order to build software that transits data efficiently, you must first build a “transit-system” that can expand to accomodate all probabilities. To set off down this path, we focus our software development perspective on the ever-expanding principals of harmony created within the finite musical scale.

There are 12 notes in music – each a frequency of specific “steps” from the other. These steps create the framework of the musical staff – a solid, immutable structure. Yet, that regularly spaced, rigid and inflexible staff of 12 notes, creates a  never-ending  progression of beautiful, free-flowing symphonies. Out of a finite structure of 12 – streams the infinite. This is the kind of idea you can spend a lot of time discussing, and still not fully understand how it can be.

Ok, maybe I tend toward the dramatic a bit in these blogs – but the point is that music reveals that a simple, very easily understood structure can be built to accommodate all future possibilities.

We hope that our growing understanding of expandable data transit systems will result in great software. And ultimately, we hope it plays like a beautiful symphony of harmony for all clients and industry partners.

April 26, 2014

I just got off the phone with Alan, my partner. We took back to back vacations – which (except for a joint client fly-by in the middle) we haven’t seen or spoke with each other in two weeks.

When I hung up the phone I realized how much I had missed him. There are a lot of projects flying around the company right now – and in these times, Alan is a good guy to have beside you.

Our joint perspective on life and business, garnered over a decade working with each other, allows the creation of incredible software architectures. Our software intersects with business processes in order to enhance those processess for all that participate in the system. You could say we like to dream up ways data movement can prosper our clients. This is easy for us because we continually think in data movement.

And because our jobs are to create software.

I am glad to do the work with you, Alan.


Good Software Needs No Promotion

April 21, 2014

The past several months have been a whirlwind. A cyclone actually, with all of us caught up and tossed through the air like ragdolls at amazing speeds. There were times when it was difficult to even follow a thought through to its end.

Since my last post on December 24th Cogent Road has:

  1. Moved into our new, larger and much cooler tech-forward office,
  2. Landed our very first, appropriately sized lender on Roohmz Enterprise,
  3. Identified a very competent financial whiz to help us navigate cash-flow challenges,
  4. Started work on our Quantum Database,
  5. Applied for our first patent surrounding our artificial intelligence engine,
  6. Implemented a new quality control process for Cogent Road’s digital services,
  7. and added both a VP of Account Leadership and a VP of Corporate Messaging.

And we’ve done all this without any investment capital.

My partner and I funded Cogent Road by building the Funding Suite credit platform in 2007. Clients use Funding Suite to order credit reports, tax transcripts, flood certificates and associated services. The software succeeds because we built it to transit (arrange and move) data in ways that add economic value to our clients. We build software this way because we know that customers will naturally use the system that provides the greatest economic value. Other companies may perceive that offering a lower price would achieve economic value over a competing, more expensive system. And, this is partially correct. Yet, it is much more important to build systems that transit data in ways that CREATE NEW VALUE out of existing data.

Ways to create value in software come from the different ways the software arranges data – be it for analysis, reporting or decision making. If our system does a better job in this area – our software creates greater value for the customer because it removes friction in their operational processes. Businesses with the least “digital” friction make more money  – in the same way that an object moving with less friction covers more ground with the same energy. Never forget, good software optimizes data transit in ways that increase “economic value” while minimizing operational friction.

Funding Suite grows organically as people use it. We do not have sales people, we do not attend tradeshows and we do not market. Instead we focus on supporting current clients and solving problems through better data arrangement. Think of it this way – if your software is going to help you it must first understand HOW to help you – and then learn how to it better. It is therefore our belief that companies will seek out our software because it improves their business performance.

Our latest application, Roohmz Enterprise, goes further because it can be taught to understand and enforce a client’s unique business process. We follow the quantum tenants of “string theory” in which our architectural design must be able to adapt to ALL possible situations from its present architectural foundation. Sounds impossible until you discover that quantum law serves as a faithful blue print. Therefore we use the concepts of “entanglement”, “fractal imaging”, and even our new synaptic database structure to create a software platform that can be easily understood today – yet can grow significantly more powerful over time. Roohmz is therefore able to be continually improved based on what we learn through its use.

One last note. One of the most important precepts of quantum theory is that sustainable systems must be supportive of those that participate in the system. For example, a black hole can not exist unless the information that disappears into the black hole remains in tact. Otherwise, the black hole would be “destructive”, catastrophically sucking the entire universe into its “nothingness”. Roohmz is a PROSPEROUS SYSTEM – and purposely designed to prosper ALL those who participate with it as either a data provider, client or client’s client.

I find it unlikely that I will ever need promote this fact – other than the way I have done it here.

Roohmz Enterprise: A Knowledge Management Exchange

December 13, 2013

As we get closer to launching Roohmz Enterprise (in Beta) I have wrestled to define its category. Initially I called it a loan production system only to feel confined by such a tight definition. I drifted toward Process Management System, but that felt stodgy and stale. For a moment I tried Business Management System, but I laughed at the acronym. In past blogs I described Roohmz as an operating system – and it is. But even this concept is too restrictive since operating systems control hardware.

So what is Roohmz anyway?

To better understand Roohmz we’ll have to look at it from the perspective of a software engineer. In software development we use repeating sets of instructions called “objects” which can be called and then influenced by “attributes” appended to them. In this way software code can reference an object and then use any number of attributes to influence what the object does. This makes software code lighter (less lines) and stronger. Further, flexibility is greatly enhanced because objects can be combined in growing numbers of ways to produce new solutions – without recoding from the ground up each time. This concept is called Object Oriented Programming.

We built Roohmz around the Object Oriented model in that we created a super-easy, non-technical language mortgage executives could use to “teach” Roohmz how to enforce their desired business processes. Once taught, Roohmz then uses artificial intelligence to assemble every loan according to the business process it now understands. In order to build a “teachable” system, we started by creating a library of objects users could arrange visually on the screen. Each object performs tasks such as running an audit, performing a calculation, ordering a product, moving a loan file to the next person in line, delivering disclosures, receiving documents from consumers and everything else needed to ensure fully compliant mortgage loans are assembled quickly and consistently and as near automatically as possible. This object model also means that Roohmz can learn and enforce different business processes for each loan type if desired.

Because we use an object model, Roohmz continually grows more powerful each time we add new “functionality” objects into the software. As we learn from our clients, we will discover new ways to combine existing objects into brand new capabilities. It is therefore a very customizable, yet scalable solution that provides increasing value to every client that uses it.

More than just software, Roohmz Enterprise is also a private and secure internet-based exchange network. This means a lender’s business process can now include securely sharing data and financial information between any third party also in the Roohmz network (e.g., other lenders, investors, partners, vendors, consumers). It is the ability to incorporate third-parties directly into business specific management processes that makes Roohmz so powerful. Securely sharing and exchanging information in this way also brings much needed data integrity to an industry currently drowning in redundant data and systems.

So we see that Roohmz is a teachable system that enforces the ideas of executives – and also provides a secure exchange which can both receive, deliver and act upon information from third parties within the network.

Going forwared Roohmz is best described as a Knowledge Management Exchange, or KME.


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