We can quickly spin up a working piece of functionality and talk about how to develop ideas further. Directus is definitely making us a lot more capable than we would be trying to go it alone.
SVP Software Engineering, Novus Home Mortgage
Novus Home Mortgage isn’t your ordinary residential home mortgage lending company.
In an industry traditionally lagging behind technology leaders, the company is leading the way for the industry toward a more automated, AI-driven, efficient mortgage experience, transforming 10-15 year old processes and eliminating time-consuming, error-prone manual tasks that slow things down.
Run by mortgage people for mortgage people, Novus operates roughly 50 branches across 47 states, enabling customers to apply for a loan, verify income and assets, digitally review and ensign signatures, and submit all their paperwork from a mobile device.
Mobile alerts and messaging keep customers informed during escrow, as well. Their approach to mortgages is truly revolutionary, and a company like that needs a website that communicates their unique value proposition while providing the tools that make it easy for employees and customers to leverage all of the technological advantages it offers.
“How much we invest in technology sets us apart,” said Daniel Laughland, SVP of Software Engineering at Novus Home Mortgage, who leads a small team of about a dozen engineers and developers.
“Everyone can apply online for loans, but how do you translate that internally? How do you build the tools you need to be the true tech leader in this space? How does proprietary software fit into that, and how do we integrate best-of-breed third-party solutions?
"Most importantly, how can we make this usable for everybody?”
Control and adoption were key
According to Laughland, one of his goals was to make the company’s website – where all the loans are processed – more flexible and accessible to loan officers with different technical skill levels.
“We wanted to try to get the best happy median we could, where loan officers could customize their customer-facing UI without leaning on the marketing department to do everything for them,” he said.
“We didn’t want to have to go in and make every little change, but with so many loan officers making changes, it can’t be a complete blank canvas.”
Another factor was ease of adoption.
“We wanted to have a common platform for everyone, where they can access marketing content and sales tools,” he said.
“It wasn’t just about an aesthetic redesign, but creating a foundation for a bigger, more efficient business engine.”
Laughland said his team had been using Titan CMS, which is similar to Wordpress, but based on .NET instead of PHP.
“It’s not a headless CMS,” he said. “It was hard for us to envision a world in which we could extend and customize the platform in the ways we wanted to, or easily make changes to templates. There isn’t a lot of documentation for the system, so if you’re stuck, you’d need a consultant.”
The team needed a platform that would scale effectively, that wasn’t too complex to customize. They evaluated several solutions, including Strapi and Contentful.
“We needed both a public-facing and internal-facing site, and I figured that would probably require building two separate apps,” Laughland said.
“Luckily, we found Directus.”
The ‘Wow’ factor
During the Directus demo, Laughland was blown away by the roles and permissions capabilities.
“Everything was great, but Roles and Permissions was one feature that made me say, ‘Wow, they really put a lot of thought into this.' There is an awesome balance between power and ease of use, which were both critical components for us.”
Two other features that caught Laughland’s eye were Live Preview, which allows you to show changes in your website collection before publishing and without the need to refresh the browser, and Directus Flows, which enables custom, event-driven data processing and task automation.
These features have really helped to accelerate adoption within Novus.
“There was some standard hesitation about using a new platform, and people were wondering if it would live up to our expectations,” Laughland said. “Seeing the speed at which we could iterate on database models and labels with Directus, along with the internal user-facing capabilities, generated a lot of enthusiasm."
"With Directus, we can really focus on creating a beautiful front-end design, and not worry about the backend.”
A smooth transition
The transition from Titan was “smooth sailing,” according to Laughland, who said the goal was to launch the internal loan officer microsite prior to the external-facing website.
The frontend was built using Gatsby and Lambda, and they may move to using Gastro or Remix in the future. Fortunately, any frontend works well with Directus.
User feedback, Laughland said, has been very positive. “There was a lot of excitement over having more control and being able to see everything in the dashboards.
"We didn’t want loan officers to feel like there was an approval process between them and actually controlling their sites, but compliance was still important,” he said.
“With the new system, we can review changes in bulk once a week rather than having to stop what we’re doing every time something changes – that way we can catch major errors and problems, while helping people stay productive.”
Innovation through iteration
Laughland and his team have started turning to Directus as a prototyping tool for Minimum Viable Product (MVP) design.
“Using Directus, we can quickly spin up a working piece of functionality and talk about how to develop ideas further,” he said, adding that with a small team, the agility to try out new ideas is key to productivity and innovation.
“Directus is definitely making us a lot more capable than we would be trying to go it alone,” he said. “The more we can iterate on these initiatives, the better they are, and the better we are from a technology perspective.
"With Directus, we can realize our bigger vision of being a technology leader in the mortgage space.”