James "Scott" Hardie
Class of 1991
The ALtiris® Solution: Altiris® Total Management Suite
> The company’s rapid growth placed a strain on the IT
department’s ability to deliver the quality services it was
> The company used a number of outdated and time-consuming manual processes for preparing new servers and clients, and deploying software updates and patches
> The company had no robust, integrated platform for IT
About Quicken Loans
Quicken Loans is America’s top online mortgage lender and one of the largest home loan lenders nationwide. In 2005, the company closed $16 billion in home loans and has more than 3,400 home loan experts dedicated to getting customers into the home of their dreams. Quicken Loans has been recognized by Fortune, Computerworld, and others as one of the best companies to work for in America.
THE BUSINESS VALUES
> Improved service levels to all employees by deploying new
machines more quickly and reliably, reducing system
downtime, and automating help desk services
> Equipped the IT team with the automated tools needed to support a rapidly growing organization while allowing a number of IT staff to be redeployed to more strategic and beneficial projects
> Replaced numerous point solutions and manual processes and with a broad and integrated IT management solution to support future growth
A Solid Foundation for Fast Growth
Quicken Loans, previously Rock Financial Corporation, is a pure growth story. Founded in 1985 by Daniel Gilbert, the company soon became one of the largest independent mortgage banks in the country. After a successful IPO in 1998, Rock Financial launched Rockloans.com which quickly became one of the most popular online mortgage sites on the Internet. Then in December 1999, Intuit (makers of Quicken TurboTax and Quicken) purchased Rock Financial and renamed the company Quicken Loans. Quicken built the subsidiary into the leading provider of direct-to-consumer loans. Seeing the continued growth and success of his former company, Gilbert and a group of investors bought Quicken Loans back from Intuit in July 2002, retaining all Quicken Loans branding and marketing initiatives. With the solid foundation built by Gilbert and Quicken, and the Quicken brand name, the company is now growing at an even faster pace. “Growth is both a great benefit and great challenge,” said Noah Ravenscroft, Systems Engineer for Quicken Loans. “It creates an exciting environment for everyone.”
Rapid Growth Brings New Challenges
Quicken Loans has been adding approximately 100 employees per month, setting up multiple labs with hundreds of computers each, and adding new offices across the country. This rapid growth has created multiple challenges for the IT department. From a system provisioning perspective, each new employee required a new desktop and/or laptop computer. Combined with the need to get the labs up and running quickly, the IT department was overwhelmed preparing new machines. The growing number of employees also meant additional support was required to deploy the constant flow of new patches and fixes to keep the network environment secure. In addition, the number and complexity of support issues were increasing, inundating the help desk staff and their inadequate help desk software. In addition, the IT team wasn’t spending enough time on proactive tasks such as IT asset management. As soon as a computer would come in the door, the IT team was in such a hurry to get it ready, there was little time to enter the information into an asset database. And since the front office was just as busy, software licenses were not being tracked as closely as they would have liked. As the IT team sat back and looked at the situation, they knew they needed a change. The team realized they were not going to be able to keep up without bringing in a solution to automate a number of their manual processes and provide the help desk functionality needed to support the increasing volume of service requests.
Selecting the Best Solution
In December of 2004, the IT team evaluated a number of IT lifecycle management products including Altiris and Novadigm (then Radia). Each vendor came in and gave a demonstration of their product. After a thorough evaluation, Quicken Loans decided to go with Altiris, at least until Ravenscroft, an SMS expert, joined the company. As soon as he joined Quicken Loans, he put a hold on the purchase of Altiris to make sure it was the right choice and that the IT team had explored all of their options. Ravenscroft organized a demonstration of SMS working in conjunction with Novadigm. Although the solution was tightly integrated with Active Directory, an important factor for Quicken Loans, SMS just didn’t measure up in other key areas. The Altiris Total Management Suite offered a breadth of features and also provided an integrated help desk solution. In the end, it was Altiris Deployment SolutionTM that clinched the deal. “Looking at all of the pieces together made Altiris a better value than SMS,” said Ravenscroft. “Feeling comfortable that we had thoroughly evaluated all of our options we decided to go with Altiris.”
XCEND Group and Quicken Execute a Near-Perfect 7-Week Rollout
Now that the decision was made, the IT team went to work rolling out the Altiris Total Management Suite across the company. To speed the process, Quicken Loans worked with XCEND Group, an IT consulting firm that specializes in the design and implementation of cross-platform lifecycle management solutions that reduce the cost of owning and managing IT assets. The Quicken Loans team felt XCEND had the right experience with Altiris to get Total Management Suite up and running quickly and successfully.
The combination of a focused and motivated Quicken Loans team with the knowledge and expertise of XCEND proved to be a valuable combination. Working together, the two companies had the Altiris Total Management Suite up and running in just seven weeks. In addition, there was only one trouble ticket reported during the entire rollout period. “This is an amazing feat when you consider the breadth of the Altiris product and our aggressive schedule,” said Kathy Ternes, the Quicken project coordinator for the Altiris rollout. “XCEND was instrumental in making this project a huge success.”
Results to Date
One of the first things to be installed was Deployment Solution since system deployment was one of the IT group’s biggest bottlenecks. As part of the installation process, XCEND created 35 separate hardware-independent images for the various models of Quicken Loans’ Dell desktops and laptops, as well as the company’s Dell and HP servers. XCEND also converted the company’s existing Ghost images so the Ghost infrastructure could be retired. The combination of the Altiris Deployment Solution and the new images saved significant time and money, provided a standardized process for future builds, and removed the possibility of human errors. To illustrate the time and cost savings, Quicken Loans and XCEND built 56 machines at the Troy, Mich. facility and 26 computers at the Farmington Hills location in just one hour and 35 minutes. The old method would have taken over 60 hours or seven days of work. The return on investment (ROI) for Quicken Loans is impressive. Previously, it cost the company $33.75 to build a desktop, laptop, or server. Now, with Deployment Solution and the new images, it costs only $2.25—a 1500 percent improvement. For a company that is deploying more than 100 clients and up to 25 servers a month, not including the extra machines needed for new labs, this adds up to significant ROI for the company.
Altiris has also dramatically reduced the time it takes to update clients and servers with the latest patches and fixes. By automating many of Quicken Loan’s manual processes, Deployment Solution simplifies the previously time consuming task to just a few easy operations. Altiris also increases the confidence of the IT staff. With the Altiris Total Management Suite, the IT team receives reports confirming the patches and fixes have actually been deployed, installed, and configured correctly. Prior to Altiris, the team had no idea if a given deployment was successful. Another key area for Quicken Loans was Altiris Helpdesk SolutionTM since the company had outgrown the Track-It! system it was using. To speed the transition and improve Quicken Loans’ helpdesk capabilities, XCEND customized the Altiris solution to support the company’s 30 business units with full workflow and automated routing of service requests. In addition, the total cost of ownership (TCO) was assigned to the 170 helpdesk users, so the cost of support could be assessed across each business unit. Automated tasks and validation rules were also created for common requests to remove human error and ensure a standardized process for support.
To allow business units to create articles for both self-service identification and remediation, XCEND implemented a full knowledge base. Additionally users were “associated” with supported IT-related assets. This allowed Quicken Loans to take advantage of real-time inventory and diagnostics to quickly resolve end-user problems and allow surveys to be sent to measure end-user satisfaction.
Finally, Altiris allows the help desk team to print a number of reports, helping them to make better decisions and be more proactive in managing their IT environment. For example, using reports from Helpdesk Solution, the team can tell what types of hardware or software are most problematic and can adjust their budgeting and purchasing decisions accordingly.
Dell Hardware, Altiris Software, and XCEND Professional Services—A Winning Combination
XCEND leveraged Altiris and Dell tools to further automate and report on all of Quicken Loans’ Dell desktops, laptops, and servers. By leveraging the Altiris Dell Deployment Toolkit for Altiris Deployment Server, Quicken Loans can now quickly provision server RAID arrays and configure BIOS settings for servers prior to being imaged. This allows the IT group to easily configure servers for specific business needs. XCEND also utilized WMI and DMI to consolidate all Dell server ESM logs into Altiris Web-based reports greatly simplifying the process and making reports easier to access. Finally, XCEND used the Altiris Dell Patch Management Solution to allow Quicken Loans to proactively patch the server BIOS and hardware firmware levels to keep them updated with the latest revisions.
Passing the Real Test
Following the implementation, James “Scott” Hardie of XCEND prepared a presentation for the Quicken Loans management team that walked them through every week of the engagement and implementation process, the main areas where progress was made, identified risks, results to date and proposed next steps. The CIO was so impressed with the work that he recommended XCEND for one of the company’s most prestigious awards. The selection committee concurred and presented XCEND with the Quicken Loans’ Partner Recognition Award in January 2006.
“Altiris Total Management Suite has exceeded our expectations,” concluded Ravenscroft. “We have saved time and money by automating many of our manual processes, freed a number of IT staff to focus on more important tasks, and have built a solid IT lifecycle management platform that will support and even accelerate our ability to provide the robust IT services Quicken Loans needs to support its rapid growth.”
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