The First American Corporation


Replace existing help desk software because of poor performance and an unresponsive vendor. The new software needed to be easier to use, require less administration,and cut costs. Most importantly, the new software needed to support the informational needs of managers and support staff without requiring them to learn any new technical skills.

“We diligently reviewed a number of help desk applications on the market, and we came to the conclusion that TechExcel ServiceWise was the best of breed; a year later, we still hold to that belief.”

David C. Yavorsky –  CIO of Mortgage Information Services


Executives at First American realized that they were spending an enormous amount of time and money maintaining help desk software that didn’t meet end-user needs or provide the business reporting they needed. Frustrated, they took their concerns to the software vendor.

“The cost of keeping that system going was tremendous. The hardware, the software, the consulting…we were locked in,” said Dennis Gartin, Senior Vice President of Web Development and Business Application Support at First American Real Estate Information Services.

Many of the end users and managers complained that the system was difficult to use and did not really provide them the functionality they needed. The data they collected was not easily accessible, which frustrated employees. ”The reporting for our group was terrible,” said Holly Myers, Director of Support Services. “Users could not customize their own reporting easily- to do so required extensive technical knowledge.” Creating new reports or making basic changes to the system required the help of outside consultants. Over time, more and more changes had to be made to the system, and consulting costs became high.

The work required to make these changes frustrated both support team members and managers.

Furthermore, these customizations caused an unexpected- and very serious- side effect; the extensively customized system could not be upgraded easily. Customizations were programmed into the system, so upgrading to a newer version required these changes to be reprogrammed by specialists and developers, who charged large fees and could not guarantee the upgrade would function as needed.


There was a clear need to replace the existing system. First American formed a committee to evaluate project requirements and manage the conversion process.

First, the committee focused on the most crucial features of the replacement software. The program should include reporting and analytics, simple interfaces for users, offer an employee portal to support the 31,000+ employees, and be less costly to buy and maintain than the previous system.

Holly Myers pointed out that “evaluating the software packages was a tremendously thorough process. We were in charge of making sure everyone got what they wanted. Every time we reviewed our options, TechExcel always came out on top.” TechExcel’s ServiceWise is unique in the industry, offering a combination of intuitive interfaces, sustainable performance, and total customizability for a reasonable price.

The committee, a group of First American managers, users, and executives from various departments, reviewed the software based on the needs of their own departments. In the end, committee members were surprised to see they had all reached the same conclusion independently: TechExcel’s ServiceWise was a best fit for their needs. Each department reviewed the software based on different criteria and the main concerns for each department are described below.


The First American support team receives an average of 20,000 incidents per month. Due to the nature of the business, many of these incidents are critical and need to be resolved very quickly. The high volume of incidents, combined with the large number of critical issues, require the support team to be very responsive. In order to be capable of responding to this demand, the First American support team must be able to rely on stable, fast software. Speed was a major concern to the support team, and their current system was already suffering with stability and performance issues. Project implementation time was another primary concern.

TechExcel ServiceWise gives Griffith the ability to manage support projects using a simple administrative client. Now, Griffith has access to project administrative tools, allowing him to take control of his projects. The software also enables him to easily create new business groups and sub- projects on his own, without hiring consultant or using IT resources as First American acquires new business units.


First American employees are located throughout the United States and Canada. With a family of 38 companies, each with groups and subsidiaries, the employees of First American use a wide range of applications that need to be supported. In addition, a large part of the employee user base is non-technical. A simple, self-explanatory employee web portal was a necessary requirement of any new help desk software.

Using TechExceI ServiceWise, employees submit tickets directly through the portal, saving the support team 330 hours per month previously spent doing manual email processing- the equivalent of two full-time employees.


The IT committee members were responsible for reviewing TechExcel ServiceWise from a technical standpoint. Hardware, integration with existing systems, administrative duties, complexity, and implementation process were all considered.



Customizations needed to go through a complete migration process. Changes were documented, given to the administrators or programmers, coded, checked-in, re-compiled, tested, and released.


Customizations are documented, given to administrators and changes are made and pushed to the end user in real time.

Customizations that previously took weeks or months are now done in real-time or over a weekend.



Customizations to the system caused major problems in upgrades. Coding done in previous version would have to be re—done in newer versions. Implementing a new upgrade would take months, entail a risk, and was very expensive.


Customizations do not affect the database structure or code. TechExcel
ServiceWise is always upgradeable. TechExcel updates can be done overnight or on a weekend.Upgrading TechExcel is a simple procedure. TechExcel provides free upgrades as part of the maintenance plan. 


Over time, custom code included many checks and validations that affected performance of the system. Investigations into system instability pointed squarely at the system’s over customization.


The system is designed to allow customizations within the TechExcel ServiceWise framework usually without custom programming. If custom programming is required, it is done using an API or direct database access and kept outside of the application server program. There is no recompilation of the application server.

TechExcel is scalable and fast. Since TechExcel is configurable without custom programming, TechExcel remains fast throughout its lifetime.

The IT committee members were also concerned with integrating the helpdesk software with existing applications. TechExcel worked with the IT group to integrate HelpDesk with existing systems and to automate tasks, such as a nightly update of new employee records from the existing HR system.

TechExcel ServiceWise tracks asset and hardware requests through the F0rmWise and AssetWise modules. Using these modules, employees complete a simple, web-based form at the employee portal. This request is stored within the ServiceWise  and linked to the employee.


Managers at First American were primarily concerned with reporting and functionality Previously, reporting was very difficult and required extensive technical knowledge. Additionally, many reporting features did not exist, were available at additional costs, or would require further implementation planning.

All departments agreed unanimously that TechExcel ServiceWise was the best fit. First American purchased and implemented TechExcel ServiceWise for the same price that the company spent on maintaining the previous software during a year. Hardware costs were low, and executives were confident in their decision to implement TechExcel.


Advance planning and preparation eliminated much of the risk of implementing the new system at First American. David Sheahan, product manager, estimated the project times at:

  • 75% business planning and technical planning
  • 10% implementing
  • 15% testing, and gathering user feedback

He added “Overall, this was a very successful project for two main reasons: Our own understanding of our business process, and TechExcel’s willingness to work with us in order to translate our process ideas into a physical system.”


“We diligently reviewed a number of help desk applications on the market, and we came to the conclusion that TechExcel ServiceWise was the best of breed; a year later, we still hold to that belief,” said David C. Yavorsky, CIO of First American Mortgage Information Services. A year after implementation, First American ServiceWise users are very happy, as are executives. TechExcel ServiceWise is an affordable, yet highly configurable application that can scale to meet the needs of the most demanding enterprises.

“I have never heard a bad thing said about the (HelpDesk) software or TechExcel,” said Dennis Gartin, Senior Vice President of Web Development and Business Application Support at First American Real Estate Information Services. “We can pretty much rely on that system to be up 100% of the time.” Dennis and the IT group are very impressed with the performance and stability of HelpDesk. In addition, the time spent maintaining the system was drastically reduced.

First American estimates that by implementing TechExcel ServciceWise, it saved over $2 million in upgrades and hardware costs, and $500,000 annually on maintenance costs. In addition to hard costs, administrative and developer resources were also gained, as the program was less complicated and required only simple maintenance and customization.

First Americans IT staff is also relieved with the simple upgrade procedure, which eliminates the high risk that was associated with previous system upgrades.


  • Reduced annual maintenance costs by 84%
  • Reduced new hardware and software license costs by over $2 million
  • Improved efficiency an estimated 330 support hours per month using the employee web portal
  • Reduced number of help desk system administrators by 75%
  • Project stayed within schedule, within budget, and ended on time as planned


“The ease-of-use and user’s ability to learn the software quickly made this product very attractive to us”
Terry Griffith, Manager, First American Support Center

“By providing a portal for an unlimited number of employees for no additional cost, we were able go from 990 users to over 22,000 users – and more users are added daily.”
David Sheahan, Product Manager, First American

“At First American, everything from parking spaces to hardware is tracked in ServiceWise.”
Sammy Edwards, Senior TechExcel Specialist, First American

“We diligently reviewed a number of help desk applications on the market, and we came to the conclusion that TechExcel ServiceWise was the best of breed; a year later, we still hold to that belief ”
David C. Yavorsky, CIO of First American, Mortgage Information Services

“I have never heard a bad thing said about the (ServiceWise) software or TechExcel. We can pretty much rely on that system to be up 100% of the time.”
Dennis Gartin, Senior Vice President of Web Development and Business Application Support at First American, Real Estate Information Services