The Land Registry has digitised the processing of applications to register property or hand, allowing the organisation to halve the fees charged for the service.
Previously applications were filled in on paper, signed and posted, received by Land Registry a few days later, assigned to a specific office and manually entered onto their system, before being posted back to the user.
Operations manager Kirsty Eales explained how the lengthy process has been automated, making it cheaper and more efficient.
She said: “The vast majority of users, unless they legally require a wet signature, scan the documents and submit them electronically.
“That way we receive them as soon as they press the complete button on their screen. That removes the two or three day postal delay and the need to put the application onto our system manually, which can lead to human error.
“We don’t use paper at all. We receive applications electronically, look at them on a screen and dispatch back to them, electronically.”
According to Lizzie Adams, head of the Land Registry’s IT Solutions Group, it also allows staff to work from any location, whereas previously you had to be in the office to physically handle an application.
Agile development process
Eales said that the “vast majority” of applications can now be submitted electronically after an ‘agile’ development process that has taken roughly two years.
She said: “When we started we didn’t badge this with ‘agile’ but looking back that’s exactly the process we went through. We started thinking of users - solicitors, conveyancers, estate agents.
“We started very small and simple with a small number of users and built it in a very incremental iterative way.
“We had a few applications, a few customers, built it from there, now we have a full service with the vast majority of applications available. All of the take up is voluntary, we haven’t had any mandation.”
‘Baked in’ security
The registry relies on document processing software FlexiCapture from ABBYY, which automatically scans and processes the applications the registry receives.
Delivery manager Kevin Rowley emphasised the importance of security when deciding to use ABBYY’s software.
He said: “It’s massive. Security is baked into everything we do. We’re very conscious of the fact that we’re dealing with a critical national asset here so don’t take any risks with it.
“It’s a constant balance between making sure we have a secure register- which is paramount- but one which is easy to use for our customers.”
Adams said she expects the registry to eventually become completely paperless, which will save even more money.
She said: “It may well be the case that at some point we get to the stage where there’s no need for wet signatures. We’re looking at how we can continue the digital transformation journey – what are customer needs. If customers use an electronic channel, it saves us money.”