With many of our graduates working on Registers of Scotland’s digital transformation project, Communications Officer Andrew Gilchrist, tells us more about the organisational change.
Registers of Scotland (RoS) is responsible for compiling and maintaining 18 public registers relating to land, property and other legal documents in Scotland. Traditionally, we’re a heavily paper-based organisation, and have been for centuries.
One of our most significant registers, the General Register of Sasines, contains pages upon pages of carefully handwritten descriptions of land, and dates all the way back to 1617.
Times have changed dramatically since then however, and we need to change too. New technology means new opportunities and new ways of working for our customers.
That’s the basis of our digital transformation – becoming an effective digital land registration body that is innovative, flexible and able to meet the needs of our customers.
We appreciate that changes like this take time, especially when customer requirements need to be taken into consideration.
But at the same time, all ambitions need a timeframe to be truly effective, so we have set ourselves the goal of being digital first by 2020.
How we’re going digital
We started our digital journey as we meant to continue: by keeping our customers and their needs at the forefront. With this in mind, in late 2016 we published a digital consultation. This document invited public responses to our proposed digital future, including wider objectives and plans for new digital services.
Stakeholders across Scotland were able to give us their feedback through a simple question and answer format, which gave us valuable insight at such an early stage.
Getting the right expertise was another important step. At an executive level, the appointment in 2014 of Tom Meade and then Greg Urquhart (Tom’s successor in December 2017) as Digital Director brought not just valuable experience, but a committed, focused and continuous vision for a digital RoS that has been instilled across the organisation.
This included the replacement of legacy systems and the adoption of agile project management to improve performance.
An executive vision can’t drive a digital transformation on its own, and so we’ve ensured that the right digital talent can be found in our IT development teams too. We’ve worked with external parties to ensure we have the very best people in the right roles, and here CodeClan have been an invaluable partner.
We’ve hired several CodeClan graduates, who have hit the ground running in our development teams, while CodeClan have also held several sessions at both our Edinburgh and Glasgow offices as part of our very first Innovation Month, which have been hugely popular in making digital part of our DNA at RoS.
We’ve also laid the groundwork internally as well, with our Innovation Centre. The IC is all about big ideas, and turning them into tangible and transformational business change initiatives to improve our services and processes. IT development is at the heart of the IC, and allows us to create digital products that challenge existing ways of working.
These developments have delivered substantial results. Within a year of beginning our digital transformation, RoS went from three releases a year to 52, from £25,000 per release to £500 per release, and from 90 bugs in one release to 12 bugs in 52, plus a 70% reduction in our server estate.
Tom’s contribution was also recently recognised as he was named Chief Information Officer of the Year at the UK IT Awards in London.
New digital services
Our three-year digital transformation is still a work in progress, but we’ve already developed new services that have increased efficiency and been well received by our customers. Registration services are one of our key activities, and underpin all property sales in Scotland.
In mid-2017 we introduced the Digital Discharge Service (DDS), which relates to the discharge of mortgage securities. The existing paper-based process involved several rounds of postal correspondence, which could lead to delays, frustration and a potentially inefficient service.
DDS centralises the activities of solicitors, lenders and RoS in a single online portal, and allows all steps of the process to be completed digitally and in a fraction of the time of the paper-based version. DDS has been developed in close collaboration with stakeholders, and has been well-received by them since its inception.
One of the most important developments in our digital transformation has been ScotLIS, Scotland’s Land Information Service. It’s an innovative and easy to use map-based service that for the first time allows citizens, communities, professionals and businesses to access comprehensive information about any piece of land or property in Scotland.
ScotLIS currently displays RoS data in a user friendly way, and will soon incorporate data sets from other public sector and government organisations. It’s a big digital step forward for RoS, developed according to agile principles and constantly improved according to user feedback.