We recently invited Eddie Davies, Deputy Director of Digital Services at HM Land Registry to join us for our first virtual event, Transitions, to share their change portfolio, challenges and thoughts for the future.

Today I’ll cover a little bit about what we’re doing at HM Land Registry, I’ll also cover what’s happening at the moment as a consequence of COVID-19. I’ll talk a little bit about our transformation programme which is quite extensive in terms of the challenges that we face and then I’ll talk a little bit about our future strategic direction, in terms of some key things which we’re aiming to concentrate on.

Firstly to explain our own situation during COVID. We have 14 officers around the country, 6,000 people working from us and 80 per cent of what they do, they need to be in an office behind a computer. So within a matter of three weeks, we needed to shift 6,000 people to home working. There were small pockets of people working from home, more in our head offices but in terms of the local operations, people that worked on desktop computers needed to have reimaged laptops sent out to their homes to work remotely. This was significant, not forgetting all of the desks and the chairs that went with that.

We’re happy to say that in the space of around six weeks and from an operational point of view, we were back up to about 80 per cent of our capacity. As we sit here today 99.7 per cent of the organisation are working remotely from home. In terms of our operational output, we’re back up to pre-COVID levels.

Our transformation portfolio

We’ve got quite a big backlog that we need to clear and we’re aware of that, certainly, in terms of true agile — we often use agile to explain and describe our digital programmes and some whizzy new technology.

Right across the world, but certainly, right across the organisations I deal with and speak to, whether that’s the public or private sector, true agile is basically needing to shift behaviour as a consequence of something happening. And that’s what we’ve seen.

I put this image together last week to help talk a bit about some of the challenges we face. All of the segments in these rings are populated, I’ve taken some of the detail out because of privacy, but all those segments are things that we’re doing within the organisation at the moment.

A diagram of HM Land Registry's digital transformation strategy.

It starts from the outside, the outer ring is some of the big strategic policy decisions that we’re changing at the moment. And therefore one of them is the stakeholder engagement that you need to do around those policy changes because those policy changes don’t just affect the Land Registry. Those policy changes affect how we buy and sell properties and how those properties are actually registered onto the register at the end of the day.

The amount of effort that it needs to do that type of stakeholder management is intense. So the wider your transformation portfolio, the more stakeholder engagement that you need to do, and quite rightly the more impact assessments that you need to do.

As you move in a ring, you then move to the things that you’re doing that actually impact your customers. That can be quite extensive, whether that’s impacted businesses or citizens and how they interact with your services. Again, the change is quite extensive there and certainly, in terms of our portfolio, we’re looking right across the piece and we’re not just looking at how services are used today, we’re looking at the full end-to-end journey. When we’re looking at why somebody needs a copy of the register, we look at the true customer need in terms of why they’re requesting that service, to see whether we can make that service better.

As you then move in a ring, you’re then looking at the operational systems that we’re building. Some of the platforms that we’re developing internally for the 6,000 staff that are working from home. We’re creating new digital platforms and new digital services for our people to work on as well, that’s rewriting lots of stored procedures that were written back in the 1980s and updating those algorithms. And also migrating our registers from legacy databases onto cloud technology.

As you move in another ring again you then get to the heart of the organisation which is our people, the impact this change will have on our people and how we need to develop our people to help the transformational change. Whether that’s investing in operational capacity or whether that’s giving our people digital skills whilst they’re working from home to be able to collaborate using digital tools, that they’ve never needed to use before. Or whether it’s running internal leadership programmes to inspire leadership.

All of those rings together form our transformational portfolio. It’s quite extensive and brings to light its own unique challenges. Challenges such as making sure we have the right designers and the right user researchers to do discoveries at the right time, understanding customer needs and ultimately, changing the culture. Particularly coming off the back of where we were in the 80s, 90s and the 2000s. Changing that culture now so you can adapt to the changing environment.

Thinking to the future

I’ll just summarise with three things that I think are going to be our future direction.

  1. Above everything else is going to be digital identity. The housing buying process has duplicated the identity procedure, so that is key to unlocking the benefits of our digital programme.
  2. The other is building the internal systems, so we’ve got systems that can automate a great deal of what we do today, 23 million transactions that we deal with in a year and we’ve still got a high degree of manual effort needed there.
  3. The final thing is the register that we’ve used for many years that was started in 1925, a transactional register. It stood us in good stead for all of the years that we’ve had it, but we now need to move that to a more digital register on cloud technology.

That gives you a good overview of the portfolio, some of the challenges and those key things for the future, thank you very much.

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