An online digital solution providing a Con29 service

Full Application: Not funded at this stage

HMLR Local Land Charges (LLC) project aims to streamline the LLC ‘service’. Its scope did not include the second element of the current service i.e. provision of replies to questions, which are prescribed in the law society ‘Form Con29’. Completion of the form and provision of a copy of the LLC register allows a ‘full search’ to be completed. Effectively the work of HMLR will split the current service. It is likely this will lead to a two-tier service; one that is digital and another that lags behind in LA’s.

Information required to answer the Con29 is held in databases across numerous departments, in numerous formats. This leads to considerable resource time dedicated to deliver the service.

LBTH will aim to develop the Con29 element of the LLC service to the same standard as the HMLR project allowing seamless transactions to take place on-line based on both spatial and text searching. The end product should be usable across all authorities once developed.

An online payment facility would be required as well as a free service for EIR information and free public registers.

The discovery phase will explore what enabling a digital service for the provision of an online Con29 search may involve. It will be important to understand at discovery stage how automation can be delivered for all partners involved. We will work with partners to ensure that broad UX is undertaken and understood for outcomes that are beneficial to all.

LBTH will aim to use Resource capacity planning to plan for, allocate and schedule resources for project-specific goals. We will use our in-house expertise alongside an external company sourced from the digital marketplace and to ensure an agile, iterative approach is followed.

Based on standard timescales our approach is:

Weeks 1 & 2: Onboard, research, & define

  • Assumptions Workshop
  • Prepare User Interview Questions
  • Identify stakeholders

Weeks 2 & 3: Conceptualize & User Research

  • User Interviews
  • Identifying Expectations, Interests and Requirements

Weeks 4 & 5: Feedback fueled iteration

  • Analysis to find users’ Goals and Needs
  • Brain storm solutions with partner LA’s
  • Idea generation and feature prioritisation

Weeks 6 – 8: Optimize, refine & deliver Development Roadmap

  • Define overall project -business objectives, goals, user research, competition, risks, etc.
  • Definition of a product backlog, user stories, & product release roadmap
  • Review processes, product vision, scope, wireframing, etc.
  • Explore technical unknowns, determine a solution
  • Create a delivery team, plan, schedule, architecture plan, and scope
  • Define Minimum Viable Product

The work will be in-line with the Government Service Manual and Technology Code of Practice, maintaining quality and standards.

The goal of Discovery phase will be:

  • Validate the assumptions made about the product
  • Validate user research before spending time effort to build the product.

For Discovery Phase we aim to present a report and detailed software description (Software Requirement Specification), resulting in transparent functionality. All stages are important to ensure stakeholders, early adopters, and potential partners become aware of this project’s functionality and magnitude.

Local Authorities are not under statutory obligation to provide a con29 service, but the Con29 form has been developed by the Law Society with questions only the local authority can answer; this is intrinsically linked to the conveyance process, all local authorities provide this service. The form requires property information only held by Councils to be revealed to ensure prospective purchasers of property are not surprised with any additional fees/charges/restrictions etc.

As much of the information on the Con29 form should be made available freely, unless officially requested, investment to improve the service lags. In particular the benefits of this project could be the following:

  • Reduced staff resources required to complete search requests
  • Council property information standardised across different departments
  • Delivery of a service of same quality as Land Registry’s current option – with potential for further improvement
  • Remove reliance on numerous teams to provide and collate information
  • User receives a better customer journey
  • Certainty of getting information on time (potentially instant) and correct
  • Ability to renew search requests
  • Allow provision of a subscription service

Standardising the way searches are completed will allow the integration of data with other departments and authorities and allow customers to self-serve, managing demand.

It is intended that this piece of work will help to change behavioral patterns and mindset, in terms of property data and digital services, within the council. This will benefit not only departments directly relevant to this project, but councils and the conveyance process as a whole.

Discovery phase will help define how business can operate from within the software solution – i.e. the technical and business feasibility become synchronised. We will work closely with partner authorities to find potential weaknesses and misconceptions, strengthen logic and cut off dead ends. Together we will determine the priorities as well as map out how staff, users, and management will interact with any new software. We will also identify what guidance and reporting system is needed and develop a step-by-step implementation plan.

Fortnightly show and tell sessions will shape the research and outcomes. Digital tools, such as a Google drive, slack, ‘hangouts’, will facilitate instant project communication.We will ensure that all work is made known to industry organisations like the LLC Institute and Land Data. Any outcome will be based on a common data, provide clearly documented APIs for data transfer and would sit within an ecosystem of other digital tools being developed.

Current processes for many LA’s providing the Con29 service mean manually collating data from various databases across the council. Councils are at varying levels of automation internally.

By the end of the Discovery Phase we aim to have:

  • A broad scope for the project
  • A set of defined user needs written as user stories (User research report)
  • Decide what user stories need to be completed to build a minimal viable product

The Discovery phase is the one that will address budget and timelines .This important phase defines the right product to build and also delivers guidelines on how the project will be developed and what type of team we will need to carry out the job in a successful way.

This approach is also great with legacy systems in Local authorities that have become fragmented and have major issues with consistency and integration. We will try to understand how much of the content and functionality is still required and how much is obsolete. This knowledge is gained by speaking to users, conducting in-depth interviews and getting them to showcase the problems they experience with the current system and how the functionality could be improved to produce potential savings by working collaboratively.

The benefit of knowing what to build is that we aren’t just creating research outputs that get shelved. We are making a plan to act on research findings and ultimately improve our service through the delivery of a usable system.

The conclusions to this research will be an ‘as-is’ and ‘to-be’ road maps. The technical discovery stage will then be able to give a clear understanding of how to build and scale a new Con29 Digital delivery tool and a standardized spatial data store, through tested and costed proof of concept designs. A future Alpha would then build on these findings.

It would aim to achieve this while greatly reducing the administration burden, increasing data quality and enabling real time Con29 and personal searches.

A digital Con 29 service will be of interest to a number of stakeholders, including local, regional and national government, solicitors, developers, housing associations, and the public. Therefore, the ‘users’ to be engaged are:

Solicitors forums, Land Data, LLC, Street Naming and Numbering , Environmental Health , Community Infrastructure Levy teams, Asset Management , Highways , Developers, HM Land Registry, LLC Institute, LGA, Residents & public, Private search companies

This list is not exhaustive. Details of potential stakeholders to engage will be agreed at initial project meeting. A number of research interviews, will be set up, across users and partners.

Following established patterns of previous projects, an open, collaborative approach means we can harness all the capabilities needed to deliver a successful project. Regular updates to stakeholders will be published, through week notes and open show and tells will be held after every sprint. This will give partners visibility of the work as it evolves. In addition to these more formal interactions, we will make use of other digital tools which allow for less formal working practices, but also more immediate and live interaction and project governance.

This rhythm and way of working is designed to sustain momentum and motivation amongst those involved. It also allows for an agile and iterative methodology. Any successes, errors or adjustments are very quickly identified and the project adapted accordingly, without loosing time.

The objective of user research is essentially to determine what the actual issues, common to all, are, and what a solution, relevant to all, might look to achieve. The results of this will then inform further work at the technical discovery stage. Research may look to establish the following:

  • What is the extent of the problem
  • How and where is information currently held
  • What information and data sources are required
  • Can this data be standardised

Support maybe required accessing digital marketplace.

I can confirm no funding has been received  for this project or applied for in the past.