Land Registry goes agile to develop fraud detection service

Developers had to go through a cultural shift to work more flexibly in accordance with GDS' design principles

The Land Registry's Property Alert service has been lauded for integrating central government policies with open source technologies, three months after the live service's roll-out.

Property Alert is a web-based property monitoring service which helps prevent identity fraud. It is often used for empty homes where elderly owners are in hospital or have moved into a care home, landlords and high value properties.

Users will receive an alert if a formal request to change the details of registered title or an official search is made on one of the properties they specified.

The Land Registry Executive Board made the decision to offer the service for free to reflect public expectations and to demonstrate Land Registry's commitment to delivering value for money and responding to social and economic requirements. It is funded by the commercial arm of the company. So far 8,000 users have signed up to the service.

Product manager at Land Registry, Lynne Nicholson, said: "It is an excellent example of a public body providing a public service that tackles a real problem for homeowners, delivering value and peace of mind to those who are often the most vulnerable members of the public, rather than achieving a return on investment."

The government began a consultation on changing the systems used by HM Land Registry to "bring it into the digital age" and to support big data initiatives in January this year.

However Property Alert had long been on the digital roadmap and the iterative in-house development, in accordance with Government Digital Service design principles has been a two-year project.

Nicholson told ComputerworldUK: "It wasn't without its challenges - Land Registry developers were familiar and comfortable with using Java in an IBM Websphere environment using SOAP [Simple Object Access Protocol] Web Services, which is still the existing architecture for most of their services.

"We had to demonstrate flexibility to deliver a service that would achieve all the key success criteria. Working within the agile methodology proved beneficial as the team could concentrate and celebrate a series of small wins at the end of each fortnightly sprint."

Property Alert was implemented on a Red Hat Enterprise Linux platform using REST [Representational State Transfer] API's.

Nicholson said: "For flexibility we had to use automated testing tools to enable early, frequent and consistent delivery of quality assured software and we adapted to Scrum methodology, adapting or discarding existing processes that were an impediment to success or contradicted the agile manifesto. Where proprietary technology had to be used, such as IBM WebSEAL, we integrated this with the new architectural approach and open source tools."

As subscribers increase, the Land Registry is streamlining the user experience by taking customers' feedback onboard. Due to user demand, the restriction on monitoring only three properties per user will be extended to 10, and a mobile friendly service is in development stages.

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