BC Registries and Online Services

  • UX
  • Web
  • Scaled Agile

BC Registries and Online Services enables the registration of businesses, not-for-profit societies, cooperatives, personal property and manufactured homes.

Developed for

Project Summary

BC Registries and Online Services has started a phased, multi-year modernization initiative. Their objective is to replace and improve the applications used for the Corporate, Personal Property and Manufactured Homes Registries. 

Their vision is to develop a better service experience and make it easier for both citizens and businesses to complete transactions and filings with the province of BC and across other jurisdictions, manage accounts and pay for services. The Ministry of Citizens’ Services procured a team composed of resources from FreshWorks Studio, CGI and Openfield Canada to collaborate with BC Registries on modernization. The team has recently delivered the first applications in the project roadmap. 

The multi-year modernization initiative began in 2018 and will continue into 2021. This is because there are 10 applications which will be modernized or replaced. The applications support business registration for 10 different entity types:

  • Limited Company
  • Community Contribution Company
  • Unlimited Liability Company
  • Benefit Company
  • General Partnership
  • Limited Partnership
  • Sole Proprietorship
  • Limited Liability Partnership
  • Cooperative Association
  • Credit Unions

BCRos the multi-year modernization initiative timeline

Each different entity type has their own unique set of requirements for the different applications to support them. Fortunately, the team is ensuring a more user-oriented system than currently exists by engaging with many stakeholders and thousands of different users of the system to ensure the resulting solutions are excellent.

Working in tandem to support existing processes where necessary, the software allows for easy registration of businesses. This allows the Ministry to keep an up to date, accurate record of all the businesses in BC. The results have been immediately realized in saving time and energy for everyone – the BC Government, it’s public servants, and the citizens they support.

The Challenges

 Legacy Data

Over the years, the process for different entity types (corporations, cooperatives, credit unions etc.) have modernized at different rates – resulting in multiple legacy systems. For example, the legacy mainframe database holds data for cooperatives – but for other entity types the data was held in  separate databases.

 

  Legislative Requirements and Knowledge

Each software or process change had to meet the legislated requirements. Thus, the team has become subject matter experts on 7 different pieces of government legislation in order to make sure that requirements were met before spending time on any given feature.

 

Network Icon in Red  Organizational Change Management

BC Registry Services staff had many processes set in place that were based on the legacy system. Our team had to be aware that each improvement would require considerable change management efforts from the Ministry to adapt to the new software. Our team worked hard to modernize the system while embedding the change process as part of the team’s functional responsibilities. 

This meant we were able to more easily absorb the impact of changes as they happened. For example our product releases were strategically scheduled among other program releases to reduce impact to the registry staff. The team also supported change management for staff by creating job aids, providing product demos, and collaborating with users.

  User Base Complexity (different needs)

BC Registry Services supports a complex user base with distinctly different needs. For example, the majority of the business transactions are completed by just a few law firms (paralegals, corporate supervisors, lawyers) who are supporting residents in their business registration and filing. 

However the other set of remaining users (ie. the general public) use the system on their own for different business transactions. General public users are more in numbers compared to law firms but the number of business transactions completed by the general public is less than the law firms. As such, a notable challenge was designing a system to serve both user groups equally.

   Multiple Teams

The initiative involved three separate teams who needed to communicate with each other, while working on three separate components.

The entities team

(FreshWorks, AOT, Quartec and BC Government)

is responsible for moving things off their current filing systems (eg. Corporate Online, OneStop and COBRS (Mainframe Database with records for Cooperative Associations))

The relationship team

(OXD, AOT and BC Government)

is responsible for building the common components such as authentication and payments.

The assets team

is responsible for moving away from the Personal Property Registry (PPR) and Manufactured Home Registry (MHR).

Objectives of BC Registries

  Easy, Quick and Secure Access to Registry Services

Supporting all businesses – from small to large enterprise organizations – is a critical value driver for BC’s economy. It is important to the Ministry that there are no barriers to business registration and clients are well supported in their journey over time

Our service design practice at FreshWorks aims to ensure that solutions are always human centered. We consider the needs of users from all walks of life making services usable by people with the widest range of abilities, and in the widest range of situations.

 

  Increased Compliance and Satisfaction with Services

The Registries needed to actively track and manage citizen information, actions, timeline, status and outcomes so that the business community and citizens can be informed and aware of upcoming changes which affect them.

 

  A Scalable and Secure Foundation

Business and legislative requirements are constantly changing and it was important that changes could be rapidly addressed. As such, the system needed to be able to respond quickly and easily to new demands.

 

  Improved Operability and Security

The Registries require robust and secure authentication and payment methods to ensure that the data could be integrated and shared between multiple programs and systems.

  Improved Data Integrity, Reporting and Compliance

With many years of records contained in the different existing databases, It was crucial that data integrity was maintained and improved throughout the process. Integrity was also to be improved through enhanced user interaction, allowing users to more frequently and easily keep their records up to date.

 

  Stronger Public Sector Partnerships and Collaborations

With all businesses in mind, the solution needed to enable full support for the clients journey through partnerships with Small Business BC, and through Verifiable Organization Network (VON), Multi Registry Access Service (MRAS) and the New West Partnership Trade Agreement (NWPTA).

 

  Service with Heart

The ministry has an overarching objective to their work: to ensure Service Leadership by providing service with heart. By retiring legacy systems, the Registries can improve the service experience while creating greater efficiency, transparency and organizational cohesiveness through modernized systems and processes.

BC Registries and Online Services Modernization Strategic Roadmap

The Process

Before getting started, the team sat down and discussed the gaps and challenges BC Registry Services faced. Based on these challenges, the team provided a set of recommendations for how the project can successfully proceed in an agile manner, and everyone got to work.

 

Disciplined Agile / Scaled Agile Approach 

The team followed a disciplined agile approach, borrowing aspects of program management from SAFE (Scaled Agile Framework). This meant adjusting the team composition, roles, responsibilities and meeting practices so that BC Registry Services could adopt a more agile way of working. One of the key roles which was embedded in the team was “Release Train Engineer”.  The team needed a role who had a comprehensive understanding of how to scale Lean and Agile practices as well as an awareness of the unique opportunities and challenges involved in the facilitation and continuous alignment of a large development environment. This role has been the key to manage risks, escalate impediments, confirm value delivery and assist in driving consistent improvement.

Integrated Change Management

The team quickly learned that it was not helpful to develop features faster than BC Registry Services could provide new training to their employees. There were three teams delivering software to the market, and only two government teams absorbing that change and managing day to day operations. 

To support the Province in their change management, we started by running a Program Implement Planning workshop session with all stakeholders from the Ministry. In this workshop, stakeholders had the chance to see what changes were planned, identify what impacts the changes may have, and provide feedback to the development teams. As a result, the development team was able to understand the impact of each change, and provide the Ministry enough time to prepare.

 

Iterative Improvements

BC Registry Services is a well-used web service by citizens of B.C. Thus, it was important that changes made did not adversely affect the availability of the service. Changes would be made incrementally, thoroughly tested before deploying, and would not interrupt the service with any downtime. 

The team started by modernizing services specifically for BC Cooperative Associations – enabling them to easily file annual reports, update directors and addresses, and pay for these filings online. As each feature was tested and launched, the team moved onto the next, incorporating feedback from each deployment. Each and every feature was developed with input from a selection of real users.

"It's easy to run a scrum team in a government environment but very hard to scale it. Figuring out how to marry agile and change management processes together is the key to success"

Jyoti

Release Manager

"It's easy to run a scrum team in a government environment but very hard to scale it. Figuring out how to marry agile and change management processes together is the key to success"

Jyoti

Release Manager

The Solution

By working in an agile manner and incorporating user feedback, the team delivered a responsive web-based application that feeds into a consolidated database. The application has a clean, modern user interface that makes it easier for both citizens and businesses to complete registrations with the province of BC and across other jurisdictions and manage accounts.

Modernized Features

This project is ongoing and will continue to add features until legacy applications are retired and all of the organization’s registers are on the new platform. Our team tackled lower traffic modules first, followed by modules which were currently undergoing legislative change (ie. benefit companies). 

Below are some of the features that have been developed thus far:

Manage Co-op Associations and Benefit Companies

The Business Registry now enables all cooperatives to submit information and pay for filings quickly and easily with a credit card or a BC Online Account.

Replace Paper Processes

The Business Registry replaced paper annual reports, director change and address change filings for BC cooperatives – allowing all actions to occur online. This includes: 

  • Filing your cooperative’s annual report
  • Reporting a change in your director
  • Providing new address information
Multiple Authentication Methods

The Business Registry features multiple authentication methods to ensure that all data is kept safe and secure. Users can: 

  • Authenticate with BC Services Card, which uses two-factor authentication to keep your information safe;
  • Authenticate with BCeID, which also uses two-factor authentication;
  • Authenticate with a scanned affidavit from a notary – this is useful for residents outside B.C. who need to confirm their identity before creating an account.
Lawyer Sign-in

BC Cooperatives can create a team, so more than one person on a team can access a cooperative’s filings. This makes it easier for management companies,  law firms and other service providers to file on behalf of their cooperative clients and manage all businesses and teams. Owners can set up a team, invite additional members and administrators and allocate businesses to team members so they can also file on behalf of the cooperative(s).

Results

The Province is very happy with the solution so far, including the implementation of release management plans across teams as well as the increase in change management within BC Registry Services.

Recently, John Horgan announced that a new kind of business registration would be possible – Benefit Companies. The team was able to mobilize and release the features to allow the incorporation of benefit companies on the new BC Registry Services website.

Technologies

The system was developed with a stack of technologies that were chosen based on Ministry requirements. For example, the Ministry required open source, modern technologies that would allow them to grow and change with time. 

  • BC Gov Openshift –  open source container platform that government application development teams use to develop and deploy modern, cloud native software applications. 
  • Postgres DB – open source database focused on data integrity and security. 
  • Vue.js – open source Javascript framework to build a beautiful user interface. 
  • NATS – utilized as an open source, high performance messaging system. 
  • Kubernetes Cron – implemented to allow for scheduled jobs.
  • Python – all backend services are written in Python.
  • Flask (Python) API – lightweight web application framework for RESTful API development.  
  • Github Actions – allows code to be built, tested, and deployed right from Github.
  • KeyCloak – Keycloak is used as an identity provider brokering platform and high level access management (roles) and overall application security.
  • Sentry – Being used for exception alerting and tracking
  • Prometheus – Prometheus is a systems and service monitoring system
  • 1password – digital vault to store the secrets our application uses

What's Next?

We are still working on enhancing the application and adding more features. 

Some features coming up..

  1. Enable other entity types to “alter” to a benefit company through an online form
  2. Allow users to file “corrections” to their company information
  3. Build a simple and intuitive company profile, so users can update their company information in one place instead of through a variety of different complicated forms.

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