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. FreshWorks was commissioned by the Ministry of Citizens Services to support this modernization and 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 different entity types for which we will be modernizing the registry process.

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 easily keep an updated, accurate record of all the businesses in BC. The results have been immediately realized in saving time, energy, and money 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 holding duplicated data. 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 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 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, approximately 90% of the business on the website is done by just a few law firms (paralegals, corporate supervisors, lawyers) who are supporting residents in their business registration. 

However the 10% of remaining users included ~10,000 individuals registering their business on their own. The existing system served law firms very well, but not individual users. 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 and BC Government)

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

The assets team

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

Objectives of BC Registries

  Easy, Quick and Secure Access to Registry Services

Supporting all businesses – from small to enterprise – is a critical value driver for BC’s economy. It was important to the Ministry that there were 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 would 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

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

 

  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 VON, MRAS and NWPTA.

 

  Service with Heart

The ministry has an overarching objective to their work: provide service with heart. Shortcomings in the legacy system was preventing them from achieving that. By retiring legacy systems, the Registries can improve organizational cohesiveness, efficiency, transparency and service 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 of BC Registries. Based on these challenges, FreshWorks 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 Registries could adopt a more agile way of working. For example, the team embedded an approval process within Scrum ceremonies to ensure that the development could move forward without any blockers.

Integrated Change Management

The team quickly learned that it was not helpful to develop features faster than the BC Registries could provide new training to their employees. There were 3 teams delivering software to the market, and only one government team 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 time to provide feedback about what they need to do to deal with a certain change. As a result, the team was able to understand the impact of each change, and provide the Ministry enough time to prepare.

 

Iterative Improvements

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

To begin, the team started by modernizing services specifically for BC Cooperatives – 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 sample of real users.

"Figuring out how to marry agile and change management processes together is the key to success."

Jyoti

Release Manager

"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, we 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 transactions and filings with the province of BC and across other jurisdictions, manage accounts and pay for services.

Modernized Features

This project is ongoing and will continue to modernize features – until the system handles all 10 entity types (cooperatives, non-for-profits etc.) in the same manner, for both users and Ministry officials. Our team tackled lower traffic modules first, followed by modules which were currently undergoing legislative change (ie. benefit corporations). 

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 can access your cooperative’s filings. This makes it easier for management companies and law firms 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 Registries. 

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 Registries 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 things that will be coming up soon:

  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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