With Terravis the goal was to digitalize access to the land register data and processes in Switzerland. Initially only as information: All participants in the real estate business were to be given the ability to read out digital data from the land registries instead of having to use paper, as was the case up until then. For instance, considering the stock exchanges and how simply digital business is conducted there, the paper-based bureaucracy in the real estate area seemed out of date.
But as simple as it sounds, in actual practice, it involved a number of challenges: above all the differences in processing in 26 independent cantons. For which reason, it has sometimes proven to be a rocky road. One of the positive aspects, however, was that numerous secondary developments and ideas arose during that period.
Close collaboration with INNOQ
INNOQ came on board when it was no longer about just digital information, but the fully digitalized processing of business transactions in the area of real estate (Terravis e-commerce (eGVT)): across domains, end to end. In the future, Terravis was to enable the land register, notary’s office, and financial institution to do without paper.
The close collaboration between INNOQ and SIX Terravis created the technical prerequisites: An engine was needed. The system had to be manageable and serviceable – corresponding to a process engine available on the market. INNOQ did a product evaluation and finally took on the development of the back end. Result: The process is now fully digital, with the exception of the customer’s signature at the notary’s office, which still has to be “analog.”
The collaboration with INNOQ is very close and takes place in a spirit of partnership. It is especially nice that communication takes place not just on the technical level but on a functional level as well – as a team, we form a unit.Walter BerliDeputy Director, Project Manager Terravis and SIX Nominee
In the third step, the “Nominee” module added fiduciary administration of land office promissory notes – in these cases, SIX SIS AG is entered in the land register as the creditor. From both a technical and an administrative perspective, this process is quite complicated. INNOQ took the lead in designing the technical architecture. That’s the great thing about close collaboration: Contracting party and service provider grow together, and all the participants learn from one another.
innoQ Schweiz GmbH handled the complete e-commerce architecture, the architecture of the fiduciary administration of the land office promissory notes, and, in collaboration with SIX Terravis, the implementations; in addition, it also handles ongoing operations and support.
In selecting the architecture, a business process management system was utilized to provide optimal support for the sometimes lengthy processes in e-commerce. In the course of development, all the necessary services were operated in docker containers. The application made available to the participants is also based on a BPMS as well as an internal SIX Terravis Java framework.
- Business Process Management
Hurdles for fully digital administration
However, the complexity of Terravis also shows the special challenges in the digitalization of public administration, particularly in regard to the interplay of public administration and private enterprise: For instance, the law had to be changed, so that SIX Terravis, as a private enterprise, could carry out corresponding functions. This required some lobbying, and, in addition to the technical aspects, the interests of the stakeholders – cantons, federal government, banks, notaries, and others – had to be taken into consideration. For this reason, the selected model, public-private partnership, was surely the most promising approach to a solution.
The detailed dialog used by SIX Terravis has proven to be a recipe for success: The project managers drove from canton to canton, spoke with the stakeholders, got feedback, and took doubts seriously. This enabled trust to grow, fears to abate, and the product to improve and become more closely aligned with needs.
Mr. Berli, the digitalization of sovereign tasks always raises security concerns. How did you dispel them?
A great advantage was that we were part of SIX: In Switzerland, SIX operates the stock exchange and its development, handles the payment system of the Swiss National Bank, all the credit card business, et cetera. For that reason, SIX is a super place for this topic. For instance, the proxy servers are very secure, and their administration is outstanding. At least once a year, a penetration test is conducted, meaning a targeted attempt to get into our systems. So far, we have passed every test. We have also integrated a very good security and rights model, which was coordinated with the cantons. All these factors helped us greatly in our efforts to persuade the stakeholders.
Nowadays, the whole world seems to be talking about blockchains. What do you think about using them in the land register system?
We have observed that countries with less stable conditions are utilizing blockchain technology in their land register system. In contrast, in countries like Switzerland, I hardly see any advantages. Besides, the intention is to progress step by step. After all, public administration must first ensure that there are no problems. Making changes that are too drastic is not always a good idea in this area.
Key word persuasion: How did you manage to get new approaches and technologies into public administration?
The decisive thing was that we always sought a dialog. We drove to every corner of Switzerland, sat down with people, and talked. Together with the cantons, we founded a company and thus created a structure for further development, in which all stakeholders are represented. That is helpful in finding consensus. In the final analysis, Terravis is a positive example of how digital public administration can succeed if people talk with one another.
Mr. Berli, thank you for talking with us!
In the end, the success of digitalization projects always has to do with the human level: Allies are needed in public administration and business – people who follow a project with enthusiasm and can therefore also overcome the inevitable obstacles, whether legal, security-related, or economic. That is exactly how it was in this case, so we are proud of having made a contribution to the digitalization of Swiss public administration.