Property exchange PEXA prepares for expansion

PEXA CTO eyes user experience boost for conveyancing platform

Property Exchange Australia — PEXA — is ready to go live in South Australia as soon as state legislation enabling the use of the platform garners royal assent. The digital conveyancing platform is currently available in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.

The technical work to enable South Australian property transactions to be carried out on PEXA was completed last month, ahead of transactions beginning in early July, said PEXA chief technology officer Trevor Nelson.

PEXA was formed in 2010. It came out of a COAG agenda item dealing with how to bring the world of property conveyancing into the digital age.

Property is “probably the last of the big asset classes to move into the digital world – it’s been a bit of a slow mover,” Nelson said.

PEXA’s initial owners were the governments of the Victoria, NSW, Queensland and WA; although the states still retain equity a number of other shareholders have come on board.

Since its formation, the company has been building out its national platform to allow the electronic lodging of documents with land registries and financial settlement of property transactions.

Tasmania is also scheduled to be brought onto the platform, probably in September 2017. The Northern Territory and the ACT will follow at some point over the next couple of years, Nelson said. Adding a new jurisdiction involves working closely with a land registry so it can interface with the PEXA platform

“In the lodgement process, you’re lodging a digital document with the land registry. Enabling those digital documents to be lodged — whether it be a transfer, a discharge of a mortgage or putting a mortgage on a title — the work we do with the actual land registry in that state involves technology teams coming together and developing an integrated solution.

“We are actually very tightly coupled in terms of retrieving information from the land registry and providing updates to the land registry.”

PEXA has a standard set of interfacing specifications agreed on with all the states, but each land registry its own platform. Interaction between PEXA and the land registries is through web services, Nelson said.

In addition to expanding the platform’s reach, the CTO said a priority of his team’s is “ensuring that we support the digital environment almost 100 per cent.”

“We’re currently exploring how we expand out the functional capability for PEXA. We primarily support at the moment discharge of mortgage, putting a mortgage on a title, transfer, caveats, and settlement notices. That pretty well gives you about 75 per cent to 80 per cent of all available transactions that can be handled by a land registry.

“We want to push to the other transactions that are less used but nevertheless still important from the point of view of enabling a fully, 100 per cent digitised environment for the land registry and the conveyancing business.”

Another key focus area is on user experience, leveraging application performance monitoring platform AppDyamics. PEXA first deployed it a couple of years ago, Nelson said. PEXA runs infrastructure out of two data centres and the monitoring platform is used to assess end-to-end performance, from database queries through to network performance and end-user experience.

“Because we’re an online application it’s really important that we understand the experience from the end user right through to our database,” Nelson said.

“When you roll out to production, you want to get a sense of how [the application is] going, how it’s performing, what the response times are like along the way. What we found when we were looking around and came across AppDynamics was that it gave us this good insight into application performance.”

The platform was first run out in PEXA’s performance lab to get some baseline application performance data. After about six to eight months it was moved into the organisation’s production environment.

In addition to helping tweak database and network performance, PEXA has been able to narrow down performance issues down to single lines of code. In another case, a comparison across end users revealed that a particular version of a major browser was creating a poor experience (in that case PEXA’s helpdesk was able to be informed in order to aid in resolving problems encountered by end users).

The next step will be to get a more fine-grained understanding of user behaviour in order to optimise customers’ experience using the PEXA platform.

“By that we mean looking at exactly and understanding the sequence of steps that a user goes through in a transaction, understanding their behaviours in interacting with our application,” Nelson said. “If we can get a better understanding of that we can build a better user experience and we can refine that experience.

“Sometimes you want to understand are they following a particular pattern with how they use the application, are they taking a bit too long on one field or not understanding something? What are they actually going through and how are they interacting with us?

“If we can get a more refined and deeper and understanding of that then we can actually build better capability into our platform. It’s a tight loop I want to create with the end user.”