Embracing Disruption: Transforming Western Australia's Land Agency, 2007–2017

Two Page Brief 
Full Publication 
Abstract 

In January 2007, Western Australia’s land agency began a top-to-bottom overhaul of its structure, management, and service delivery. A booming property market, fueled by the state’s extractive resources industry, had overwhelmed the public agency’s aging technology, but budget constraints hindered its ability to upgrade the systems. To provide financial flexibility, the state government created a statutory authority called Landgate—a public institution with some private characteristics. Landgate could keep the revenue it generated from regulated services such as property registration and engage in for-profit commercial activities, which provided resources for investment in better services. But making the new model work was not easy. Landgate’s management team had to win the trust of skeptical staff, reduce delay, and contend with a sharp drop in revenues only two years into its existence when the 2008 global financial crisis struck. To surmount the challenges, the agency created an innovation program, explored ways to commercialize its spatial data, restructured to speed up registration and cut costs, and after one failed attempt, developed an automated registration system. By 2017, Landgate had become financially stable, had drastically reduced processing times, and had won acclaim for its innovative products and management practices.

Lessons Learned

  • Fusing public and private. The statutory authority structure exerted financial pressures for efficiency and the flexibility to invest revenues and pursue commercial opportunities while maintaining government control over key services such as registration. However, to make the hybrid model work, Landgate’s managers had to overcome certain inherent challenges—from bridging public- and private-sector cultures to running commercial activities under government human resources and finance policies.
  • Getting software development right. Learning from the initial, failed attempt to develop an automated registration system, Landgate changed its approach to establish a joint venture with the IT provider, emphasize business process reviews early on, and break up the project into manageable pieces.
  • Learning and adaptation. Experimentation and changing course were crucial to Landgate’s strong performance. The agency overhauled its software development process, shifted from developing its own spatial products to supporting and investing in other companies, and restructured after the 2008 financial crisis. The innovation program set the tone, but managers also encouraged people to think creatively and learn from missteps in their daily work.

 

Maya Gainer drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Perth, Australia, in March 2017. Noel Taylor, at the time CEO of the Cadasta Foundation, assisted in interviews and drafting. The Omidyar Network funded the development of this case study. Case published May 2017.
 

    Keywords 
    digitization of records
    computerization
    land administration
    land titles
    land registry
    cadastre
    information access
    fraud prevention
    Focus Area(s): 
    Property Rights & Land
    Country of Reform: 
    Australia
    Type: 
    Case Studies
    Author: 
    Maya Gainer