A conveyancer’s guide to the Property Data Trust Framework Part 2

Have you ever noticed in conference panel discussions about conveyancing, the subject of  “collaboration” is spoken in slightly hushed tones, as if panellists were invoking the manifestation of a unicorn: we’d all love to see it, but in our heart of hearts we don’t really believe it’s possible. There are just too many firms, too many differences between the way everyone wants to work.

In the last article [link] we discussed the role that boring standards like the 13-amp 3-pin plug have to play in our lives. They’re critical to modern life, especially when it comes to the internet. The key word here is ‘interoperability’.

And collaboration can only be achieved when there is real interoperability. There’s a reason the UN hires a huge number of real-time interpreters – it’s simply impossible to get anything done across the six official languages without them.

So how do we solve the interoperability problem?

Well, it turns out that’s a problem that needs to be solved on a number of levels. 

” Paperless is not enough “

As the Buddha once nearly said: “You can’t ascend the mountain towards the nirvana of true insight without solving the interoperability problems in its lower slopes.”


And if you think about interoperability at the documents level only, things don’t look too bad on the surface. The advent of email and the paper scanner allow us to pass documents around reasonably easily, putting aside for a moment the insecure nature of emails, and the difficulty agreeing which scanned copy is the latest version.


The first problem is getting actual data out of the darned things. You may well have advanced beyond faxed copies of a TA6 filled out late on a Friday night in crayon but someone’s still going to have to bring a PDF up on the screen and read through it, extracting what’s in it into data of some kind.


There then follows the process of turning data into information. We can see a tick in a box, but we need to recognise that that means “Is the property affected by Japanese Knotweed?” has been answered “Not known” yet again. Information is the output when data is translated into a recognised context.


And once we’ve done that, either formally using the information we’ve generated or in our brains when we glance through the scanned TA6, we can start to generate insights about it, like do we actually believe the vendor?


Now some of you will be reading this and thinking “those luddite fools! We have our client portal / app / website where they fill out their TA6 whilst sitting on the sofa, and we get back pure, sweet information right there and then!”. 


If so, congratulations. But that only solves your problem, not the interoperability one, unless you’re representing both sides of the transaction.


You can see where this is going: to avoid piling a heap of extra work on someone (and to make your fancy app truly useful) we need to be able to exchange that information (not documents and not data), and be able to trust it.


There are two critical words in that last sentence, ‘exchange’ and ‘trust’. We’ll go into how that’s achieved with the Property Data Trust Framework in the next article.

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