Managing the past, present and future with Vitalware

The Newfoundland and Labrador Vital Statistics Registry is built on service.

Charged with certifying and registering every birth, death, marriage and legal name change in Newfoundland and Labrador (along with adoptions, gender changes, and the certification of clergy and civil authorities for marriage ceremonies), the Vital Statistics Registry truly plays a vital role in the community. It protects, manages, and provides the critical documents its citizens need to live their lives, enabling them to obtain passports, I.D. cards, birth certificates, marriage licenses and death certificates – all at the pace of life.

Serving the populous well means expertly managing data, and that’s something the Vital Statistics Registry does adroitly with the help of Vitalware software from Axiell. But it’s no small feat. The Registry handles millions of records – dating back to the 1800s – through a central office in St John’s, four regional hubs, and a network of satellite offices throughout the Province. That said, the Registry judges its performance on its ability to serve one customer at a time.

“With any data-centric business it’s easy to get wrapped up in the big numbers, the massive volumes of data, but our customers keep us honest and grounded,” said Ken Mullaly, Registrar, Vital Statistics. “What’s important to them is their record, the one they need for the application they’ve got to complete, not the millions in our vault and databases. Finding a way to input, store, and easily access the records they need so we can help them transact quickly is the mark of us doing our jobs well.”

That wasn’t always the easiest thing to do. Back in the 1990s, the Registry, like many other registries across Canada and around the world, found itself looking to marry the promise of high-tech computing with the realities of its paper-based business and processes. The results weren’t always pretty. Its first legacy computing system was not designed for the complexities of vital-records management, and its second only made matters worse. By the time it implemented Vitalware in 2013, Mullaly and his team confess they had “trust issues.”

“We knew we could benefit from a better system, one really built for our business, but we had been burned before and needed proof the Vitalware system was really the answer,” said Mullaly.

That proof came early in the implementation process, when the Registry and Axiell ported the data from the old systems to Vitalware. “I secretly suspected the process would be a complete nightmare, but to my surprise and delight it was seamless,” said Mullaly. “That wowed me. Since then we’ve never looked back.”

Improving day-to-day operations

Tina Croke, Electronic Contents Management Coordinator at the Registry, agrees: “Using a system built for the needs of the vital-records business has been a tremendous productivity and quality enhancer. One of the things we really like about this system is every field has its own data-quality checks and scripts behind it. For example, customizable ‘lookup tables’ prevent the letter ‘o’ being inserted for a zero in a postal code, or a town name that is not in Newfoundland or Labrador from getting entered.

“This guided process makes it much easier for my team to enter data and ensure it is done so correctly from the start, which pays dividends later on. Bottom line, our data is much, much cleaner since we’ve switched to Vitalware. And cleaner data enables us to serve our customers much more quickly and get them on their way faster.”

For Croke, statistical reporting is a key part of her job, and the improvements Vitalware has provided over past systems bring a smile to her face. “I used to have to write an SQL query for every report I generated. Not only was that a pain, but the results my search brought back each time could be vastly inconsistent. With Vitalware I have great confidence in the data. And now, all I have to do is go into the system, select “Create New Report,” and I’m within a few keystrokes of having the report I need populated with the correct data.”

Enabling new connections

Day to day operations at the Registry have flourished with Vitalware, delivering efficiencies that have helped the staff address backlogs in entering historical information and take on major new projects. For example, the software’s multi-media capabilities have enabled staff to move beyond simple data entry to scanning historical records directly into the system, accelerating the Registry’s transformation into a digital-records hub. This has resulted in successfully capturing images of marriage documents back to 1945 and is critical to a new Province-mandated initiative to preserve adoption records.

Change is a constant in the world of vital-records management, and the Vitalware system has been key in helping the Registry successfully meet new challenges.

“I can tick off a long list of changes the software has helped us address through its core functionality and flexibility,” said Mullaly. “With Vitalware, we’ve connected our records to the Federal Government; linked our records to other Provinces, so that when a citizen of Newfoundland and Labrador passes away in another Province, our records are updated, and when someone from another Province dies here, their records are updated; and provided new online services to citizens and our satellite offices.

“In the field of Vital Statistics, you never really know what’s coming next. New legislation could come out tomorrow that creates the need for a new kind of record, and we have to be ready to deliver on that mandate. With Vitalware as our system of record, we are confident we’ll be ready to meet that next challenge and quickly adapt to change.”

Vital-Records expertise matters

Four years into the adoption of Vitalware, Mullaly and Croke agree the move has positioned the Registry to meet its current demands and react nimbly to new ones. That trust is not only based on system performance but also the human factor Axiell brings to the engagement. When a technical problem surfaces, Axiell provides the needed fix promptly and dependably. When new functionality is needed or a new kind of vital record required, Axiell brings its perspective and experience to the forefront to resolve the problem.

“What I’ve found over the years, and this is something I really like about Axiell, when we have a problem that needs solving, they have answers,” concluded Mullaly. “Their expertise in vital records has made them a valuable part of our team. When Axiell makes a suggestion, we listen. They’ve earned it.”