The Government Digital Services (GDS) team at the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) published a series of blog posts on June 22, describing the ongoing development of the Business Grants Portal (BGP), which is designed as a single point of access for companies to find and apply for suitable grants from the government.
The Singapore government offers over 25 grants to Small & Medium enterprises (SMEs). Examples of areas where the SMEs can seek support include technology adoption, building in-house R&D capabilities, efficiency improvement, expansion to international markets and workforce training. A number of different agencies are involved, such as Spring Singapore, IE Singapore, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), Building and Construction Authority (BCA) and Singapore Tourism Board (STB).
The BGP seeks to bring the different government grants for businesses into one portal, making it significantly more convenient for businesses to find and apply for the grants they need. Previously they would have needed to visit multiple websites to find the right grant meeting their requirement.
Users need a CorpPass account to log in to the portal. CorpPass is a single corporate digital identity for businesses and other entities (such as non-profit organisations and associations) to transact with Government agencies online. It was introduced by GovTech last year to remove the need for users to handle multiple login IDs. By December 2017, CorpPass will be the required login for over 100 government digital services.
Access to BGP is divided into three tiers, Viewer, Preparer and Acceptor. While a Viewer can only view and monitor, the Preparer can view, edit and submit the grant applications. In addition to the above rights, the Acceptor can accept the terms and conditions of the Letter of Offer on behalf of the company.
Once the user logs in, details from the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) are filled in automatically. After checking the information and filling in any additional details, the applicant is asked 3 simple questions about their business and based on their answers, they are led to the right grant. The portal streamlines similar grants that are administered by different government agencies and routes the application to the right agency.
As the application is processed, regular updates are provided through the Portal. If the application is successful, the user can simply log in to accept their Letter Of Offer.
Currently, the portal hosts 6 of the most popular grants and other grants are being added. The beta version was launched in May 2016 with 1 grant and 6 supported areas. The number of grants increased to 2 in September and 1414 applications had been received by December 31, 2016.
Six grants were accessible through the BGP by February 2017 and there were 133 supported areas (supported areas refers to functional areas such as Branding & Marketing, Overseas Expansion, Standards Adoption, Product Development, Business Model Transformation etc. within the different industries and sectors). By June 2017, 4989 applications had been received and 2348 approved. There are plans to have 7 grants and 144 supported areas by September this year. In addition, the use of chat bots and better fraud detection measures will be explored in Phase 2.
A second blog post on the development process explains that BGP was one of the first whole-of-government digital services developed using Agile, which allowed the prioritisation of features with high business value. The first grant was delivered in 12 months and the next 5 grants over the next 6 months , a significantly shorter time to market than traditional Waterfall development, which typically takes at least 3 years.
“All the code is fully integrated and tested at all times. Whenever there are new features, all the existing and new tests are run automatically and have to be passed before the new feature is merged. If the regression test fails, the development team is notified and the issue will be fixed immediately, preventing any bug from growing into a fatal error,” the blog explains.
The testing is fully automated, eliminating the need for additional manual testers as the product grows. Only new servers are needed. After the January launch, there were less than 20 minor issues which were easily fixed.
Components were rearranged to improve the flow after testing the first grant form and some of the labels were made clearer and alert messages added in at critical points. These form components are being reused for other grants and hence, the design continues to get tested and improved on.
The team has had to adapt to changes in grant policy, business needs and economic conditions during this first phase.Once the release plan had to be altered because one agency couldn’t find a vendor to manage the integration between the portal and their system in time for the release.
Product owners from the Grant Management Office, Ministry Of Trade And Industry were co-located at Hive to enhance communication between the development team and product owners.
Read the blogs on Medium: