Kainos led the design and delivery of a fully digitised service facilitating the application process for Welsh Government grants for businesses, delivering a national-scale live operation just ten days after the policy decision was made.
Businesses in Wales that have been impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19) were able to apply for a grant via the service quickly and easily. From the online application process, through to the automated data validation tier, the service enables a swift decision-making process at this important time when business needs are changing on a daily basis.
Thanks to maximising use of the Azure platform, along with the flexibility of the Welsh Government’s existing business account system (also designed and built by Kainos), the application service was launched ten days after inception, with the remainder of the solution going live within the next fortnight.
Given the very tight timescales, Kainos worked closely with the Welsh Government to understand the key requirements for the service, challenge complicated scope and offer simpler alternatives which met the functionality required, in a more time-effective manner.
The project effectively utilised Kainos’ AI capability, who designed and delivered a productionised AI tier that leveraged a variety of open Government datasets and employed intelligent services and bespoke solutions to validate application information captured from business owners. This approach enabled better data quality, faster processing, optimised fraud prevention and supported case workers to assess applications with speed and accuracy.
The grants were available to all sectors of the economy, from manufacturing firms to charities. During the first phase, the service received almost 9,500 applications, which amounted to a total of over £200m of funding claimed by businesses in Wales, allowing them to continue operating and helping to protect the overall economy.
“Once again, Kainos has delivered a great result despite challenging circumstances and a very tight deadline. They were well-equipped for remote working which enabled strong collaboration between the whole team. Their willingness to adapt to changing circumstances showed great flexibility and tenacity, and demonstrated their reliability as partners.”
Andrew Hurst, Digital Business Support Manager
The grant application service, available in English and Welsh, is accessed via the Business Wales’ dedicated Covid-19 support pages. The business owner begins their journey via an online triage application which redirects them to the most appropriate type of funding for their business needs. A set of simple and intuitive forms can then be completed by the business owner to capture all information required to fulfil their funding application.
Data from their funding application is then validated by cross-checking with existing information held by the Welsh Government for accuracy and fraud prevention, with invalid or duplicate claims automatically filtered out by an AI tier.
The service integrates with the existing business account backend system and presents valid applications for processing by the back-office team. This case-driven approach, along with other useful data produced by the system, greatly reduces the time needed for manual validation.
Since going live, the Kainos team has continued to work with the Welsh Government to further automate the process for reviewing applications for approval, as well as preparing the system for future funding rounds.
A multi-disciplinary team worked efficiently through tried and tested agile remote working practices to ensure accelerated delivery. This was enhanced through maximised use of cloud PaaS services in Azure, ensuring the service was both created quickly, securely and with a reduced maintenance and operational overhead. All work was carried out remotely by the team – design, build, secure, deploy and operate.
Having previously developed the Welsh Government’s Business Account System allowed Kainos to make best use of this service’s flexibility, enabling simple and rapid integration as well as clever reuse of code to speed up delivery timelines and ensure a stable and secure service.
The service used an automated pipeline first approach. Leveraging PaaS offerings in Azure, an automated path through to production was established – both for application and data validation.
Kainos quickly identified how AI could support this service by providing a risk-based scoring mechanism to enable faster, more accurate processing, increase security, support fraud prevention and ultimately significantly cut down the time required for manual processing. AI was deployed as a front-line tier in the solution.
Despite the short timescales, the system was built using tried and tested security practices. The project embedded members of Kainos’ cyber security capability to ensure that decisions balanced security, compliance, privacy and risk. Kainos engaged with the National Cyber Security Centre, and ensured the system was reviewed both externally by a third-party security company, and by the Welsh Government Security team before go-live.