The New Zealand Social Welfare Department, which is now called Work and Income New Zealand – WINZ – retained Venturi to build an Expert Calculator for use by Income Support staff who deal with questions of eligibility, allowances and benefit amounts. While the legislators strive to make the benefits, allowances and taxes as simple to calculate as possible, the net result, in a typical case, is an extremely complex calculation. Typically, an officer of the department will have a folder with 50 pages of notes and rates to guide them through the calculation.
This complexity denied the department the ability to give quick consistent advice, either over the phone or at the counter. Undoubtedly, clients were frustrated by the delays and errors in these manual calculations. The XpertRule calculator gives the officer a simple interface to enter the clients circumstances and calculate the eligible benefits, allowances and amounts, including printing an advice note. The speed of this calculator also allows advice to be given by telephone operators, now a major part of the Departments new strategy. The calculator also provides an explanation of the calculation.
Internally the calculator is very complex. The “cocktail” of robust rule-management techniques built into XpertRule make the system easily maintainable by an experienced programmer. In the opinion of the author the same would not be true of tools like Visual Basic or C++ where the lack of data and process integrity could lead to an unstable application.
The Calculator was given the “Best Software” award by the department, against competition from a Workflow system, Adobe Acrobat documentation system and Intranet. The award was based on a vote by the 3000 front office staff who use the software.
The Calculator opened up one more door for Social Welfare. Using the connectivity capabilities of XpertRule, the calculator connects to the mainframe, allowing current client information to be loaded into the calculator as the basis for “what if” calculations with the client.