Drupal portfolio : jGrants: Online grants application/management system for the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan

The jGrants website displayed on a mobile phone and a desktop computer

jGrants from METI, which launched in December 2019, is a web application designed to streamline businesses' applications for grants, and the management of applications and project information at the grants office. Based on foundational investigations and using agile development methods, ANNAI worked closely with METI for three years on this project to bring this service to realisation.

Project background and application development

Discovering a common thread in a large number of complex processes

Grants are managed not only by ministries and agencies, but also by hundreds of secretariats, including commissioned and sub-commissioned subordinate organisations and external organisations. The process of application, adoption, and operation of grants are not standardised among these organisations, and are determined on a grant-by-grant or agency-by-agency basis based on the Law Concerning Appropriateness of Budget Execution for Grants and other relevant laws and regulations. In addition, depending on the institution or organisation, the management methods are either all paper-based or have been independently digitised. As a result, developing a system that would cover all of these differences was considered unrealistic.

Therefore, in building j-Gants, the first step was to simplify the business processes, which can be adopted by all the grants-managing organisations, prior to designing the system. To achieve this, we conducted Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) and observed/analysed the application and adoption processes and management methods of the main institutions.

Adopting an agile methodology

As specifications cannot be generated from business processes that are yet to be fully established, ANNAI suggested that the project be managed in an agile manner - repeating discovery, development and refinement. At the same time, however, this also means that the final deliverable could not be defined at the beginning of the project. Since the waterfall approach is still dominant in government software development projects in Japan, we supported METI officials in learning agile development methods during the course of the project.

Various problems occurred during the project, including problems that were peculiar to government projects, but we responded flexibly to find the best solution for all parties involved.

Details on the project management aspect of jGrants is described in this blog post:


Features of jGrants

jGrants was built using Drupal 8. Here is an overview of the features jGrants offered:

  • Posting grant information
  • Businesses to apply for grants
  • Receiving applications from businesses
  • For each grant, allocating users to various responsibilities, e.g. accepting applications and dispatching confirmations
  • Management of various post-acceptance procedures (reporting, reimbursement, etc.)
  • Automating notifications when applications and various procedures occur
  • Allowing applicants to temporarily save incomplete applications
  • Integrating gBizID (https://gbiz-id.go.jp/), the government-managed federated authentication service

In order to meet these requirements, the system was efficiently developed using a combination of conrib and custom modules. This is detailed in the following blog post: https://annai.co.jp/en/article/jgrants-system

d-Gov, the concept that jGrants was based on

d-Gov envisages the future where the government and citizens are brought closer through the platform, which is modular and flexible so the government can build workflows for various application and administrative procedures while minimising the involvement of developers. Also, releasing the source code of d-Gov under an open-source licence would enable developers around the globe to collaborate and accelerate the development, which would, in turn, improve the security and usability of the system.

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