Building economic aid systems in a pandemic

KPMG

The KPMG Law´s Technology Team has developed a State Aid Assessment (Fördermittel Assistant) module to assist in applying for economic aid. It was a fast and intense project – resulting in a powerful and enterprise-ready solution. KPMG Law Partner and Head of Legal Technology, Philipp Glock, who ran the project, got together with Michael Grupp and Johannes Maurer to discuss it.

MG: What is your role within KPMG Law? What is your strategic mission within KPMG Law? What are your responsibilities?

I joined KPMG Law in 2009. As a member of the KPMG Global Legal Operations and Technology Group and as Head of Legal Technology Germany I focus on the management of complex legal technology projects. I advise companies of all sizes in the set-up of internal legally driven processes and with the selection and implementation of the appropriate (legal) tech tools. Furthermore, my team and I are constantly working on legal technical solutions in order to improve and resolve the pain points of our clients.

Philipp Glock, Partner, KPMG Law, Head of Legal Technology

He studied law at the universities of Bonn, Lausanne and at the HU Berlin and obtained the title of Magister Legum (LL.M.) in Cape Town and Stellenbosch/South Africa.

Before joining KPMG Law, Philipp worked for another large German law firm and for Sony Deutschland GmbH.

Philipp’s main areas of expertise include digitalization, technology and process consulting for legal departments as well as corporate and commercial law. As Head of Legal Technology, Philipp is familiar with the latest digital solutions for companies of all sizes and helps them both to select and introduce the appropriate tools and to implement or revise processes in their legal function.

Philipp, your team and you have developed the KPMG Law´s State Aid Assessment (Fördermittel Assistant) module with BRYTER. It was a fast and intense project. Your legal engineers and legal operations unit teamed up with Johannes Maurer and our BD team to go from idea to product really fast.

MG: Can you tell us about the idea and the main advantages for the users?

PG: The Fördermittel Assistant is an expert in a digital shape: it contains the knowledge necessary to assess available programs and initiatives based on specific needs – and then provides an overview to programs, claims and available funding.

It is available for use online, where we offer it as a professional support in finding help now. But another important feature of the application is its variability: it is built in a way that other companies, institutions and organizations can offer it to their own users with adjusted, industry relevant content and custom branding. Basically, it helps companies to survive in these times and helps organizations help their partners, e.g. franchise partners, subsidiaries, sales partners, etc.

The tool contains all the necessary knowledge, it is easy to use and available online.

MG: Let’s talk about building an assessor like this: How complicated is it, really? What are the requirements, what are the necessary steps?

PG: It is relatively easy to build a quick assessment for this situation. But complexity rises as soon as it becomes solid advice and if you really want to describe the mental model of experts that assess in this situation. First, the regulatory rules and the logic need to be defined, then it is about designing the content. We also added integrations into databases and other repositories. And lastly, of course, it takes a lot of effort to design it in a way it is pleasant to use and just ‘done right’.

Ultimately, it is our legal expertise that is being transformed into a digital application. And while building applications, you realize that the challenge is less in the technology but in the content. BRYTER helps to take the pain out of the tech part, but to define, structure and describe the content remains a challenge.

JM: Traditionally, legal experts would draft the content and the questions, draw the workflows and hand everything over to the IT department or external partners. Then, a month-long collaboration of domain experts and developers would begin – often with unsatisfying results.

Here, knowledge and skills were in one team, often in the same brain, actually.

PG: Exactly, this is the expertise we are building in our team: to be able to deliver hybrid solutions bridging this gap between analogue and digital and allowing expertise to be scalable and accessible.

MG: So you had to combine legal and domain expertise with tech knowledge – is this more complicated than writing an opinion on the matter?

PG: Yes and no. Of course, regulatory knowledge is apt for automation – at least in clear and formalized cases. So it feels somewhat natural to turn the decision model into a digital structure. But it becomes complex for reasons linked to the interactive format: First, you need to envision a multitude of cases and built a digital assessor that deals with even exceptional or edge cases. Here, fallback rules and a very clear target of the scope of the application are important. And secondly, the application needs to work independently from any human intervention, which raises the bar for the requirements in designing the dialogue. Questions must be clear, there needs to be additional information for many questions, you need to provide more help than you would expect in a “normal” legal opinion. Which is ok because we are offering a digital solution for thousands of cases.

Johannes Maurer and his team supported as well, especially in testing and defining the rule structure. It is very helpful to get assistance from people who have experience in comparable projects and are especially trained in rule engines.

JM: Yes – building digital tools is one thing, building very complex tools very fast is a challenge. And of course, being experienced with the possibilities of BRYTER is a plus. Many content-related requirements have consequences for the technological concept. It is a constant ping-pong between tech skills and domain expertise. Between the content requirements and the execution.

MG: You were very fast in delivering it. How did that work?

PG: You could say that we had been waiting with the engine running. The project is part of a long-term strategy and planning of KPMG Law to pursuing the implementation of legal tech solutions. So we had everything we needed at hand: The team, the knowledge, the processes and the tech to build applications fast.

Of course, the Covid-19 Situation with the immediate need for action gave birth to the project at hand, but we would not have been able to deliver in a few days if we had not been prepared. We had received requests from clients interested in such an application and have decided to start building.

MG: Who was involved in the building process of this module? Did you have a fixed team or a small group that builds and was advised by experts from different practice groups?

PG: We have a team that is specialized in building applications like these. This means that we have the expertise on a process level and on an operational level. Additionally, we collaborate with the teams that bring the domain expertise. In this case, the knowledge about economic aid programs and requirements in the intersection of company and tax law.

Also, the BRYTER team supported on a tech level.

JM: Exactly, the project has become quite sophisticated: We did not only build an assessment tool for individual assessment of claims – the tool is actually a variable, scalable solution that other companies or institutions can run to offer a comparable service to their clients and users. This meant that the entire logic, rules and content needed to be flexible and interchangeable and adaptable to different environments.

MG: Can you give an example?

PG: Yes, a Franchise Company that offers such an assessment to their franchise partners can take the module and adapt it to their needs. This means that it can be changed due to specific industry requirements, additional programs, additional compliance requirements. And, of course, its look and feel as well as its stylistic appearance can be changed.

MG: How long did it take from the first sketch to the finished module?

PG: Including revisions and testing it took us around two weeks all in all. Which is pretty good considering the fact that information from many different (state) stakeholders had to be considered and included.

MG: What was your biggest learning in this project?

This project has shown me once again that in today’s world it is more important than ever to create individual solutions for clients. Quick and focused, and BRYTER is the ideal tool for this.

Johannes Maurer, Head of Solutions Engineering, BRYTER GmbH

Johannes Maurer is a German qualified lawyer (Rechtsanwalt) and software developer.

He studied law in Heidelberg, St. Gallen and London and subsequently absolved his legal clerkship (Referendariat) in Frankfurt am Main and in New York.

Johannes started his career as an attorney with an international law firm in Frankfurt. Prior to this, he was co-founder and managing director of a legal tech company.

He joined BRYTER in 2019 where he is now heading the Solutions Engineering team. In this capacity, he is responsible for the company’s content strategy as well as the legal engineering services to help customers develop and enhance their digital legal business strategies.

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