Workers in the construction sector in Belgium receive loyalty stamps and bad-weather stamps. The management of these social benefits is in the hands of PDOK. Cegeka rebuilt the application used to do this. Therefore PDOK does not have to worry about continuity and maintainability anymore.
The main task of the Employers’ Office for the Organisation and Control of Welfare Schemes (Patronale Dienst voor Organisatie en Kontrole van de bestaanszekerheidsstelsels, PDOK), is the collection of employers’ contributions and the issue of loyalty stamps and bad-weather stamps for workers in the construction industry in Belgium. The application that PDOK used to manage this was progressive when it was introduced in 2004. It was developed in-house and has been updated and managed by PDOK all along.
‘The employees were satisfied with the application,’ says Jan Vochten, Director at PDOK, ‘but there were two problems. On the one hand, the application had become a typical Belgian hotchpotch: whenever extra functionality was needed, something was added. This resulted in a system that was difficult to maintain. On the other hand, almost all people who had thought of and developed the system had left PDOK. At a certain point, we only had one person left who had helped develop the application, and there was no documentation. At that point I said to the board that this was no longer responsible and that we needed a new application.’
“The application had become a typical Belgian hotchpotch: whenever extra functionality was needed, something was added. This resulted in a system that was difficult to maintain.”
Jan Vochten, Director at PDOK
A more modular and maintainable system with state-of-the-art technology is needed. This should allow for easy implementation of any required adjustments in the future that may arise at any given time.
Complex chain of tasks
PDOK then entered into discussions with Constructiv, the service organisation of and for the construction sector. ‘They were already working with Cegeka and indicated that we could reuse components if we also worked with Cegeka,’ says Jan Vochten. In 2018, PDOK started drawing up specifications. Based on these specifications, Cegeka started developing the application in 2019. This was done using an agile approach and in the form of microservices, which were integrated with Constructiv’s platform for access to personal data and performance data. By integrating these components for PDOK as well, Cegeka can ensure consistent and uniform use of data flows within the social security fund for the construction sector.
This was a complex custom application, the development of which took two years. The application is responsible not only for the calculation and issuance of loyalty and bad-weather stamps of the workers, but also for the calculation and collection of employer’s contributions. Of course, this also includes the entire administrative and legal follow-up of the collection of money. ‘It is a complex chain of tasks that must all be well coordinated’, Hendrik De Wit summarises the challenge. As Senior Social Consultant at PDOK, he led the project in the right direction.
‘Although we had spent a lot of time on the specifications, it turned out that they were not yet sufficiently worked out’, Jan Vochten looks back. ‘When we started developing the application, many tasks turned out to be even more complex than we had estimated. For example, we had not discussed some requirements sufficiently with our financial department. Then discussions arose about what was in the scope and what was not. If we could start again, we would have dealt with the specifications even more thoroughly. But despite these challenges, cooperation with Cegeka was always constructive. It was not an easy project and we constantly challenged each other, but the cooperation was always a real partnership.’
“Despite the challenges, cooperation with Cegeka was always constructive.”
Jan Vochten, Director at PDOK
According to Hendrik De Wit, PDOK’s employees are satisfied with the use of the new application. By using updated data flows, improved and more extensive information is available, which makes it possible to present more contextual information to the users. As a result, for example, the monitoring of foreign companies is now easier.
For example, the application now also allows for a shorter response time. If a contractor has social security debts, the client must withhold 35% of the amount owed and pay it to the Belgian National Social Security Office (NSSO). Clients can use the online service ‘Check Inhoudingsplicht’ (check withholding obligation) to find out whether a contractor is in order. However, a week elapses between the moment that PDOK informs the NSSO that a contractor has social security debts and the moment that this is published on the website. ‘With the old application, we were only able to rectify situations where a company paid the amount due in that week, in the course of the day of publication, so that those companies were still listed as defaulting payers on the website for a few hours. With the new application, we can avoid this, as we can pass on the corrections in advance and they can be processed more quickly by the NSSO,’ explains Hendrik De Wit.
PDOK has worked closely with Cegeka, Hendrik De Wit explains. ‘Cegeka has supported us very well in unravelling the complexity of our application and simplifying it. The developers didn’t just blindly convert our existing application to a new environment but took an active role in coming up with ideas. They asked questions like, “What do you need certain functionality for, what are you going to do with it?” Thanks to their critical attitude, we have been able to greatly simplify our application. The contact with the project manager at Cegeka was also smooth, so that we could always make quick decisions.’
‘The fact that we were in direct contact with Cegeka’s developers on a regular basis proved to be a major asset,’ adds Jan Vochten. ‘We also noticed that it was important that someone took the time to steer the project in the right direction.
Finally, the problem of maintainability has now been effectively solved, concludes Hendrik De Wit. ‘Cegeka has a lot of know-how. This is useful if further developments have to be made. And as far as maintenance is concerned, they take care of everything. Moreover, everything is now documented. I still consult that documentation regularly if I want to know something about functionality I don’t use very often.’
“Thanks to the critical attitude of Cegeka’s developers, we were able to greatly simplify our application.”
Hendrik De Wit, Senior Social Consultant at PDOK