Creating the tools

SfP’s approach to system architecture separates the design and coding of the underlying service system from the design and construction of a specific benefit application. It offers a simple and elegant means of dealing with very complicated page flow and complex data collection and analysis.

We offer a single unified system at a wide range of local access points. Financial and federal rules embedded in the system result in a no-wrong-door experience for users who are seeking information, eligibility assessment, or application submission assistance for a variety of programs.

SfP maintains dedicated training, testing, and development environments to support all phases of service development and support. SfP also supports sophisticated reporting features, which help our affiliates manage the performance of their site networks and fulfill reporting requirements from their funders.

Service Scalability

SfP employs a number of strategies to prepare for rapid and unexpected growth, including the use of scalable application architecture, frequent application performance tuning, and regular load testing.

SfP’s production application environment is designed to maintain high availability of services with a rolling release cycle. Redundant load-balancing web proxies allow for flexible application deployment while shielding application servers from direct exposure to the Internet. SfP’s main database cluster also features full redundancy, while frequent backups further minimize the risk of data loss.

In addition to expanding the products and customer base, SfP has a growing role-based permission system to support the various service models and administrative structures.

Paperless Integration

SfP has extensive experience working with state social service agencies to establish or expand electronic benefit application submissions. Currently, The Benefit Bank® supports about a dozen distinct submission systems, which have been tailored to the particular application. In all cases, the resulting processes and protocols are available for use by any other third-party organizations able to meet the agency’s requirements, even though SfP has been the partner in designing and testing the capabilities.

In other states, partnering with SfP led to the development of that state’s first-ever electronic benefit data intake capability, and in a number of states, SfP has contributed to the initial design of a front-end/back-end link, which has then become the basis for the state’s self-serve system. These efforts have ultimately reduced time, effort and cost for all concerned, and increased uptake rates for benefits among applicants most in need.

Development Process

SfP’s process to integrate policy with technology and develop user-friendly web-based tools begins with the creation of a technical specification document (Software Requirements Specification (SRS)) that utilizes expertly researched policy, guidelines and forms regarding specific benefits or taxes. The SRS is used by software developers to guide module design and construction and by Quality Assurance to write test cases based on specified product behavior.

SfP’s production environment focuses on performance, reliability, and security. The company relies on in-house systems architecture and programming staff using open source tools including Perl, PostgreSQL (database), XML (application encoding) and Linux (operating system).

SfP builds products using a custom, in-house developed platform designed to make the development and maintenance of new services as accurate and efficient as possible. This platform supports a wide range of functions, including building question trees, calculating program eligibility, populating fillable PDF forms, and submitting tax returns and benefit applications electronically.

Customizable reports provide aggregated data at the host site level or at the counselor/ coach level, and deliver data in either spreadsheet or presentation-quality PDF formats. Specialized report tools also exist to provide performance data in time-series graphs and county-based maps.