Better rules – better outcomes

Better rules – better outcomes is about re-imagining the way we develop and express the rules of regulatory systems, ensuring they work for us in a digital world.

Better Rules - Better Outcomes - shaping the future of Government Regulation - New Zealand Government

To find out more about Better Rules watch our extended video(external link).

What Better rules – better outcomes is all about

Circular flowchart pertaining to government and business

Better rules – better outcomes is a New Zealand initiative that will enhance the way our government develops and implements regulatory systems, and has attracted a lot of international attention.

Rules govern the way we behave and operate. The rules are set out in legislation which consists of Acts of Parliament and regulations. Simply put, Better Rules produces legislation in a digital format.

As legislation is developed we make sure it can be understood and translated in the digital environment. This makes it easier for business to understand and apply the rules in their own context. This is particularly valuable for situations with rules for things like calculations, eligibility criteria for a benefit, and financial reporting obligations.

It’s a methodology that enables us to reflect the logic of legislation, expressed as a concept model, decision models, and rule statements.

Together these create a blueprint of the legislation, which then sets out the rules of a regulatory system.

Using the blueprint we can write legislation in any language. For example English words and software code.

That software code can then easily be used in our devices and systems to assist people and businesses to understand, benefit from, and comply with legislation.

Better Rules complements and enhances the current policy-development process.

Why we are doing this

Diagram showing the connection between business and government

Nowadays we interact with legislation through digital devices and it’s important that we get it right.

Over the last decade we have seen a significant advance in software and digital technologies.

More and more we interact with legislation through our digital devices and, the systems that work out our entitlements and obligations when interacting with government.

Digital devices and systems assist us to apply for the correct things, and help ensure we don’t miss a payment or fail to meet our compliance requirements.

The difficulty with legislation is that it is not written in a language that our digital devices can understand.

Currently, for legislation to be used by a device or digital system, humans need to translate and re-write the legislation into software languages. Incorrect translation is a high risk for everyone.

The Better Rules methodology gives us the opportunity to develop legislation in written language and software code right from the start of the policy development process.

How are we going to achieve it?

Lineup of people from the shoulders up.

The Better Rules approach involves working in a multi-disciplinary team using human-centred design techniques. Bringing together all of the people invested in developing and implementing a regulatory system – the policy analysts, the lawyers, the legislative drafters, the service designers, the software engineers, end users and more…

Together, they design the overall regulatory system to ensure it focuses on the needs of the end users of that system.

Meeting those needs is the central focus of the design approach – the whole regulatory system is taken into consideration before any legislation is written.

Loomio discussion forum

In September 2018, the Better for Business (B4B) team within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) facilitated a digital forum discussion on the “Better Rules, Better Outcomes” methodology and its applications. Also referred to as “legislation as code” or “Rules as Code”. 

The forum brought together a community of government officials, academics and business professionals who shared their opinions, ideas and supplementary resources. MBIE recognises the value of preserving these discussions in an archived format for other interested parties.

The forum has now closed, but you can find the discussion threads in the document below.

This document presents themed discussion threads from the digital forum. The views, ideas and opinions expressed as part of the open discussion are not necessarily the views of MBIE. 

For reasons of privacy, MBIE has removed the names of contributors as well as any supplementary resources to ensure impartiality toward business entities or individual interests. 

MBIE does not hold the copyright to any of the concepts put forward and has taken every measure to remove supplementary links and pages, where contextual information may indicate a preference or anti-competitive practices.

Archived loomio forum discussions [PDF, 1.4 MB]

Next steps

We are working with agencies to develop case studies on the benefits of the Better Rules approach. We are currently working with IR, ACC, DIA, MSD and MPI.

If you’re interested in being part of this, please feel free to contact the team Betterrules@mbie.govt.nz.

If you have feedback or want to get involved, please contact the Better Rules team Betterrules@mbie.govt.nz.

Last updated: 24 November 2020