City commissioners in Bergen, Norway, used to bring as many as 500 pages of paper documents to each of their biweekly meetings. Although case managers created the documents electronically, commission secretaries made at least 20 copies of each case for meeting attendees. In response to a challenge to reduce the city’s impact on the environment, the City of Bergen moved to paperless meetings using a document management and storage solution built on Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server 2007 and Microsoft Office OneNote® 2007. Bergen developed this new solution, called 360° Politician’s Workplace, in partnership with Microsoft and Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Software Innovation. With its digital workplace solution, the city expects to save more than 3 million sheets of paper, eliminate 43 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, and save NOK 2,400,000 (U.S.$366,233) per year.
The City of Bergen, in southwest Norway, was founded in 1070 and is Norway’s second-largest city. The city has a population of more than 250,000 citizens, and the entire Bergen Economic Region has nearly 400,000 people. Bergen is led by a mayor and a City Council of 67 elected politicians, and the city’s day-to-day operations are managed by five full-time commissioners, a Chief Commissioner, and related support staff. The City of Bergen employs more than 15,000 people at 700 locations around the municipality, including schools, social welfare offices, city administration buildings, and other locations.
The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) group manages technology for the City of Bergen, including city employees, as well as 35,000 students at Bergen schools. The city’s technology assets include 17,000 computers—approximately two-thirds of which are desktop systems and one-third of which are portable computers. Bergen has been using the Windows® XP operating system, and Microsoft® Office 2003 is among the first-tier applications managed by the ICT group.
||For just the 20 people on the City Commission, we are saving 515,000 sheets of A4 paper annually—that equates to more than 7.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide that will not be released into the atmosphere.
Head of Information and Communication Technology
City of Bergen
Prior to 2008, computers were used extensively in city government but only up to a certain level. Case managers prepared reports for city commissioners with an electronic case management tool. Documents were then passed on electronically to commissioners’ support staff, at which point electronic processes ended and manual processes began. Board secretaries printed hard copies of all documents for meetings and then made photocopies for the more than 20 regular attendees. It was not uncommon for a commissioner to bring 500 pages of hard-copy documents to each biweekly meeting.
In January 2008, Bergen began a very public move toward environmentally sound business processes when the city’s Chief Commissioner, Monica Mæland, appeared on a national television program as part of a “climate challenge” series between Norwegian cities. “This project began as a political initiative,” explains Andreas Høistad, Head of Information and Communication Technology for the City of Bergen. “Politicians were challenged to come up with practical strategies to help save the environment, and Chief Commissioner Mæland made a promise to make our city government meetings paperless as soon as possible.”
The city’s leaders wanted to use this as an opportunity to improve city commission operations as well. “In addition to saving the environment, we saw this as a political initiative that would make the politicians and their staff more efficient in their daily work,” says Høistad. “It was really two benefits for the price of one.”
Responsibility for implementing a paperless meeting solution fell to the Bergen ICT group. “When the Chief Commissioner went on national television and promised to make our meetings paperless, that was a huge challenge for us,” says Høistad. “We had to figure out how to change 20 years of business processes in less than six months for our most important stakeholders: our top political and administrative management. And as far as we knew, no one else had done this before us.”
For assistance in meeting the challenge, Bergen turned to two of its long-time technology partners: Microsoft and Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Software Innovation. Software Innovation, based in Lysaker, Norway, has 20 years of experience helping private and public sector organizations control, manage, and share information. Software Innovation offers the Public 360° solution, built on Microsoft Office SharePoint® Server 2007, to facilitate modern electronic government. “Public 360° is built as an Office Business Application [OBA],” explains Anders Melbye, Director of Partner Sales at Software Innovation. “It offers case management, document management, records management, and more. All of its features are available through a SharePoint Web client or through other Microsoft Office applications. It’s a modular application designed to be affordable for local governments that don’t have large budgets.”
Bergen has a long-standing investment in Microsoft technologies, including Office SharePoint Server and Microsoft Office Outlook® messaging and collaboration client. The city also used a previous version of the Public 360° case management software. “Because we were working on a tight timeline, we felt it was important to utilize technologies and knowledge we already have as much as possible,” says Høistad.
After speaking with Software Innovation, the city felt that the latest version of Public 360° could provide much of the functionality it was looking for to streamline business processes and eliminate hard-copy documents. However, Public 360° lacked an easy way for commissioners to read, annotate, and transport electronic documents. “As much as possible, we wanted to re-create the feeling of working with paper while still making everything digital,” notes Høistad. “We didn’t want to alter the work pattern of the politicians too much.”
In meetings with Microsoft and Software Innovation, Bergen became interested in using the Microsoft Office OneNote® 2007 note-taking program in combination with Tablet PCs running the Windows Vista® operating system as the commissioners’ interface to the electronic document solution. “Before this project, we were not familiar with Office OneNote,” says Høistad. “But we met with Microsoft and began exploring it, and we felt that it would work well for us with very minor customizations. Office OneNote 2007 was the only tool we found that had all the functions we were looking for.”
When it came time to deploy the new solution to city commissioners and administrative staff, Bergen ICT made sure that the transition went smoothly. Each user received one-on-one training, and it did not take long before the city met its goal of creating a paperless workflow. “At the beginning, we used the electronic and paper systems in parallel, but we were able to go completely paperless after only three or four meetings,” notes Høistad. “From a technical point of view, the implementation was very easy and quick, and once the new solution was working in city government, we began rolling it out to members of the City Council as well. We are halfway through that extended deployment, and will finish it by the end of the year.”
Using this system, commissioners automatically receive documents when they synchronize their Tablet PCs with a common file directory via a SharePoint workspace or with Office Outlook 2007. “Now the city commissioners can bring a Tablet PC to meetings with all necessary documents preloaded in OneNote 2007 notebooks by the board secretary or another authorized user,” explains Høistad. “They can view full-size A4 pages on the screen, and with the Tablet PC stylus, they can use the annotation features of OneNote 2007 to add comments, underline key passages, or write by hand directly in a document.”
||Office OneNote 2007 was the only tool we found that had all the functions we were looking for.
||Andreas Høistad Head of Information and Communication Technology
City of Bergen
Although the Bergen solution is built on the existing Public 360° product, the addition of Office OneNote 2007 and the Tablet PCs is brand new. Numerous other cities and local governments in Norway and across Europe have contacted the city to learn more about the solution, which has been named 360° Politician’s Workplace.
For Bergen, the planning and design team for the 360° Politician’s Workplace product was essential to its success. “One of the keys to this solution was the fact that we were able to utilize existing relationships with Microsoft and Software Innovation,” says Høistad. “Working together, we were able to think ‘outside the box’ and come up with a solution ideally suited to our needs.”
The City of Bergen successfully met its Chief Commissioner’s climate challenge by greatly reducing its carbon dioxide emissions with a completely electronic, paperless document management solution. The city uses its 360° Politician’s Workplace system to improve the efficiency of its document process workflow and simplify the work of city commissioners. This same solution shows potential for similar benefits in other city offices.
Greatly Reduced Environmental Impact and Costs
With the 360° Politician’s Workplace system, the Commission in the City of Bergen has successfully eliminated its dependence on paper. “We used to print large piles of paper every week,” notes Høistad. “Now we only print and archive a single signed copy of each case to meet legal requirements. For just the 20 people on the City Commission, we are saving 515,000 sheets of A4 paper annually —that equates to more than 7.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide that will not be released into the atmosphere.” Adds Melbye, “Once Bergen fully deploys their new solution to the City Council, they will eliminate the need to use more than 3 million sheets of paper a year, saving more than 400 trees and eliminating well over 43 metric tons of carbon dioxide. It will also save them $366,000 per year in printing, packing, and dispatch costs.”
Improved Information Access
Because the City of Bergen has implemented a full end-to-end digital process for case document management, with all documents used and stored in electronic format, city commissioners have much better access to information. “Commissioners no longer need to carry 500 pages of documents to a meeting,” explains Høistad. “And old cases and notes are always available to them, at any time. They also have faster access to updated documents, which they can download from the network. Commissioners can sort and prioritize the documents as needed and mark them up with personal notes, and it’s easy to share documents and notes with others.”
Enhanced Efficiency and Flexibility
The City of Bergen helps city commissioners do their jobs more easily and more effectively. “Our new digital document system with Office OneNote 2007 allows our politicians to be more efficient,” notes Høistad. “The flexibility of working wherever and whenever they like, plus the ability to access information more easily, has definitely made it easier to be a politician in Bergen. We also now have end-to-end electronic control of business processes, which also increases our operational efficiency.”
An Extensible Solution
The electronic document solution that Bergen uses in city government offers the possibility of process improvement and environmental savings in the city’s other municipal offices. “Our politicians wanted to meet the environmental challenge by doing something themselves,” explains Høistad. “Now that we have our new paperless solution for political administrative offices, various other departments are looking into utilizing this solution as well. The General Counsel’s office, for example, wants to look at this solution to send attorneys to court with electronic documents instead of piles of paper.”
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