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Posted: 10/11/2011
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City of Hamburg Germany Hamburg Turns To Consulting Experts to Automate Workflow, Saves $14.3 Million

The city of Hamburg recently embarked on a multiyear campaign to reduce operating costs. Leading this effort, the city’s Ministry of Finance sought to automate its paper-based approval process. By working with Microsoft Services to implement a Microsoft SharePoint–based solution that reduces paper consumption and shortens approval cycles, the ministry projects cost savings over the next five years of up to 10 million euros (U.S.$14.3 million).

Business Needs
The government of Hamburg, Germany needed to shorten cycle times for administrative processes and enhance data security. It also needed to trim costs by simplifying document storage and retrieval while reducing paper consumption.

For decades, Hamburg’s Ministry of Finance—like most other departments within the city’s public administration—used paper-based workflows to manage approvals for expenditures and other initiatives. But reliance on manual processes was time consuming. For example, a typical purchase approval cycle could take as long as one week to complete. The practice of routing hard copies of documents for review also had security implications. “We had no formal, auditable way of tracking the documents as they moved from person to person,” explains Ute Bendhaack, Senior Project Manager for the Finance Ministry of the City of Hamburg. The organization also needed to allocate physical space for storing all of the paperwork.

As department leaders began to search for a way to fully automate approval workflows, they hoped to capitalize on the organization’s existing investment in Microsoft technologies, including Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. Executives wanted the ability to tailor an automated workflow solution to fit the ministry’s unique business processes and auditing protocols, but they were aware of IT resource limitations. To shorten deployment time and minimize risk, they sought an implementation partner that could combine solution area expertise, deep knowledge of industry best practices, and responsive technical and business support.

In January 2010, the organization engaged Microsoft Services for help in designing a custom workflow solution based on Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. Says Bendhaack: “Beyond the need for technical assistance, we wanted to ensure that the solution we built aligned with our strategic objectives.” Bendhaack and members of the Ministry of Finance’s IT team worked closely with an enterprise architect from Microsoft, who provided best-practices guidance and on-site implementation support throughout the project.

* By designing and building a solution on SharePoint Server 2010 to achieve paperless workflows, Microsoft Services has helped us save money, reduce our carbon footprint, and deliver more efficient service. *

Ute Bendhaack
Senior Project Manager, Ministry of Finance, City of Hamburg

Microsoft Services helped the ministry create a fully tailored solution called Electronic Floating File, initially deploying it to 60 people within the department. The solution enables the ministry to dynamically monitor the flow of documents, track changes, and store completed files in a centralized repository. The Electronic Floating File solution extends standard workflow functionality in SharePoint Server, enabling authorized employees to dynamically add or remove reviewers. Employees can also edit existing documents in the workflow and contribute new content for review. By executing and managing all of these changes in a single tool, staff can save time and ultimately help reduce cycle times for essential administrative processes. After the workflow is completed, all content associated with that workflow—including changes to documents and processes—is automatically stored in an archiving system. Because each completed workflow is associated with a single, natural-language log file, employees can quickly search for and view a complete record of the process.

After successfully rolling out the Electronic Floating File solution within the Ministry of Finance, the city plans to deploy the solution to other departments. Microsoft Services will continue to provide consulting support in tailoring the solution to meet the specific process requirements of each individual department. “Because we plan to extend the Electronic Floating File across the entire organization, it was especially critical to work with the right people in designing and building it,” says Bendhaack. “Microsoft Services has provided the expert advice and support from day one to make our success possible.”

By working with Microsoft Services to plan and implement an automated workflow solution based on SharePoint Server 2010, the Hamburg Ministry of Finance anticipates the following benefits:

Projected multiyear cost savings of up to U.S.$14.3 million. Leaders in the Ministry of Finance have calculated that, by implementing and promoting wider adoption of the Electronic Floating File solution, the city of Hamburg will save a projected 1 million euros (U.S.$1.4 million) by the end of 2012. This savings estimate is based on such factors as faster approval cycles and a reduction in paper consumption and printing costs. “As we introduce the solution that we developed for the Ministry of Finance to other departments within the Hamburg city government, we anticipate even greater cost savings—up to 10 million euros [U.S.$14.3 million] over the next five years,” says Bendhaack.

Reduced time to complete approval processes—from days to minutes. By using automated workflow and auditing tools in the solution to handle document routing and tracking, the Ministry of Finance has dramatically shortened the cycle time for its approval processes. In fact, it has reduced the time needed to complete approval workflows from up to a week in some cases to an average of 20 minutes.

Accelerated solution deployment. Leaders of the Ministry of Finance attribute the success of the project to the solution planning, staff training, and guidance provided by Microsoft Services. By enabling the organization to rapidly adopt and extend SharePoint Server 2010 technology—while minimizing deployment costs—Microsoft Services helped the Ministry of Finance lead efforts to transform city government. “One of our most important mandates is to operate as efficiently as possible,” says Bendhaack. “By designing and building a solution on SharePoint Server 2010 to achieve paperless workflows, Microsoft Services has helped us save money, reduce our carbon footprint, and deliver more efficient service.”

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Solution Overview

Organization Size: 66663 employees

Organization Profile

The city government of Hamburg, Germany, oversees administration of all municipal services for the city’s 1.8 million residents.

Software and Services
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
  • Microsoft Consulting Services
  • Business Productivity - Collaboration

Vertical Industries


Business Need
  • Business Productivity
  • Collaboration

IT Issue
Personal Productivity


Microsoft Services