Administrators of Norwegian municipality Steinkjer Kommune sought a way to make document handling more efficient. Microsoft Gold Certified Partner ErgoGroup helped integrate its internal document management solution with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, creating a user-friendly interface that staff could personalise. With the system in place, employees now have the tools to collaborate more effectively and provide a better service to citizens.
Steinkjer Kommune is a municipality in Norway, serving a community of more than 20,000 citizens. Of its 1,500 regional government employees, around 300 dedicate much of their time to case management, which involves processing letters and e-mail queries from citizens. Every day, these council officials make decisions on building, planning, and kindergarten applications, before processing and archiving the documentation. They handle around 30,000 of these documents a year.
Like any public sector organisation, Steinkjer Kommune is under pressure to provide better and more cost-effective services to the community. Recently, its IT systems came under scrutiny when managers decided to address a problem that kept users from working efficiently. The organisation uses an internal document handling system called ePhorte, developed by Gecko Informasjonssystemer, a Microsoft Certified Partner. ePhorte is a leading document management system for the public sector in Norway and, as Viggo Billdal, IT Manager, Steinkjer Kommune, explains, while this is a sophisticated and reliable system, it was seen as too complicated by many council officials. This was because the growing number of systems in daily use at the council meant that these employees didn’t have time to develop the necessary expertise in the ePhorte interface. “ePhorte is a specialist solution designed by archivists, for archivists,” he says. “At Steinkjer, we had just seven trained employees experienced in using it. The other users needed a less complex and more personalised interface. The information they needed to process cases was held in disparate systems, which they had to access separately. Users often took half an hour or more to do a job that should take minutes, and frequently asked for help.”
Because employees were often reluctant to use the system, there was a daily pressure on the small archiving team to take on this work. In extreme cases, people simply failed to archive documents at all, leading to missing information and delayed response times.
Billdal was determined to make the solution more suitable for a wider base of non-specialist users, such as councillors. He believed the answer lay in the use of a single workspace to provide people with access to all the applications and data they needed to complete tasks, and workflow tools to ensure documents were processed and filed correctly and efficiently. Steinkjer Kommune worked with ErgoGroup to integrate ePhorte with Office SharePoint Server 2007 communication and collaboration technology. “Office SharePoint Server 2007 was a natural choice because it could be easily customised to fit in with our way of working,” says Billdal.
ErgoGroup built an integration bus—an electronic pathway that connects multiple devices—between ePhorte and Office SharePoint Server 2007, and created a common workspace. The partner developed pre-defined Web Part components comprising all necessary links and tools to make up personalised interfaces within this workspace, meaning employees are able to customise their screens according to their specific needs.
All applications, including the archiving system, are now accessed with easy-to-use tools on the single workspace. Sjur Østvold, Product Manager, ErgoGroup, says: “Users have the tools they need to create documents in Office SharePoint Server 2007, place them directly into the archive system, and set up a workflow to ensure the process for each document is always completed.”
Employees can also search for information held in different systems and use it to answer letters, or collaborate with colleagues to make decisions on projects, without leaving their screens. Close integration with Microsoft Office applications such as Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 messaging and collaboration client means that rather than referring to their e-mail inboxes to check for new tasks, users are automatically alerted by messages that appear on their screens. And documents that have been sent to the council in e-mail messages can be archived directly from Office Outlook 2007 with a single click of the mouse. The organisation also aims to integrate solutions such as Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, and its finance and human resources applications.
Despite still being in the early stages of deployment, the ePhorte and Office SharePoint Server 2007 integration at Steinkjer Kommune has already inspired a new culture of working. Without having to replace its existing IT investment, the council has transformed a system that alienated many users and caused delays, into one that’s easy to use and encourages collaboration. “Ultimately, our goal is to offer a better service to citizens,” says Billdal. “By integrating our document handling solution with Office SharePoint Server 2007, we’ve made it accessible to all employees. The technology is no longer restrictive—it supports what they do, giving them the tools to work efficiently.”
- Easy-to-use solution cuts training costs. The familiar Office-based interface provides access to all necessary applications from a single place, while user-friendly tools ease employee acceptance. Billdal says: “The system requires very little training. It used to take up to four days to teach someone to use the system, but now it takes a couple of hours.”
- Council complies with government regulations. The Noark standard sets out instructions for electronic records management in public administrations in Norway. The combination of Office SharePoint Server 2007 with ePhorte ensures that all information is archived correctly and is easy to locate in compliance with these regulations.
- Employees’ time is freed for more productive tasks. Because any council official can now easily access or file documents, archivists no longer spend extra time handling the additional workloads of people struggling to use the system. All users can archive a document in seconds, rather than taking around half an hour, giving them more time to serve the public.
- Integrated system speeds application processing. The single workspace ensures all council officials—whether they’re working in the office or at home—can securely access all the information they need from one place. Automatic workflows prompt people to complete tasks, so applications are processed more efficiently, and citizens enjoy a faster response.
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This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY. Document published March 2010