Austrian Federal Forests
SAP knows every tree in Austria
Austrian Federal Forests (Österreichische Bundesforste) bears responsibility for the natural land of Austria like no other company. The care and management of around 15 percent of the forested land and some ten percent of the national territory have been entrusted to Bundesforste. Conservation laws apply to around half of the land entrusted to ÖBf. Culturally and historically valuable buildings add to the abundance and diversity of natural wonders. The overriding principle for Bundesforste is sustainability. Only as much wood is removed from the forest as is constantly growing back. The conservation of nature and the environment, as well as the protection of social demands and interests, are just as important as achieving economic success. The core business of Bundesforste is forest management. Hunting and fishing activities are inextricably linked with the forest and water. Real estate development and management are the second pillar for Bundesforste.
Uniform file structure optimized Austria’s forestry operations
The third pillar of ÖBf services includes passing on skills and managing forested areas for clients both domestically and abroad. The fourth and newest area of business is renewable energy. Österreichische Bundesforste (ÖBf) look after and manage every tenth square meter of national territory in Austria for the purposes of sustainability. As it manages around 4,200 buildings alongside its core business of forests and wood, the company is also considered one of the largest real estate managers in Austria. Bundesforste has been supplying the documents for this real estate via an electronic record solution from easy software since 2010. When it comes to sales transactions or if there are legal issues, it is immensely beneficial when the papers are accessible centrally and not spread across the country in the various ÖBf forestry operations. Bundesforste is also making use of easy solutions in other areas, including invoice management.
Bundesforste’s real estate portfolio ranges from the tiniest hunting lodges and office and residential buildings through to warehouses and castle complexes. As an institution whose sphere of influence covers the whole of Austria, the company is organized into twelve regional forestry operations, plus two national parks and the management team in Purkersdorf near Vienna. Each of the 15 units used to manage the real estate records for their region themselves on their own premises. They were mostly paper records, in addition to electronic documents which were partially organized according to a Windows filing system.
On overall inter-company structure was certainly missing. Things that were also detrimental: There was no technical link to the master data in SAP® Real Estate Management, the SAP module for real estate management. “Previously, we had to gather up permanent records from the operations for our daily business transactions,” says Gernot Strasser, head of the Real Estate, Tourism and Water division at Bundesforste. It was detrimental for the legal department when documentation was not immediately accessible during legal discussions but had to be inconveniently sent by post or fax instead. The same thing occurred for purchases and sales.
There are lots of good record systems on the market, but not the right SAP solution. Using PCM Real Estate, we can communicate directly with the record from SAP.
Mag. Christian Kuschnig,
K. Hectare Natural Area
a considerable step in terms of quality and efficiency
This decentralized knowledge was the starting point for this record project. “We wanted a basic structure for our real estate so that all the data and documents can be accessed from the central office,” explains Strasser. PCM Real Estate has been the technical basis for this since 2009. The contract record solution from easy software AG was adapted for this purpose at the request of ÖBF real estate management and equipped with individual record types.
“There are lots of good record systems on the market, but not the right SAP solution,” says Christian Kuschnig from Bundesforste’s IT Management department. A record system could be built using SAP NetWeaver® Folders Management – the SAP solution for electronic record management – but this also had no link to SAP RE-FX. The IT team assessed easy as being the only supplier with adequate software. “We keep our real estate master data in SAP, which obviously minimizes the interface to the records and documents as much as possible,” says the IT specialist.
“Now we can communicate with records from SAP directly and don’t have to maintain duplicate records,” adds Kuschnig. If, for example, a clerk changes the business partner in the SAP master data for a lease agreement, the change automatically takes place in the associated records, so in the record header with its various attributes: contract number, building number, property. The people at Bundesforste agree that this would be significantly more complex with solutions without SAP integration. At the start of the project, EASY adjusted the default contract templates and record structure in the standard version to meet Bundesforste’s special requirements.
Five record types were set up: contract, building, rental property, property transaction and general records. The customized easy solution was brought straight into Bundesforste’s SAP system. Within a year of the solution being implemented, the ÖBf operations had to scan documents and deeds for approx. 4,200 building records and update the keywords in the records. No other old documents have been entered subsequently.
ÖBf maintains the real estate master data in SAP Real Estate Management, while all contracts and other building documents are kept in the easy PCM record solution, which is based directly on the PCM record solution SAP NetWeaver Folders Management. 32,000 records can now be found in the system. Where the documents are in paper format, they are scanned into the system and, in turn, indexed into their respective record. An individual record is created for each business transaction, both for the building itself and the associated tenancy.
A building record usually consists of photos of the property, diagrams and plans, as well as maintenance invoice for the building. Everything relating to tenancies – tenant correspondence, contracts, all personnel records for the tenant, master data sheets for the contract partner, current invoices – is stored in the contract record. The staff in the real estate department now have central access to all Bundesforste’s real estate-related documents. If an employee wants to know something about a building, they just search in the building record. Should they have a tenancy question, the contract record is the place to search. If they want to create a new record, the record head is automatically filled out with the attributes from SAP Real Estate Management. The individual documents in a record – usually no more than 15 – are indexed manually. After entering the appropriate keywords into the PCM Real Estate Management query form, they’ll find the right record or the document within seconds.
Even contract creation has fundamentally changed thanks to the direct access to the SAP master data. A new contract template system was introduced with PCM Real Estate. Previously, contracts were created in Microsoft Word and the master data from SAP Real Estate Management had to be added in manually. Now the company uses PCM Document Designer, another SAP add-on from easy. Gernot Strasser: “We’re now creating new rental contracts with Document Designer as an addition to the record solution on an ongoing basis. The SAP data is automatically applied to the contract templates.”
Those that have read access – appropriate to their SAP rights – are other Bundesforste employees beyond the real estate department , as well as those who have no direct involvement in the real estate business but need information about properties in their area – a regional director, for example. They also work in SAP and can access the real estate records via their native SAP client. “We can adjust quite a lot in PCM Real Estate ourselves,” says Kuschnig. “Small adjustments, like creating new document types. We had to change the direct debit form in the rental contract records for the SEPA conversion. We didn’t need any support for it.” It acts differently when it comes to fundamental changes to the record model. There are plans, for example, to file documents for the software used for reforestation management in the PCM record. As a result, ÖBf will now also use the real estate records in order to link reforestation master data from an SAP module developed in house with the associated data.
At Österreichische Bundesforste, the real estate records were the start of a series of other IT projects with PCM solutions. The real estate records were followed by the hunting records and invoice receipt processing with PCM Invoice Management. The company now also uses PCM Personnel File for personnel records – with workflows for recruiting, terminating and transferring staff. Personnel records for all active staff were added after the roll out. That meant it was possible for the administrative department responsible for personnel management and the management for the decentralized forestry operations to access all personnel documents.
There are no longer duplicate documents and it’s also certain that everyone’s always accessing the same document – both the personnel department and the respective manager. Efficient approval processes (e.g. personnel entry) incl. contract templates have been implemented and have replaced existing templates and “email processes”. For example, a contract template (employment contract for staff) is automatically generated (all the relevant data from the SAP HCM Module) and sent to the relevant manager for approval via the workflow.
The financial accounts department in particular is feeling the benefits of the electronic invoice workflow – it was the first condition for the planned upgrade to the accounting structure. “Some time ago, we took central accounting tasks from the individual operations and concentrated them in two central service centers in Ebensee and St. Johann, which now take care of accounting for ten of the 15 operations,” explained Dr. Manfred Fuchs, head of the department. “That doesn’t happen without invoices being available digitally. If you concentrate tasks according to region, you need uniformly structured workflows to be able to map this in a meaningful way.”
The number of invoices coming into Bundesforste annually is around 50,000. The invoices now go to one of the two service centers where they are scanned and matched with the SAP master data. They then run through the PCM workflow and the various reviewers within SAP. The technical department has up to six approval levels set up in the software. The number of SAP licenses has also increased due to the project. An Outlook-based approval stage, at which the email is attached to the workflow as approval, was constructed for any employees who sign off on very few invoices. “With PCM Invoice Management, the operating and accounting staff can share important documents with each other quickly, and can do so with ordered, uniform and defined workflows,” explains Dr. Fuchs. “This is a considerable step for us in terms of quality and efficiency.”