All-in-one e-file solutions

On the way to the paperless office

The city of Gelsenkirchen focuses on
the DMS from EASY

Like many large cities, the city administration of Gelsenkirchen in the Ruhr region has its own IT service provider. The gkd-el (Gelsenkirchen Communal Datacenter-Emscher-Lippe) is an in-house institution and has been continuously developing the digital hardware and software infrastructure of the administration and its affiliated municipal operations towards the future for over 20 years. An important building block on this path is the application area of document management and archiving. This area is currently gaining considerable importance – among other things, due to the requirements that arise, for example, from the implementation of the German Online Access Act or the flexibilization of the working environment for employees of the administration.  

 

In this area, gkd-el is pursuing a long-term strategy that began 15 years ago with a strategic decision toward the EASY product family. On this basis, a first major project was implemented in 2007. At that time, the Traffic Licensing department had to move to a new building.

Because there was no more space available for a paper archive, the existing paper files had to be digitalized. The volume was estimated at 2,500,000 pages. 

 

“At that time, we had to find a future-proof solution for digitalization and secure storage. It was clear that a digital archive would also be the most sensible solution financially,” says Hans-Jürgen Reinhard, today head of the Electronic Archiving and Document Management team and project manager at gkd-el at the time. Thus, approximately 3 million data records were migrated from the old building to the legally compliant and audit-proof archiving system from EASY. The paper files were destroyed after careful review and backup. 

 

Since then, this digital archive has grown by another 1.5 million data records to 4.5 million. The important thing to remember here is that a data record can consist of just one page, but it can just as easily be hundreds of pages long. Without the search function of the digital archive, an overview of potentially tens of millions of pages would be nearly impossible. 

More project information

gkd-el subsequently digitalized the tax files for real estate taxes, trade tax, dog tax and amusement tax. The archiving solution had to be integrated into the SAP-based municipal finance procedure. This procedure is used to produce around 75,000 annual notices of land ownership tax every January alone. These are automatically transferred to the EASY Archive during operation, that is, parallel to printing. 

This gives employees the advantage, among other things, of having uniform information available at a glance in the event of queries from taxpayers. Compared to the display in the previous procedure, this is much more transparent  and in the corporate design valid at the time. Since all other correspondence  incoming and outgoing  is also scanned and fed into the same archive, there is no longer any need to keep paper files. 

When developing this second process stage, ease of use was the top priority. Using the EASY4SAP module, EASY Archive was seamlessly linked to the SAP system. As a result, the archived documents can be accessed directly from the SAP application, without employees having to leave the SAP GUI application. The transfer of documents between EASY Archive and SAP is completely transparent for users.  

Employees can pass digital documents to each other within seconds. The additional step of printing several hundred pages per day for the paper file is also completely eliminated. 

Finally, in the event of legal disputes, the audit-proof digital archive enables court-proof file reproduction – always an indispensable requirement for administrative processes.   

And the third process stage for the eFile Taxes is already under development:  

The documents in the archive are to be made available to citizens in electronic form via the service portal of the City of Gelsenkirchen and the document-safe function integrated there. In this way, it would even be possible  at least in part  to do without printing and delivering the notices in the future. 

The tax file project showed that in the municipal environment it is no longer sufficient to scan documents en masse and store them securely in an electronic archive. There, they are just a wall full of shelves for employees, the top shelves of which can hardly be reached by any figurative ladder. Documents must be available where they are needed in day-to-day business. 

Today, every department in a city administration uses dedicated digital solutions for its own processes. The registry office for civil status law, the building administration for building regulations, traffic or the environment and many more. Specific software solutions exist for all the multi-layered task areas of a municipal administration. The gkd-el is faced with the challenge of linking the archiving solution to these many specialized procedures in a meaningful way and connecting all the threads into one strand. 

herr-reinhard-gkd-el

With initiative on both sides, we achieved a customized solution with EASY that meets our complex requirements”

Hans-Jürgen Reinhard, Team leader and project manager
at the Gelsenkirchen Municipal Data Center Emscher-Lippe

A document management system provides a solution for establishing the necessary links between applications and the archive, and enriching them with additional functions to support processes and workflows.   

In an initial comprehensive DMS project, gkd-el linked the AKDN-Sozial specialized procedure used in the Social Services Department with EASY DMS for this purpose. Since the successful connection, the resulting case data and documents have been migrated as e-files via an interface from the specialized procedure directly into the document management system. In the next project step, completed e-files are transferred to the revision-proof archive. 

It is important here that – despite the volume of documents – the authorizations of the individual processing teams are clearly regulated at all times. For legal and data protection reasons, an employee in department A is not allowed to have unrestricted access to documents from department B. To solve this problem, gkd-el extended the DMS in close cooperation with EASY SOFTWARE AG to include appropriate special search criteria based on an authorization structure. The digital system automatically records these criteria for each document that is transferred to the system. The criteria can also be used to search for the document more precisely later on. 

“The public sector, with its many individual solutions, is a difficult field for a uniform connection to document management systems. With initiative on both sides, we achieved a customized solution with EASY that meets our complex requirements”, says Hans-Jürgen Reinhard. 

Parallel to the “Social Services” eFilegkd-el introduced the “Human Resources” eFile in the Personnel and Organization department. The basis here is a specific application from EASY. This digital personnel file includes a central repository for all data and related documents to efficiently manage personnel master data. The digital assignment of rights to view personnel files relieves employees of their operational tasks, thus increasing their performance. 

For the eFile “Human Resources”, gkd-el has set up a separate DMS server. Thanks to the direct link with the SAP HR system, master data is transparently maintained and exchanged. The authorization models were also consistently mapped. 

The digital personnel file has already replaced the paper file. The old files were digitalized by an external service provider and provided with metadata according to the specifications of the specialist department. 

Be it integrated eFile systems with connection to municipal specialist applications or task-related workflows in the functionally upstream DMS system – all of this is associated with considerable effort. The recording and subsequent implementation of individual processes alone costs a lot of time. With the given resource situation, it would take many years to serve the entire administration with its approximately 40 organizational units according to this pattern and with this quality. But gkd-el does not have this much time! The implementation of the Online Access Act and the flexibilization of the working environment for the employees of the administration require that a document management and archiving system can be provided throughout the administration in the short term. 

The development of a universal standard eFile is consequently the next step in gkd-el’s DMS strategy. It is currently pursuing this approach together with EASY and with the highest priority.  

The system is to include a three-tier filing system (document  file  folder) and basic workflows such as signature and approval processes. It is currently being implemented in the legal and audit units on a pilot basis, then abstracted and offered for use to interested administrative departments. The simple and, at the same time, flexible structure of the standard eFile will additionally allow limited customization of the processes of the departments. 

For incoming paper mail, the solution will also include a scanning path. Mail will be scanned using the EASY Capture program, and metadata will be added after digitalization. In addition, mail will be converted to a text-searchable PDF in an automated process, and then signed before being stored in the DMS. 

For long-term and audit-proof storage, the DMS is connected to the central archive server. Electronic signatures and seals will also be available here.  

In the future, the individual eFile systems of the departments will be merged into one comprehensive document management system.  

This system will provide the technical basis for implementing the administrative goal of digitalizing the city’s central incoming mail system. Documents still arriving there in paper form are to be digitalized at a central location and delivered to the specialist departments via the administration-wide DMS system. 

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