"The people at SmartDocuments are extremely approachable"
It has been years now since the support departments of the Municipality of Enschede merged with those of the smaller neighbouring Municipality of Losser. Both municipalities were already using SmartDocuments, an advantage during the merge.
It seemed like a natural step to bring the support departments of the Municipality of Losser under the same roof as its larger neighbour, Enschede. The benefits of a collaboration between the support departments were clear. It was all the more convenient that both municipalities were using several of the same IT programs, including Corsa and SmartDocuments. Jan Nijland, application manager at the Municipality of Losser, has been around since SmartDocuments was first introduced.
Jan Nijland, application manager of the Municipality of Enschede
Farewell to WordPerfect
Jan has been working with SmartDocuments for 18 years now, and he knows the software inside and out. "Our partnership with SmartDocuments started before the collaboration between the two municipalities. I was working for the Municipality of Losser, where they were huge fans of WordPerfect. The WordPerfect environment gave you the option to work with templates, for instance," recounts Jan. Around the year of 2002, the time came for the municipality to bid a fond farewell to the program. Jan: "After a certain point, the Municipality of Losser was just about the only one left still using WordPerfect. We had to accept the situation and make the switch to Microsoft Word. It also meant that we had to find a way to replace everything we had built in WordPerfect." They looked for a provider that could support the municipality in making templates and that could help it manage its corporate identity. They found SmartDocuments, a company from the same region, which made establishing contact with them even easier. SmartDocuments was still just a small business at that time, as Jan recalls: "At the IT trade show we went to every year, the CEO could be found standing by himself, giving demos."
"SmartDocuments helps you get all your files completely organized, while also boosting quality and improving your final product."
To each municipality, its own SmartDocuments environment
In 2011, budget cuts prompted a new collaboration between the municipalities of Enschede and Losser. The neighbouring Municipality of Enschede was already working with SmartDocuments at the time. Jan’s department, and therefore Jan himself, moved to Enschede along with several other departments.
Once there, it appeared that merging the municipal systems would be easier said than done. "They wanted to manage everything from one single application, which didn’t work out. They had underestimated the situation severely. Due to the circumstances, they were forced to decide on several matters on short notice, which may have caused some hasty decisions," explains Jan. "We now control both municipalities from their own SmartDocuments environment. The software itself normally lets you do this from a single environment, but unfortunately every municipality uses different procedures, and in some cases it isn’t possible from a legal perspective."
Long story short—the municipalities have been working together smoothly for several years, each using its own SmartDocuments environment. Having all application managers in a single team now is definitely a plus. Despite the fact that every manager is responsible for their own tasks within their own municipality, it is easy to combine work when necessary.
A positive feeling
While it's a shame that it’s not possible to work from a single environment, the general sentiment about SmartDocuments is very positive. It has been a long time now since the SmartDocuments software was first implemented, and Jan can no longer recall the exact details. However, he does remember the positive feeling that the project left him with. Jan: "Everything went quite smoothly. I remember when SmartDocuments employees were visiting us; they set everything up and looked into a few matters. They also stopped by regularly when we started the link with Corsa. I really enjoyed all of our collaborations."
City hall Losser
As they say at SmartDocuments: "We’re one big family." And it really shows.
Since many aspects still need to happen separately, where do the two municipalities actually come together? Jan answers with ease: "We make sure to stay on the same page as much as possible with our versions. Whenever we can, we try to do things with the same purpose in mind. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work for every component, but there are also plenty of components, such as those within Civil Affairs and Legal Affairs, that can in fact be managed by the same person. For these components, the particular municipality doesn’t matter." One of the clear differences is the way they each work with Corsa. In this application, the Municipality of Losser works far more on a case basis than Enschede does. "Once a case has been entered, SmartDocuments is used to create letters that can be linked directly to the case. They do this differently at the Municipality of Enschede," adds Jan.
City hall Enschede
Well-organized and a better final product
Jan has been working with SmartDocuments' software modules for years and is 100% satisfied. "I’ve really grown along with the application. Its performance is outstanding. The main plus is that you can work with standard templates, so there's no need to constantly reformulate letters. It’s extremely user-friendly. It is especially convenient that you can retrieve the data you need quickly and easily from your database and incorporate them into your letters. That’s actually the number-one benefit for end users. Plus, a certain level of consistency of your corporate identity is ensured, which is extremely useful," Plus of course you get some quality assurance for your corporate identity, which is extremely useful," Jan states. "SmartDocuments helps you get all your files completely organized, while also boosting quality and improving your final product. You don’t have to look for information manually. This makes the process less prone to error. In addition, end users don’t need to worry whether their documents are being saved properly."
Another factor that contributes to a positive customer experience is the official user group, BeingSmart. Though Jan does not have a specific role in the user group, he definitely sees its added value: "I think it’s a great initiative and a good idea from SmartDocuments to create more interaction with their clients. Not only can you exchange information over the website, you can also submit requests. Multiple clients submit their requests, and this is then followed by a vote where majority rules. They actually take action on the 'winning' requests in the time set aside for that purpose."
What Jan finds most impressive about an organization like SmartDocuments is its personal approach. Jan: "The people at SmartDocuments are extremely approachable. If I encounter a problem, I go straight to the product owner, who then solves it. The CEO doesn’t hold himself in higher regard than an intern. As they say at SmartDocuments: "We’re one big family." And it really shows. It makes no difference whether you’re talking to the CEO or to someone else."
Future partnerships & new developments
No one knows what the future holds, but it is clear to Jan that the partnership will continue for the time being: "At this time we have every reason to stay with SmartDocuments. As far I am concerned, the partnership will continue moving forward. I’ve been working with them for 18 years now and it has always been pleasant and friendly. It just clicks, no matter who you are speaking to. They are solution oriented. Even if you don’t see eye-to-eye right way, the open dialogue remains. They take the time to talk things over and make sure the client stays satisfied."
There is also a different reason for the more intense collaboration planned for the coming years. Jan: "In January 2022, the new Environment and Planning Act ('Omgevingswet' in Dutch), as imposed by the government, will come into effect. This new environmental act is intended to consolidate a variety of different regulations into a more centralized system. The first stage is now on its way. It is a far-reaching overhaul for which Centric has already been developing new applications. Now, we need to rework the link to the Centric application, to be able to keep using SmartDocuments for document creation."
This is a challenge that they are already busy brainstorming on. "We recently held the initial discussions on this with SmartDocuments. It’s a completely new situation for SmartDocuments as well. We’d like them to sit down with Centric and BCT to work out a solution together. Ultimately, we would like to keep using SmartDocuments and I am confident it will work out," he concludes.