"We are very pleased with SmartDocuments."
SmartDocuments in the municipality of Lüneburg - A success story
The administrative municipality of Lüneburg, Germany is convinced that skilful planning and action by the public authorities have a positive influence on the quality of life of every individual. For three years, the municipality has therefore been working with the SmartDocuments software solution to facilitate document management and guarantee output management uniformity. Sabine Burfien works for the municipality's information and communication technology department as a specialist for Microsoft Office products and as a supervisor for SmartDocuments. In this interview she tells about the municipality's experiences with SmartDocuments.
The situation before SmartDocuments
Like many other public authorities, the municipality of Lüneburg did not have document template management software before using SmartDocuments. "We didn't have any alternatives in the past, so until the change we created our templates in Word," says Sabine Burfien. The old system with the Word templates was cumbersome and caused major problems in the area of output management: "We faced the challenge of having different versions of the same templates. For example, as a county we have an official header with important data, coat of arms and logo. The footer contains, among other things, our bank data. In the past it often happened that we had to adapt data in the central template, for example because the bank details had changed. This was then not implemented by our colleagues. The colleagues then used an outdated template with the wrong bank data for years. In order to tackle problems with template management, the former specialist service provider was looking for a new system. By chance, we heard from another administration that they were working with SmartDocuments and we saw the potential of using the software for our own municipality."
The implementation of SmartDocuments
When implementing SmartDocuments in the existing system, the flexibility of the software solution paid off. Sabine Burfien was already employed by the municipality at that time and remembers: "Linking SmartDocuments to our IT system ran smoothly at that time. We received mixed feedback from the employees; some thought it was great and others were sceptical at first. I think that's quite normal with such a change in the IT sector". For about three years now, SmartDocuments has been used in the municipality of Lüneburg for all documents outside the specialist processes. The verdict so far is positive: "We are very satisfied with SmartDocuments."
How SmartDocuments is used
At present, SmartDocuments is used in the municipality of Lüneburg mainly for general correspondence. Within the specialist procedures, process-specific templates are still mostly used. "You can imagine it like this: If, for example, a citizen applies for a building permit, all correspondence is handled via the specialist procedure. If, however, a letter is prepared at the building authority, which is not within the building permit procedure, then this is done via SmartDocuments. A specialist service therefore always works with SmartDocuments when it comes to general correspondence, such as a business trip application. All central templates that have nothing to do with a specialist procedure are used throughout the building and managed with SmartDocuments." The system works well and is well-received: "A good example is the new header we introduced a year and a half ago. Using the SmartDocuments template, this has already been created more than 8000 times. This way we can guarantee output management uniformity."
One municipality - one corporate design
It is essential that a public authority has a professional approach when communicating with citizens and partners. This includes a uniform writing style and a standardized layout. Two years ago, the municipality of Lüneburg took a big step towards this goal. "Two years ago, the colleagues in public relations introduced a new corporate design for the entire municipality. We also took this change as an opportunity to make the use of SmartDocuments mandatory for all employees. Since then, for example, all head sheet templates have been uniformly taken from SmartDocuments. By using SmartDocuments, the municipality has been able to present itself professionally and consistently in general correspondence. This creates trust among citizens and partners."
Creating vs. filling out - where is the time saving?
In the long run, SmartDocuments will save employees a lot of time and effort. However, they first have to invest some time when creating new document templates: "Creating templates primarily costs more effort than simply inserting text fields in Word. However, once the template has been developed, the user has a much easier time filling it in. The SmartDocuments system saves a lot of time because it can use pre-defined fields and formulations. For example, you no longer have to pay attention to gender-specific formulations because the correct spelling is already stored thanks to SmartDocuments."
Fewer templates and all in one place!
Another major advantage of SmartDocuments is that all document templates are managed centrally in one place. In the municipality of Lüneburg, 748 templates are currently being worked with within the SmartDocuments software. That may sound like a lot, but on the contrary: "Before, we had considerably more templates, which were all to be found in different places. Each specialist service has knitted its own templates to some extent. This often meant that the corporate design could not be adhered to. With SmartDocuments we now centralized this. Before SmartDocuments there were many more versions of the same document template with different header sheets. Now we only have one official version that is used by everyone."
Feedback from the municipality of Lüneburg
Overall, the municipality of Lüneburg is very satisfied with SmartDocuments. Of course there is room for improvement everywhere. "At the moment, there is a lack of linking SmartDocuments to various specialist applications in some places. Specialist services such as the building authority or the youth welfare office have their own specialist applications and then have to use different templates for them." The more specialist procedures work together with SmartDocuments, the more documents can be managed simply and centrally with one software solution. The goal for the coming years therefore is to link SmartDocuments to as many specialist procedures as possible. "We have already had visits from SmartDocuments employees from the Netherlands. They looked at our specialist applications and asked us which specialist processes are our top priority. It's good to know that SmartDocuments supports us in such an uncomplicated way, and it's important. The hierarchy is flat there. This ensures that your wishes and suggestions are always listened to and that you are helped quickly."