District of Recklinghausen
The district of Recklinghausen mastered a major challenge in 2017: Although the project was originally planned as a conversion to a new financial accounting process, it quickly developed into something much more extensive during the planning phase: This was because of the integrative capabilities of the individual modules in the Infoma newsystem software solution, which ensure consistent and convenient interdisciplinary administrative processes. Managers in the finance department decided to commission not only the full financial accounting with additional modules such as budgetary reporting and central address management, but the integrated invoice workflow and enforcement as well. The property department (building management) and district train station also recognized the advantages of a process with integrated procedures, and will be completing their work using the Infoma facility management module or municipal departments starting in 2019.
The change in software was needed as the performance capabilities of the previous process had been exhausted, and since support for the underlying technology would be suspended after 2020. With over 617,000 inhabitants, the district of Recklinghausen is not only the most densely populated district in Germany, but is also a so-called “opting community” which has operated its own Jobcenter since 2012. Since that time, the number of administrative employees has almost doubled to around 2,200, with accounting work increasing accordingly. The borough council handles bookings for over 38,000 benefit communities with around 77,000 benefit recipients – making a powerful process essential to meet such high demands.
“We wanted a product where we wouldn’t need to switch over again in a couple of years” says Jens Fekonja, resource manager for the accounting department and project manager in the finance department, describing the selection phase. “That’s why we asked long-term customers of Axians Infoma about their experiences.” These references, the performance they needed, a high level of future-security, and the integrative capacities of the solution, especially, impressed both the Recklinghausen district and advising GKD, the Recklinghausen joint municipal data center. As they have in the past, the IT service provider will continue to host financial accounting for the district and its eight cities of Castrop-Rauxel, Datteln, Dorsten, Gladbeck, Haltern am See, Oer-Erkenschwick, Recklinghausen and Waltrop. These local governments will also switch over as of 2020.
For Jens Fekonja, collaboration with the GKD has major advantages: “We appreciate the absolute reliability and high level of professional expertise of our long-time partner. We don’t need to worry about updates, and questions are always handled quickly. Everything is highly convenient and helped us a lot, including in the conversion phase.”
Even though the procedure developed by district managers from the finance department and district cash office with project managers from the GKD and Axians Infoma was precisely regulated, it was also somewhat tight. Project participants were only available for the conversion process for a year; they needed to complete over 100 individual modules during this time. “We created sub-projects, for instance for user protection, budget or invoice workflows, so everyone isn’t all working on the same topic” remembers Jens Fekonja. “Overall it was an intense yet harmonious conversion process, characterized by a very high level of professionalism, and we were able to start blanket coverage productive operations seamlessly on 1/1/2018 with almost all modules.
The work involved adopting 800,000 bookings and 16,000 address data sets with names, addresses, banking information, etc. at the year’s end, clearly a major undertaking. In addition, linking external processes from areas like HR and the Jobcenter posed challenges for project managers. Thanks to the fixed contacts at both partners and short communication pathways, however, any questions were able to be cleared up quickly.
Users were highly satisfied with the new system after the first few months of use. Jens Fekonja described the introduction of the integrated invoice workflow as an “absolute success story.” They decided on the module quickly, after it was clear that the installation was very manageable. We worked through a list of questions with Axians Infoma one day, and 14 days later initial test bookings arrived at the GKD Recklinghausen. Everything was really smooth.” The invoice workflow has been used with a standard process in almost all areas since the start of the year; the borough council has already processed over 6,000 procedures by mid May. “Reliably” emphasizes Jens Fekonja. The district of Recklinghausen trained around 250 employees to handle the work in advance through internal informational events, ensuring that all 410 of its responsible employees can process or approve their invoices via the workflow.
One key point involved in the overall positive response, in Jens Fekonja’s view, is also that it was not necessary to adapt any organizational processes to the software. There was just one a change in conjunction with the invoice workflow. A central invoicing address was established for suppliers, so that these received invoices could be sent directly for scanning. This was required as some invoices, for instance for examinations in the health office, were subject to data privacy stipulations.
The biggest goal for the Recklinghausen district financial area is to achieve a higher level of digitization. The first steps are to introduce the invoice workflow for creditor invoices, adding the income side via the eInvoice module to generate debtor invoices, as an addition to the digital budget planning which has been used in the past. The topics of eInvoices and ePayment are also on the agenda. To the district of Recklinghausen, it is important to handle even minor processes – incoming funds notifications, scheduled/unscheduled requests, digital approval processes for processing interface data from professional procedures – digitally and from a single source. The question of usable devices is also important. The fact that the Axians Infoma invoice workflow will be able to be used on a tablet or smartphone in the future, making the approval process faster for managers, fits well into the concept.
However, in light of the large number of contracts in roughly 30 organizational units, and the future VAT obligation for public administration services, they are also considering introducing integrated contract management. It also accesses the uniform database, which Jens Fekonja says is the “biggest benefit” of the integrated solution.
Although it is “currently still a learning process,” Jens Fekonja sees the project as positive: “When you think about the scope of the conversion, and that we can easily work with the software after just a couple of months and can engage in normal business without having to put out fires, we are very satisfied. It was a fairly major feat, which we only handled thanks to our good personnel resources and close collaboration with the GKD Recklinghausen.” He smiles: “However, we were only cautiously optimistic at first – we simply didn’t dare to hope things could go so well.” Smooth everyday practical use, however, has resulted in a high level of confidence.