Syddjurs Municipality is one of the municipalities, which are often mentioned when talking about the digital heavyweights. Digitization has increa- singly become an integral part of the way the municipality performs tasks. But there are no roses without thorns, as is also the case with Syddjurs municipality, which, even with internal development power - or perhaps even because of it - has experienced how dependent they are on their ability to process describe digitization solutions correctly. With the introduction of DCR graphs, the municipality now has a tool that will seriously accelerate the digitization.
For several years, Syddjurs municipality has prioritised digitization as a central element in their administration and has also been featured in the Public Digitization Community (OS2), in which they have participated in the development of a common reporting system. The head of the digitization department, Jon Badstue Pedersen, describes Syddjurs as a proactive and forward-looking municipality focusing on digitization: “Digitization is high on Syddjurs municipality’s agenda. Not because everything has to be digitizsed, but because digitization of workflows and digital tools is a great help toward better goal achievements”. Syddjurs’ focus on digitizing the munici- pal tasks has not come out of the blue. With 400 different IT-systems; complex administrative tasks that can be performed in many ways, and which often move across the municipalities and over to other bodies, many rules, regulations and laws to be met, as well as many stakeholders), this is not an easy tax for the municipality. This is a complex world in which the municipalities must act.
“Most people can probably understand that one doesn’t get far by digitizing just anything, if one cannot accurately describe what is supposed to happen. And it is no easy matter to create a useful overview. Having to describe it all satisfactorily can be very challenging even for the best of people. Our extensive experience with digitization and IT projects has clearly demonstrated the need for a new way to create an overview so we can handle complex processes”, says Jon Badstue
Mapping out processes is a prerequisite for digitizing. Most people have worked with traditional ways of mapping out processes, knowing how difficult it can be to describe all the options for process implementation. Previously, the work processes in Syddjurs were described in programmes such as Excel, Power Point and Visio.
“This resulted in us having only described 50 per cent of the work processes of a concrete task solution. Anyone who has attempted to draw up workflow charts, knows that it is an impossible task to list all the outcomes. This meant that we had the same conversation with the departments or IT developers all over again half a year later”, says Jon Badstue. He continues: “The challenge of using the above-mentioned program- mes is that it is only practically possible to describe the so-called, ‘happy path’ - the optimal workflow - and not all the options that actually do exist in order to complete a task. This creates a breach of misunderstandings and degrades the quality and usability of the final digitization solution.”
In Syddjurs municipality, the challenge was therefore to find a way to describe complex processes without losing sight while ensuring that all conditions were included.
The normal method of workflow mapping is difficult to work with in a complex world, and the digitizsation department had to be honest as they were exposed to a simple experiment. Divided into groups, each of them would draw workflows based on text for a legal regulation. Quite a practice-oriented task.
“We did what we usually did, and assumed that both groups would reach the same conclusion as to how the task should be carried out. We were very surprised, however, when we discovered that we had drawn two very different workflows. The difference clearly showed us how easy it is to reach very different conclusions when using regular workflow mapping. It is quite thought-provoking and a bit unnerving that we could come up with two such different results. It showed us how many margins of error there are when using Old-fashioned workflow methods”, says Heidi Søndergaard Huber, a digital consultant in the municipality.
The big difference that was highlighted was how incredibly difficult it is to describe very complex processes - not to mention putting them into operation. As Heidi says, “Very fast it will become very complex.”
In traditional workflow mapping, there is a choice between the plague and cholera: Either one tries to describe all the possibilities from the beginning of a task to its end. And that’s an impossible task. Or, one sensibly gives up in advance and just describes the optimal task solution; the so-called “happy-path”. This in no way covers the many other ways in which a task can be solved. “The little experiment really opened our eyes to the difference between Old-fashioned workflow mapping and Exformatics’ DCR technology, which embraces all the aspects we need to take into account when we need to streamline workflows that need to be carried out in a dynamic way,” says Heidi Søndergaard Huber.
In Exformatics Dynamic Condition Response and DCR graphs, the municipality has found a process tool, which, in fact, makes it easy to describe workflows from start to finish, and it supports the complexity of the many possible ways in which workflows can actually be performed. DCR is a process tool that provides an overview. DCR provides an overview of all the possible outcomes in a single-view process. Instead of traditional and incalculable workflow mapping, rules are set that take into account legislation, compliance requirements, business processes and resources. And one involves the future users. Before - and not after - the workflow is implemented in an IT system. This means that users can simulate the execution of a task and thus see if everything is properly connected, all the right approval procedures are in place, having the right users, complying with the rules, and that the task can actually reach the finish line. And that the goal really is the goal one wants to achieve.
“A big gain from DCR is that it ensures that one focuses on the real goal of the workflow. It may sound quite silly, but when we tested one of our processes, we found out that the goal of a task was to write a note to one of the municipal department heads. Not a solution to the specific case, which the goal actually is,” explains Heidi Huber as an example from one of the areas where they tested the process of a case from beginning to end.
”The tool will improve our process implementation and supplier dialogue. DCR is a functional dialog tool that gives us a much better understanding of the elements of the tasks we need to solve and stick to the desired end-goal”
Heidi Søndergaard Huber, Digital Consultant, Synddjurs municipality.
This experience has prompted the municipality of Syddjurs to begin testing their workflows based on the relevant legal requirements and regulations in some departments, as a pilot project. By using DCR’s so-called declarative method, which describes rules over fixed routes, it makes it easier to draw processes from start to finish and then to simulate the process to see if it all fits together. Specifically, Syddjurs Municipality has used the DCR graphs to simulate workflows in connection with legislative changes to see how the changes affect the actual case handling process.
”Through the use of DCR graphs, we have gone from covering 50 per cent of the workflows to being able to cover close to 100 per cent. In addition to ensuring that we act in full compliance with the rules and laws, which we must follow, this also gives us an extremely strong basis with which to explain what a possible digitization solution should be able to do”
Jon Badstue, Head of Digitization Department, Synddjurs municipality.
From experience, requirement specifications are open to interpretation. An appreciable advantage of using DCR is that it supports the municipality’s requirement specifications when they need to hand over a task to the internal development department or an external IT provider, and they have much greater assurance that something is being developed correctly from the beginning. “To this extent, the tool will improve our process implementation and supplier dialogue. DCR is a functional dialog tool that gives us a much better understanding of the elements of the tasks we need to solve and stick to the desired end-goal. This will make sure that IT-solution suppliers deliver the correct things to us,” says Heidi Søndergaard Huber. She continues, “Previously, requirement specifications have led to many misunderstandings, which means that delays can ultimately be expensive to correct.”
DCR brings all the knowledge and descriptions of a process together in one place, which makes disclosure easier. In principle, the material can be used directly to teach the end-users. At the same time, the municipality can go back historically and look at the previous iterations to see how the process has evolved.
The municipality has provisionally implemented DCR in the digitisation department and initiated projects in both the personnel and family areas. In both areas, DCR has been used primarily as a reflection tool with good experiences. The expectation for the future is that DCR can be introduced as a complete process tool in the various areas of the municipality.
Syddjurs Municipality has many digitization projects in the works, and one works toward connecting DCR graphs directly together with their integration platform and the overall automation architecture. When the processes are described in DCR graphs, they can be digitised automatically using a DCR-supported IT system (e.g. a case management system) that can complete the described processes and tasks directly without programming. One does not have to invest in a new IT system as one can expand existing systems to support DCR graphs. The advantage is to ensure faster and cheaper digitization. When processes are developed with DCR, one can continuously analyse how people actually work and show typically selected workflows that can be used in the ongoing dialogue on improvements. This makes the process vibrant and dynamic.
“DCR graphs have already proven their worth as process documentation, but we can make a direct link between DCR and the other solutions in our automation architecture, and we can further increase the rate of digitisation,” says Jon Badstue Pedersen.
Syddjurs Municipality is located in the Region Midt (Central Region) and is a merger of the former municipalities of Ebeltoft, Midtdjurs, Rosenholm and Rønde as part of the Municipal Reform of 2007. Today, the municipality has a population of 42, 021 (2017) and approx. 3,200 permanent employees.Syddjurs Municipality’s digitization strategy has focused on automation and reuse of data concept development and change project operation. This has meant a front-runner status in the digitization of the public sector in both areas of development and operations.