ELAK, the e-filing system of the Austrian Federal Ministries (ELAK im Bund)

Published on: 15/02/2006
The main objective of the project was the introduction of electronic filing (ELAK) in order to replace paper based filing and archiving in all ministries of Austria. The project was started in September 2001 and completed in January 2005. Since then ELAK is being used by some 8,500 users. An electronic file is created for every written request which needs an answer and every internal work of possible further interest. In this way, every procedure can be audited any time by viewing the file. Besides this legal requirement, electronic filing offers several other advantages: it standardises and speeds up internal processes; efficient eGovernment procedures are easily set up; it is easier to change organisational structures of ministries and to integrate electronic forms and delivery services; it is easier to access information stored in electronic files irrespective of time or place and according to defined access rights; it saves costs for paper based transport and archiving, and it offers document and workflow management features for work groups across the ministries. The outstanding feature of this solution is the support of a fully integrated electronic eGovernment process, starting with the citizen request through web forms, automated registration, electronic workflow, digital signature, automated dispatch and electronic delivery service.

Technology solution

The solution is technically based on standard software products (e.g. Fabasoft e-Gov-Suite, MS-Office). Technology choice: Standards-based technology

Main results, benefits and impacts

The implementation of the ELAK-System is not only a change of a working tool: it strongly influences the work in the public administration like the telephone or the fax. With ELAK the typical role of the filing clerk disappeared. Since ELAK does all forwarding and records management automatically, clerks are not involved in the processing of electronic files any more. Therefore their tasks have shifted to more organisational duties. The newly created position of Team Assistant supports specialist departments with for example the scanning of paper based mails, mass mailings, brochures etc. Within the central administration the number of team assistants grows while the traditional function of filing clerk has become obsolete. Change management is a necessary process at the personal level to use the system in an efficient way. All civil servants can execute the main parts of a process themselves (register incoming documents, sign, approve, dispatch, archive) except approval (which is granted only to heads of department) something unimaginable with paper based procedures, where the registering, dispatch and archiving activities where done by a filing department. This offers many opportunities for more efficient procedures and job enrichment. The introduction of ELAK reduced processing times for files by an average of 11 % - without efforts to optimize business case processing. Verification of this number is possible by evaluation of meta-data records, which go back as far as 1986 in the Federal Chancellery. Citizens’ inquiries can be answered without the need to contact other divisions. This greatly improves the level of service. The main benefits are reductions in duplicate workflows, automated electronic forwarding and information retrieval functions. Since a single system with a single data storage and a central electronic organisational model is used, changes in the organisational structure of the ministries are executed more easily and more rapidly. For the same reason inter-ministerial procedures are as easy to implement as within a ministry. Information stored in the ELAK-system is available irrespective of time or place. Only internet access and a citizen card (for security reasons) are needed in order to have access to ELAK. Telecommuting is thus fully supported. Information policy is affected, because search capabilities allow everybody to find electronic files and other objects within the document management system depending on their access rights. In the ELAK-system, access rights are configured in a way that every official is allowed to search for files, read its contents and contribute to the work within his department and files that moved through the division by means of the files workflow.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Track record of sharing

We are ready and prepared to answer e-mails and present the ELAK project with live-demos to other administrations. We also offer specific workshops for management, technical and organisational experts to support their decision and start-up processes.

Lessons learnt

Lesson 1 - It must be noted that implementing a project of this type requires extensive organizational considerations as well as technical measures. The project must not be seen solely as an IT project, but as an organizational development project, which will require a fundamental change in the way the public administration works internally. It therefore requires intensive support from senior management of the organisation where such a system is introduced. Lesson 2 - Another prerequisite is to regard the electronic representation of documents as authentic: any compromise leads to parallelism and switching between media. Usually, this will lead to difficulties inside the organization and deteriorating benefits. Ultimately, the well-known paper file would again be preferred by the users and all advantages of an electronic file system would vanish, including all advantages for citizens. Lesson 3 - Two possible approaches to introducing the system can be identified: process oriented introduction or introduction by organizational unit. The process oriented introduction implements a core process by use of an electronic file system. The process must occur with sufficiently high frequency. Generally, an administrative unit will only be successful with this approach if the number of core processes is relatively low and these can be analysed rapidly enough. During an introduction by organizational unit, the reorganization takes place unit after organizational unit until no more paper records exist anywhere. The advantage in this approach lies in the possibility to achieve all effects at once, without the need to immediately analyze and reengineer the business processes. Users can readjust their way of working all at once without the need of parallelizing activities. Scope: National