Interoperability Infrastructure for Service Transformation (ERMIS)

The Greek National Interoperability Framework and Service Delivery Platform (ERMIS) constitutes a systematic approach for one-stop, automated, interoperable digital services provision for citizens and businesses at national and local administration levels.   Covering more than 18,000 administrative units, 1,000 G2C and G2B services analysed in BPMN, almost 4,000 public administration forms, together with a UN/CEFACT-compatible repository of more than 400 reusable XML schemas, the ERMIS interoperability registry is today the most complete specification of governmental services in the European Union.  Combined with the registry, the ERMIS Service Provision Portal is a gateway platform syndicating content and automating service provision for citizens and businesses, while providing for automated process execution among several hundred IT systems of the Greek public sector. 

ERMIS also includes the Greek Interoperability Framework, a novel approach on interoperability standardisation compatible with EIF 2.0, providing systemically organized standards, guidelines and documentation towards public administration, businesses and citizens.  Among those standards, a certification framework for public service portals and a electronic identity management framework are included.

Finally, ERMIS infrastructure includes tools and guidelines for managing service transformation, such as the respective legal framework for each service, standard cost model tools for service digitization impact simulation, automated XML creation and business process management tools.


Providing an infrastructure for collaborative service design and transformation to Public Administration Officials, the ERMIS service registry provides today more the first 20 fully digital services, achieving inter-organisational interoperability among Greek Public Sector entities.  The most important services, provided at full-online availability, are the birth, citizenship, and family certificates.  Compound financial gains, including both the administration and the citizens cost, amount to 30 EUR per certificate issued, generating an annual gain of more than 10 million EUR.  The ERMIS registry if already accessed by more than 100 key organisations (core ministries, prefectures, public sector agencies and municipalities) assisting process management and transformation of more than 2,000 public services.

Innovative points

The ERMIS interoperability infrastructure combines Business Process Management and Execution Tools (BPMN/BPEL), advanced XML schema generation and management based on UN/CEFACT CCTS guidelines, service registry with extended eGovernment Metadata schemas and EIF 2.0 level interoperability standardisation together with a set of collaboration tools for the public sector officials.

Training and dissemination

More than 300 selected public sector officials have been trained on eGovernment, Interoperability, Security and Authentication, Project Management, Service Portal Management and Operation, Semantic Documentation of Services, Business Process Management and Electronic Identity Management.  The training material is available and being updated in SCORM form, amounting to more than 1,500 training objects.  Dissemination has been combining information days, leaflets, web sites, radio and TV spots reaching more than 15,000 public sector officials and several hundred thousands of citizens and businesses.

Lessons Learned

-          Nation-wide initiatives for one-stop service provision have to combine content syndicating portals, service registries and relevant standardisation in a coordinated effort.

-          Service digitization has to be coupled with transformation, in order to ensure service delivery to citizens but also long-term growth and sustainability.

-          Interoperability standardisation has to be supported by collaborative platforms, than just be in paper format, in order to assist diffusion within the public sector.


Policy Context

As modernizing government strategies, such as the i2010 e-Government Action Plan, require better use of official information, joined-up systems and policies, and services designed around the needs of citizens, governmental organizations need to electronically communicate, co-operate and co-ordinate their processes at runtime. However in Greece, there are too many public organizations that need to co-operate during service provision (i.e. 18 ministries, 13 prefectures, 52 districts, 1024 municipalities, 691 Public sector organizations, more than 18,000 Governmental “Points of Service” in total) and which had not established proper electronic communication channels until recently. In 2006, the non-interoperable Service Types from Government to Citizens and Businesses actually exceeded the scale of 2,000, whereas during their provision more than 10,000 non standardized Document Types were exchanged between Administrations and the public. The e-Government knowledge accumulated around such services was not manageable, as not even the exact number of services could be estimated.

With the advent of ERMIS Interoperability Infrastructure for Service Transformation, access to and delivery of governmental knowledge, information and services to the public and other governmental agencies is enhanced and improvements in government to operations that may include effectiveness, efficiency, service quality or transformation are brought about. ERMIS plays a more active role in service execution within the oncoming landscape of new e-Government services following the directions of recent analysts reports (Gartner Group, IDABC).

As a result of the project, since January 2009 a National Law (Law 3731/2008) based on which all Public IT systems and services must abide to the ERMIS interoperability infrastructure and standards, has been published in Greece. At a pan-European context, ERMIS is in conformance with the European Interoperability Framework (EIF) (version 1.0 and draft version 2.0) and applies best practices from relevant international standardization efforts, i.e. UK e-GIF and German SAGA. The ERMIS infrastructure will also be the main infrastructure to support the implementation of pan-European e-Government Services (PEGS) as mandated by the EU Services Directive (Directive 2006/123/EC) both in the context of the SPOCS (Simple Procedures Online for Cross-border Services) Large Scale Pilot project and in real-life practice. ERMIS will also be a key infrastructure towards implementing the EC Policy goals on Administrative Burden Reduction, as well as participating in other key projects at a pan-European level, such as the large scale CIP/PSP pilot STORK for e-IDs.

Description of target users and groups

The objective of ERMIS (both as a National Interoperabilty Framework and as a key eGovernment Infrastructure)  is to reach out to the largest number of public organisations in order to increase the level of electronic services sophistication in Greece.

The targeted group of eGovernment contributors contains the following actors:

-          Central Government: 18 ministries and 691 public sector organisations

-          Local Government: 13 regions, 52 prefectures, 1024 municipalities

-          Intermediaries and Service Providers: 25 banking institutions

-          Public Sector Officials: 350,000 office workers

-          ICT Industry: 900 enterprises providing ICT products and services to the public sector


The targeted group of final service beneficiaries includes:

-          11,000,000 citizens, as users of the services

-          750,000 enterprises (mostly SME’s), as users of the services

-          18,000,000 foreign tourists in an annual basis, as potential users, typically non greek speakers

-          Enterprises and citizens from other EU member states, wanting to relocate, establish a company or simply use a governmental service in Greece


For better management of the project and for testing the various standards, guidelines and systems, a core group was composed consisting of:

-          Key ministries (Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health)

-          Key public sector organisations (Social Security, Employment, Data Protection, Information Society, Data Protection Authority, )

-          The Unions of Prefectures and Municipalities, including also indicative municipalities and prefectures

-          The Federation of ICT industries, including indicative large enterprises and international vendors.

-          The beneficiaries and implementors of key eGovernment projects (e.g. eTax, eFinance, national citizen registry, ePolice, national land and property registry, eLaw, eUniversity, eSchool, etc)

A total of 300 public sector officials were trained, as ERMIS “evangelists” in the public sector.

As far as systems are concerned, ERMIS is targeting to interoperate at content and service provision levels with:

-          200 Central Governmental Internet Portals

-          1000 Regional, Prefectural and Municipal Internet Portals

-          More than 2,500 Public Administration Back Office Systems

Description of the way to implement the initiative

The Greek Ministry of Interior is the owner of the project, which is implemented by several Greek ICT companies. The National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) has the scientific responsibility of the Standards, Guidelines and System Prototyping.  The Aegean University, the National Computing Centre (UK) and the Fraunhofer Institute – FOKUS (DE) have also contributed to the project.

The project is divided in two sub-projects, the Greek National Interoperability Framework (including the standardisation, the services registry and the supporting tools) and the Service Delivery Platform (including the implementation of key services).

The project has been implemented in three phases:

Preparatory Phase

-          Survey on state of the art and lessons learned from other member states(MS) and European Interoperability Framework (EIF)

-          Co-operation with the corresponding NIFs from other MS (UK-DE)

-          Preparation of the Greek NIF outline

-          Face-to-face negotiations with the core stakeholders’ group in Greece

-          On-line publication of the first draft version of the Greek NIF, for further comments from public sector bodies, ICT companies and citizens


Implementation & Approval phase

-          Development of a prototype interoperability registry (standardized metadata, BPMN diagrams and XML schemas)

-          Development of educational material for Greek eGIF and training of the core 300 public sector officials (evangelists)

-          On-line publication of the first official version of the Greek eGIF, after consultation

-          ERMIS service delivery platform implementation, following NIF guidelines

-          Testing phase of the Service Delivery Platform (ERMIS)


Operation and Maintenance Phase

-          Registry population by adding document metadata, services process models in BPMN, standardized XML schemas etc.

-          Launch  of the Service Delivery Platform (ERMIS)

-          Engagement  Greek public administration bodies by issuing the necessary regulatory framework

-          Maintenance of the Greek NIF and the service delivery platform, by adding new services.


Since the project has to deal with many administrations with different stakes, the main goal was to convince all parties involved of the added value of the project and their opportunity to greatly contribute to it. Several governmental parties were invited to contribute to the project, in this way becoming co-owners of the final result. To achieve this, the E-Government Transformation Project Management (eGTPM) approach was applied. With eGTPM, project aim was broken down into goals, each of which represented a measurable state of achievement. The ERMIS goal plan formed a robust basis for planning and control as, by its nature, it is indifferent to changes in process or the project environment.

The results were given at no cost to all other public bodies (“one-for-all” principle). Quality assurance was provided by a working group within the Ministry of Interior. Changing over to the operational phase was successfully done by establishing a central co-ordination body at the Ministry of Interior and distributing the results throughout public sector organisations. A small management group is charged to oversee maintenance and further development of the project.

Technology solution

The key technology choices made, concern the Greek National Interoperability Framework, the ERMIS Service Registry, the ERMIS Service Provision Portal and the supporting tools and guidelines for service transformation. 

The selected standards and notations for documenting services and documents are:

-          On business process management: Business Process Modelling Notation (BPMN)

-          On business process execution (automated digital services workflow management): Business Process Execution Language (BPEL)

-          On governmental forms modelling: UN/CEFACT Core Components Technical Specification (CCTS) and XML Schema (XSD)

-          On service, document, public sector organisation, system, web service metadata: eGovernment Metadata Standard (eGMS) as extended by the ERMIS team (eGMS+)

-          On service categorization: UK Government Category List (GCL) as extended by the ERMIS team (GCL+), Life Events and Business Episodes, as developed by the ERMIS team

-          On ontology formal definition: Web Ontology Language (OWL).

The selected methods and tools for managing service execution are:

-          On business process management and transformation: BOC Adonis and IDS Sheer ARIS toolsets.

-          On XML creation: ALTOVA XMLSpy Suite, custom development XML Schema generator (CCTS compatible)

-          On Database Storage: Microsoft SQL and ORACLE databases.

-          On service execution environment: ORACLE Fusion Platform

-          On impact assessment and process cost simulation: Standard Cost Model (SCM) and custom development eGOVSIM toolset.

-          On ontology documentation and formal definition: Protégé open source platform.

Other technology choices, as included in the Greek NIF standardisation, include:

-          On legal and organisational interoperability: METALEX standards, own developed ontologies for legal modelling, BPMN-based patterns, etc.

-          On semantic interoperability: ISO codelists for countries, currencies, languages, nationalities, etc.  Country-specific codelists for other public sector elements.  XSD, XSLT, RDF and OWL for information storage and exchange.

-          On technical interoperability: more than 100 standards on WS execution (WSDL, SOAP, WS-I, etc), data storage and exchange formats (XML, XSD, XMI, etc), accessibility (WCAG, WAI)

Technology choice: Standards-based technology, Accessibility-compliant (minimum WAI AA)

Main results, benefits and impacts

The ERMIS Project resulted in 4 main components:

-          The Service Registry, a web-based repository of services, documents, systems and organisations descriptions.  The registry currently contains Public Sector Entities (18,000), Services (2066), Documents (3912), Unique Document Field Definitions (1434), BPMN Models for Services (614), XML Schemas for Documents (404), Core Components (132), Data Types (66) and several taxonomies for standardised information.

-          The Greek National Interoperability Framework which includes: (a) The Certification Framework for Public Service Portals, containing 180 guidelines for portals development and maintenance, (b) The Interoperabilty Framework for Digital Services, containing 120 guidelines and standards for legal, organisational, semantic and technical interoperability ,  (c) The Digital Authentication Framework, providing guidelines for electronic ID’s management, (d) The Documentation Guide, providing 170 guidelines ad standards for creating metadata descriptions, BPMN and XML models, WSDL descriptions and relevant semantic information.

-          The Service Delivery Platform, a multi-channel  front-end, one-stop gateway for citizens, businesses and public organizations. It is built on top of state of the art, such as BPEL for process orchestration, Web Services (SOAP, WSDL), RSS for content syndication and WAI (WCAG 1.0) for accessibility.  The Service Delivery Platform operates in four languages (GR, EN, DE, FR) and currently offers more than 100 highly sophisticated interoperable, cross-organisational digital services, in levels 3 and 4.  More than 1,000 services currently exist at level 2.

-          The Service Transformation Toolkit, containing guidelines and patterns for transforming public services with the use of Business Process Management tools, process simulators and impact assessment mechanisms in alignment with the Standard Cost Model (SCM), tools for automated generation of NIF-compatible CCTS-based XML schemas, as well as nation-wide taxonomies and codelists for reorganizing value sets in information systems and forms.


For Public Administration:

-          A systematic, collaborative toolset to manage service transformation, from paper-based to electronic, already populated with a substantial set of information on services and documents.

-          A set of guidelines and standards for managing portal creation and operation, back- office and front-office interoperability, eID management and service documentation – the main pillars of eGovernment.

-          A centralised interoperability infrastructure that can be the delivery point of truly interoperable, one-stop, highly automated services while also federating on-line content from a variety of sources.

-          An infrastructure for publishing available or needed Web Services on-line, so that service composition and mashing-up can be further promoted.

For businesses, citizens and tourists:

-          Digital services that can be fulfilled in one stop, in one second and at no extra cost.  This is extremely important especially for services that span several organisations and thus take a lot of time during manual fulfillment.

-          Full on-line documentation of the whole spectrum of governmental services, the providing organisations and the legal framework,  in four languages, with advanced semantic search mechanisms. 

-          A set of guidelines and standards for offering high-quality ICT services to the public sector, through the Greek NIF (for the ICT industry).


ERMIS interoperability platform and its specifications are generating a multi-level impact in the Greek Public Sector and the benefited citizens and businesses.  The current level of deployment (100 electronic services) already produces significant gains in effort and time saved from front and back-office paper-based processing.  For civil status services alone (birth, citizenship, family status certificates) where there is an on-line connection with the central citizenship registry, the financial gains generated by the ERMIS platform is calculated as following, using the Standard Cost Model methodology and the eGOVSIM toolset:

-          Average paper-based cost (compound public sector and citizens, based on processing and waiting times, including communication costs): 41 EUR

-          Average full electronic transaction cost: 7 EUR (includes processing and waiting times and communication costs)

-          Total annual demand of civil status certificates: 1,500,000 (directed towards 1024 municipalities)

-          ERMIS penetration rate: 20% (based on the progress of integrating municipalities in the central system/gateway)

-          Total annual gain: 10,200,000 EUR

Similar to the above gains also appear for other main transaction as services are being diffused towards user communities. Indirect gains of the approach are as following:

-          Gains from the reorganisation of services and information system processes, through the application of the National Interoperability Framework by all Public Administration entities (a law now in Greece).  The projected gain of this very demanding “project of projects” amounts in several hundred million of EUR, the investment also being non-trivial.

-          Gains from the better management of content, through the ERMIS content syndication mechanisms.


Return on investment

Return on investment: Larger than €10,000,000

Track record of sharing

In the direction of dissemination, networking and awareness raising, the ERMIS Interoperability Infrastructure for Service Transformation has been aggregated and communicated within Greece and internationally.

In Greece, three national, open information days have been organized with the purpose of providing a forum public administration officers, IT industry, eGovernment practitioners and citizens.  During the last two years, more than 100 consultation meetings with contractors and beneficiaries of public e-Government projects have been conducted, in order to share knowledge around current and oncoming e-Government projects and ensure acceptance of the ERMIS advancements.

ERMIS results have been effectively promoted towards standardization bodies, such as CEN/ISSS, SEMIC.EU, IDABC EIF 2.0 and ETSI, while cross-border sharing of results and exchange of ideas has taken place with UK eGIF and German SAGA and has inspired application in the Lithuanian eGovernment Interoperability Framework. Working groups on “Interoperability of Public Infrastructures” and “Financial Payments in Electronic Government” on behalf of the Greek eGovernmentForum have further stressed the impact of the ERMIS solution and disseminated its results to a wider public.

More than 20 publications and presentations were made in international forums, while the publications that are directly related to the project have gained significant international awards: The first prize in the category “Most compelling, critical research reflection on eGovernment research, 2008-2009” in the 7th International EGOV Conference (Torino, September 2008), the first prize in the BPTrends competition on “BPM application that demonstrates the use of standards” (January 2009), best eGovernment Research Paper nominee  in the 42nd HICCS Conference (Hawaii, January 2009) and first prize nominee in the 8th International EGOV Conference (Linz, September 2009).

Lessons learnt

-          Nation-wide initiatives for one-stop service provision have to combine content syndicating portals, service registries and relevant standardisation in a coordinated effort.

-          Service digitization has to be coupled with transformation, in order to ensure service delivery to citizens but also long-term growth and sustainability.

-          Interoperability standardisation has to be supported by collaborative platforms, than just be in paper format, in order to assist diffusion within the public sector.

-          Service registries can greatly assist in managing service transformation, as they provide a consistent infrastructure for sharing information across the Public Sector.

-          Training and dissemination has to get a significant amount of a large eGovernment project effort and budget, as diffusion within the public sector and citizens is of key importance.

-          Language issues are extremely important in an Interoperability Infrastructure as all the relevant metadata descriptions should be in local language – for the government officials to understand, modify and approve - and at least in English - for easiness of communication with other governments and practitioners in anticipation of cross-border e-Government services.

-          Adequate time and effort needs to be spent for communicating and working together with government officials at various levels, for the actual agreement on the standards and the e-Government service-related definitions and for the final adoption. 

-          Interoperability Infrastructures need to be supported by appropriate changes to the legal framework at national level in order to be applied in e-Government services. This fact is becoming more of a problem than a mere challenge, as the systematic support needed for managing and guiding this legal transformation is not yet a common practice.

-          The follow-the-service approach, by means of structuring the majority of standardisation, development, transformation or management efforts around the provision of the key services towards citizens and businesses is a very valuable tool, greatly assisting focusing on actual and measurable goals.


Scope: National
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