December 08, 2008 // By: Bernd Landgraf, head of IT operations, City of Bielefeld
If you want to found a new business in a new city, be prepared for a bureaucratic obstacle course. Depending on the type of company, you may be making five, ten, or even more trips to various public authorities. The City of Bielefeld, however, is taking the pain out of setting up shop within its walls: A new e-government initiative will enable business founders to carry out all interactions with local authorities electronically, significantly reducing the time and stress involved in registering a new company. The initiative is part of a series of innovations in Bielefeld that make the city one of the first to implement the new European Union Services Directive. The new software for the public sector is being implemented in collaboration with SAP as part of a major model project.
Bielefeld, a city of 330,000 people in northwestern Germany, is implementing one of the most modern e-government infrastructures in Germany. The new system will serve business people in the city as well as making it easier for outside investors to establish themselves there. The EU Services Directive requires municipal authorities to enable company founders from other EU states to submit applications to local authorities electronically. It also dictates that authorities must allocate someone as a single point of contact to guide entrepreneurs through the process. The official deadline for implementing the directive is December 29, 2009.
Bielefeld’s project was jointly carried out by the city authorities, the city’s IT department, SAP, the WEGE association for economic development, and the Institute for Cooperative Systems of the distance teaching university in Hagen, Germany.
The key feature of the solution is a multilingual Web portal. It is based on SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Portal and was enhanced to fulfill the specific requirements set by the EU Services Directive. SAP NetWeaver Process Integration handles the integration of all involved systems.
The entire process of founding a company now boils down to four steps:
Bielefeld’s portal is set to go live in the coming spring, when selected processes will already be fully automated. To begin with, only the most common processes for founding a business will be covered. The remaining processes will be rolled out gradually.
In the medium to long term, all processes and transactions related to applications are to be connected to the SAP-based system. It will be a major undertaking, given the 3,000 new business applications, 2,000 business transfers and amendments, and 2,800 deregistrations that the city processes per year. While this will require interfaces between the SAP solution and the authorities’ IT systems, it also means that authorities will adapt their administrative structures to the new processes.
The online application process and the assistance of the single point of contact eliminate several hurdles for people founding companies. The city authorities will also benefit from the new system, as it provides greater transparency and the single point of contact removes some of the workload from the authorities’ employees. Because applicants deal mostly with the portal or the single point of contact, the number of people coming through the authorities’ doors is reduced to a minimum, and the public servants can concentrate on their primary tasks: efficiently verifying and processing applications. By proving itself as an agile, modern location for enterprise, Bielefeld is ready for brisk business.