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Making digital government work

There are few better depictions of how government works than the TV series Yes Minister.

But the fictional Department of Administrative Affairs in Whitehall is a long way from the smooth-running, paperless administration of the Danish government.

Ten Danish departments, including the Prime Minister’s Office, the Foreign Ministry and the Transport, and Climate and Energy ministries, are currently using the F2 digital public administration platform from Danish company cBrain to transform their workflow, reduce their IT storage costs, and improve the job satisfaction of civil servants.

The software – available in the UK through the G-Cloud 5 framework with support for PC, smart mobile and tablets – has improved the productivity of Denmark’s ministries through integrated workflow that supports case-processing, collaboration, knowledge-sharing, document management, archiving and records management.

F2 was developed together with several Danish ministries, starting with the Ministry of Social Affairs in 2006 and the Ministry of Transport in 2009. The Ministry of Climate and Energy followed, implementing the suite in just eight weeks, while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is now rolling out F2 globally at 100 locations.

It runs on a standard platform that can be configured without any programming. Both the Danish Agency for Governmental IT Services and the ICT provider for the German state administration in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern are now offering F2 “as a service”, with the Danish agency hosting eight organisations in the cloud, a move that can help reduce costs by up to 35 per cent. F2 cloud services include software maintenance and regular upgrades to the platform.



Two Danish ministries won a digitisation award for their F2 implementations. Thomas Egebo, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Climate and Energy, believes F2 has helped him save a much welcome two-and-a-half hours a week.

Jacob Heinsen, Mr Egebo’s counterpart at the Ministry of Transport, explains that the software has increased departmental transparency and civil servants’ job satisfaction

“In the past, once employees had finished their work on a document, perhaps to provide an answer to a parliamentary question, they would give it to their boss. But they did not know the status and location of that document in the overall process,” he says.

“With F2, we have increased our transparency. Civil servants can follow the document’s progress in real-time, right up to the permanent secretary and minister, and back. For the employee, that means they can also track the productivity of their boss.”

The transparency has helped improve user satisfaction. It is unusual for employees to admit they are happier two months after the introduction of a new case management system. But 62 per cent said they were satisfied with the ability to find documents and files (up from 12 per cent), 81 per cent were satisfied with the knowledge-sharing (7 per cent previously), and 37 per cent said the new system had increased their overall job satisfaction.


F2 has also increased efficiency through mobility. In a fast-moving world, where the wheels of government business have to match increasing citizen and news media demands, permanent secretaries and ministers will often track critical documents through F2’s secure mobile access for devices such as tablets and smartphones.

F2’s integrated social media, including chat and presence, has itself helped improve productivity, cutting case processing time by a third, from 3.5 to 2.2 days.

The Danish ministries are demonstrating how an integrated administration platform such as F2 can digitise workflow offering a transparent approach

“Now, I can turn my waiting time or transport time into productive time,” says Mr Heinsen. “I can pull out my iPad and it will have been automatically updated. I can read a document, decide what to do with it and send it back. And I can do it in my car, while my wife is driving, on the train or in the airport.”

Per Tejs Knudsen, cBrain’s founder and chief executive, says F2 evolved out of cBrain’s expertise in understanding processes and building applications to support them.

“We collaborated with ministries to provide a standard system that can be plugged in to support their work. It is not just a document management and archiving system, but a production platform that provides mobile access,” says Mr Knudsen.

F2’s impact on productivity and ease of use has enabled senior civil servants to show leadership, and be an exemplar to the rest of the organisation in using the software.

“It is the top management that makes it happen. And it starts with the permanent secretary. If they are early adopters, the rest of the ministry will follow,” he says.

For Mr Knudsen, F2 also provides a strong environmental and cost-reduction story, offering savings on IT storage.

“Before the F2 production process was introduced, you could almost follow a document’s progress by where it was being printed,” he says. “Then, huge copies of documents meant there were 25 times more documents in e-mail as in document management. F2’s adoption has almost eliminated the use of internal e-mail – 50 per cent of all communication in ministries is now through chat rather than e-mail.”

The Danish ministries are demonstrating how an integrated administration platform such as F2 can digitise workflow offering a transparent approach that supports knowledge processes in public and private organisations, from civil servants to permanent secretaries and employees to chief executives.

Perhaps Shakespeare’s famous quote in Hamlet should read: “Something is successful in the state of Denmark.”