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A "digital, breathing" public authority

Date 14 December 2018

The Federal Office's Digitisation Agenda 2020, launched in 2016, comprises 115 different projects and procedures. Having reached the halfway point, the authority has taken stock and provided an outlook on further steps in digital development.

The Federal Office has taken a new approach in implementing a large number of initiatives, was one of the first German public authorities to use innovative agile software development methods such as the Scrum process model, and has tried out new digital technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence. In addition, an IT Lab was set up to develop digital topics using agile methods in a spirit of partnership between the business and IT sides.

Whereas the initial focus was primarily on upgrading and stabilising the existing IT systems, today the focus is on technical scalability and the functional flexibility of the processes.

"Our goal is the end-to-end digitisation of processes primarily as a user-orientated approach", as Vice President of the Federal Office Dr. Markus Richter stressed.

Milestones already achieved (a few examples)

Centralised inbound mail (ZPE)

The centralised inbound mail initiative has managed to standardise, harmonise and certify the various different types of scanning processes used today with the aim in mind of ensuring mail processing that increases efficiency, whilst meeting legal requirements.

Tobias TummescheitSource: © BAMF

"Digitising document services allows us to achieve a range of advantages. We anticipate cost and time savings when processing applications because documents can be shared and processed in virtually real time. We also expect significant improvements to quality because we can automate many process steps and thus avoid potential errors," explains Tobias Tummescheit, who heads the project at the Federal Office.

Vocational German language promotion (BerD)

A central digital platform with a broad range of applications is currently being set up to manage, coordinate and bill for vocational German language promotion. To this end, employment agencies, Job Centres, accredited municipalities and course providers will be linked with the platform.

"We launched an enormous language promotion programme nationwide in an extremely short time with a budget of more than EUR 400 million p.a. The success has been overwhelming: Within two years about 330,000 eligibility notices were recorded and more than 10,000 courses have been launched," confirms Florian Knape, programme officer for the vocational language courses.

Deploying new technologies

The successes that the Federal Office has achieved by applying the Scrum processes in agile software development have encouraged the Office to continue along this path and to establish a "Process Lab" along the lines of design thinking.

This involves bringing together people from different disciplines in an environment that fosters their creativity. The design thinking approach to developing solutions is based on the typical stages of the design process: understanding, observing, defining the point of view, prototyping and testing.

Brainstorming sessions in which team members give free rein to their ideas are part of the design thinking method. Once all the ideas have been assessed and described in the greatest possible detail, prototypes are developed for promising ideas. These prototypes do not need to be fully-fledged products at first – it is much more important to use the prototypes to test ideas for their implementability in order to receive feedback as quickly as possible.

Digitisation must pay off

With these already very concrete projects forming part of its Digitisation Agenda 2020, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees sees itself on the right track to remain a pioneer for the long term. The focus is on the projects’ "return on digitisation".

Rene BöckèrSource: © BAMF

"Rigorous digitisation provides ways to save both money and time that can, in turn, be invested into new digitisation initiatives. If a positive return on digitisation is achieved, digitisation can essentially pay for itself," is the conclusion drawn by René Böcker, who is responsible at the Federal Office for processes, IT and project management, with regard to what has been achieved so far.

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