Ministry of Foreign Affairs

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
The MFA is a government body which comprises offices in 380 locations nationally and abroad. It employs more than 7.000 people. In 2009 paper documents dominated the work flow; the few digital documents present were processed by different applications, without a comprehensive plan aimed at achieving appropriate levels of confidentiality, integrity and availability of data. The resulting documentation tended to be progressively inadequate to times that imposed greater exchange speed, collaboration capabilities, data authenticity, efficient and effective administration processes. Even more, the location of users within the Ministry was not conducive to co-operative work, forcing employees to carry out constant movement at the expense of personal productivity. This triggered negative impact on the overall time of completion of administrative processes. In Italy, during that period, Public Administration branches were increasingly encouraged and supported to implement digital data exchanges thanks to specific legislation on the subject (the Digital Administration Code - CAD). In this context, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has prepared an Action Plan called "Project@doc", an implementation that should not only have represented the realization of a software procedure, but also put forth a series of organizational and operational actions, so as to enable the creation and sharing of digital documents and data, with the aim of improving the interaction with citizens, businesses and other government entities.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
The MFA has drafted and proposed Project@doc to achieve the following benefits: BENEFITS ON DATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS • Decreased response time due to efficiency of new solutions • Concentration of computing resources by reduction of maintenance costs • Reduction and rationalization of document models in use with the added ability to handle new data types BENEFITS ON THE INFORMATION SYSTEM • Increased ease of consultation and rationalisation of document arrangement (filing plan) • Integration of work flows from different operational offices • Increased speed in accessing information • Increased availability of collaborative tools between different functional offices for the issue of a single comprehensive document BENEFITS ON SYSTEM ORGANIZATION • Continuation in the integration of processes between different functional Offices • Increased efficiency of self-administration • Increase in the level of satisfaction in the enactment of processes, obtained through simplicity of information access • Bolstering of the organization of work in co-operating offices • Continued upgrading of staff previously used for manual handling of paper documents • Reduction of errors in service execution • Major reduction in paper consumption • Increased success of administrative action especially in cases of international emergencies BENEFITS SYSTEM SERVICES • Constant increased diffusion of information • Quick service delivery, especially in cases of international emergencies • Continued integration between different services • Ability to establish a greater degree of articulation to services in favor of Italian citizens worldwide • Improvement in case progress monitoring • Increased transparency of administrative actions • New types of information available to the public.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
Concerted management has created new ways of interaction between users. Users, presently, exchange, in a mode assisted by management flows, documents for discussion and consultation among different internal departments, leading to the consolidation of records and/or procedures in a co-operative fashion, aimed at making the system more understandable. Standardization of procedures, thanks to the adoption of a single stream manager, has been made common place in all departments. Furthermore, the creation of predefined document layouts allows uniform print rendering of documents. In the context of this standardization a flexible use is nonetheless assured, adaptable to the needs that are typical of any procedure that the user can alter, as seen fit. Elimination of all printing functionality: the application has not adopted anywhere in its user interface the “Print” button. The document can be processed in “PDF” format, so you can get a paper version through standard visualization tools; the absence of “Print” buttons leads the user increasingly towards exclusive digital content employment. Traces or “breadcrumbs”: one can keep track of the various movements and the various aspects related to the document, from its completion until its reading and / or elimination because of obsolesce, even in a multi-user collaborative context, contributing to a consolidation of the legal value associated with the document itself. Full text search: for information retrieval a comprehensive search engine has been implemented that can handle data as documents (document) equipped with text fields (fields) (“full-text” mode). This generic trait allows one to create, with the API supplied by the platform, analysis independent of the file format."

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The implementation strategy has been characterized by different milestones in its path which can be summarized as follows: 1) Evaluation of the contest 2) Editing of technical requirements and consolidation of the paper document templates in a a small number of digital document classes 3) Development of an action plan with costs and construction specifications 4) Presentation of the Action Plan to the government co-sponsor for follow-up and acceptance 5) Definition of resources and consequent fundraising 6) Software design and development 7) Technical realization of the project 8) Assembly of the hardware infrastructure 9) Test and inspection 10) Physical setup of the document management platform 11) Consolidation of results 12) Progressive consolidation of a project for a data transmission network dedicated to secure interconnection between Headquarters and Branch Offices (S-RIPA, the International Network of Public Administration). This infrastructure is the connective tissue necessary for the operation of the document management platform 13) Extension of the implementation to foreign Branch Offices. The sustainability of the project is ensured, from the economic point of view, by sections specifically dedicated to this within budget provisions. From the technical point of view, the flexibility of the choice of technology adopted allows to work constantly in designing evolutions to the system (often prompted by user request) through updates that are implemented even on a bi-weekly basis.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The groups that have shaped the initiative are: INSIDE THE ORGANIZATION: High tier: they have managed to balance the need for production process improvement with the increases in cost, service and quality, in accordance with the Law Low tier: they contributed concretely to the improvement and streamlining of processes and procedures to be planned. This has laid the foundation for a working environment favourable to fostering excellence in Government. Users: they were able to find in the tool new creative and innovative approaches to the management of administrative procedures, in compliance with the Law. This has permitted the pursuit of an increase in professional efficiency and personal productivity OUTSIDE PARTIES The Agency for Digital Italy (AGID): by the co-financing of the project it has recognized the innovative value of the experience to convey to other government agencies The citizens: with the expression of the need for efficient and effective services they have influenced in particular the development of the multi-channel capabilities of the platform Businesses: they need a useful and effective support outside the Country, that only the digital document management platform of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can provide.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
Initially, the necessary resources to the development and sustainability of the project were not proportionate to the resources available in the expenditure budget of the office. It was thus decided to pursue a course which, by involving other governmental units dedicated to this purpose, has made it possible to integrate ordinary budget funds with a specific co-funding operation to insure full coverage of needs. The overall budget was 5.2 M €, of which 1.2 M € paid by the Ministry and 3.8 M € delivered by the sponsor. The costs incurred for the implementation and maintenance of the project to date are as follows: - Total cost of the project to completion of the platform (analysis and drafting of technical requirements, analysis and technical design, coding, testing and integration, installation, commissioning, progressive maintenance, technical infrastructure, hardware, etc.): approximately 3.1 M € for external costs, 0.4 M € for internal costs - Availability costs for the foreign branch office network: about 0.5 M € - Average yearly maintenance cost (external resources for system support, evolution maintenance, system updates, etc.) 0.4 M € - Resources are still available to the office amounting to 0.8 M €, to be used for the year 2015.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
In addition to the benefits listed in item B.2, there have been many awards received outside the organization in relation to the presentation and implementation of the Action Plan in the Headquarter. Awards And Accolades Received At National Level 2011 – FORUMPA, " Less Paper More Value" Award, Certificate of Excellence in the category "Digital Document Workflow" 2012 – SMAU, “ICT Innovation in Lazio Region" Award Platform Re-Use Requests Central Government Authority for the Protection of Personal Data Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and of Tourism Senate of the Republic of Italy Other Initiatives Introduction of “Project@doc” among the templates considered for the national implementation of a document management platform common to all PA (SGPA) overseen by the Agency for Digital Italy (AGID).

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The designations of unique domain (MFA) and homogeneous organizational areas (combinations of several offices that interact for collaborative purposes) as well as the adherence to rules and procedures specified by legislation - which include, among others, the writing of registration metadata in only in two cases of the document life cycle - have produced a drastic reduction of documents requiring formal registration allowing for a reduction in gross production time. In fact, these classifications have produced, at a stabilized regime, savings of thousands of registration transactions per year avoiding legal obligation to use a digital signature even if the document travels between AOO of the same domain, with obvious advantages that also affect legal archiving. For objective evaluation purposes, the following parameters were considered: - Paper Consumption- the completion of a digital process of managing multiple document classes, the widespread adoption of digital streams and re-designing of processes related to administrative procedures made it possible to achieve a considerable reduction in the volume of paper previously used for the production of documents: a consumption of 17 million sheets of paper per year has been reduced to about 9 million; to this should be added the economic savings induced by reduced consumption (printers, toner, maintenance, etc.). - Document registration time - the time required by registration processes was reduced to the time required by the machines for all document classes in use, with the exception of some sporadic manual intervention. This reduction has been estimated at 7 man-days / year for each office (approximately 750 man-days per year). - Delay in availability - is the drastic reduction of time delay in the availability of documents as far as electronic handling is concerned and the ensuing improvement and upgrading of the entire administrative process, to the benefit of end users. This balances to a recovery of efficiency and effectiveness in the administration to the end of serving the citizen. The delay in the availability of the document, downstream of the assignment stage has been reduced to only "time machine" terms. - Time to search for indexed documents - the massive adoption of a single document platform has reached the added benefit of significantly augmenting the capability to carry out file searches (decrease of search time).

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
The first challenge that the development team has had to face has been the resistance to change working habits in an environment where methods had been long established. To solve this, demonstration sessions were organized comprising 28 classroom meetings with 2800 students to publicize the principles of collaborative document management; a comprehensive user's manual has been made available supplied with updated practical examples (how-to); a platform for e-learning content related to the subject was also put forth to the user. Such implementation has generated considerable financial effort. The enactment of the initiative was made possible by the individuation of a co-funding partner complying to support part of the economic burden. Subsequently, sustainability of the project became a priority. By the former one means the persistence of follow-up management once the development phase had been terminated. To this end, the project was included among permanent items in the budget of expenditures of the office supervising the Action Plan. To overcome the need for a data transmission network which would be secure, reliable and available at the time of the extension of the platform abroad, the deployment activities have been synchronized with the parallel plan of improvement of connectivity and security called S-RIPA. This is a dedicated data network deployed to ensure uniform standards enforcement in foreign locations spread in most countries in the world presenting the most diverse technological conditions.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
The major benefits deriving from the adoption of the project can be summarized in the following key points: •consolidation of the technological infrastructure: careful hardware architecture pre-selection has allowed a significant reduction of the equipment associated with the project. For the year 2015 a further consolidation is expected through the use of virtual machines to bolster the reliability of the global document workflow network of the Administration. This will cause significant savings in electricity benefitting the environment; • reduction of maintenance costs: as a consequence of the consolidation of technological infrastructure, the performance of the systems management team has allowed the optimization of human resources engaged in its activities from 4 to 3 individuals, resulting in consistent cost savings; • reduction of printed paper: from the beginning of the project, the Central Government has gone from a consumption of 17 million sheets of paper at about 9 million sheets of paper per year; • reduction of the print related costs: a consequence of the reduction of paper to be printed, within the administration the project of the deployment of single multi-function printers assigned to each floor to replace personal printers was started, with the achievement of considerable rationalization of provision costs and related maintenance; • reduction in procedure handling times: there was a significant reduction in procedural delays in the administrative process through the introduction of collaborative workflow management logic, to the general benefit of the parties involved.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
The different departments of the Italian government acquire software programs or portions thereof in accordance with principles of economy, efficiency, investment protection, reuse and impartiality, following a comparative assessment of technical and economic nature among the solutions available on the market. In addition, current Italian Law allows to implement "re-use of computer programs or parts thereof" meant as the ability of a government agency to re-use free software programs or portions thereof, developed on behalf and at the expense of another government agency, adapting them to their particular needs . The Agency for Digital Italy (AGID) verifies and publishes in a dedicated public registry, those applications that are compliant with the above principles. In this context, the Project@doc is already legally present in the "Catalogue of reuse" ( n. 254 of the pertaining list ( The following public administration departments have already adopted the application, adapting procedures to their particular needs: Government Authority for the Protection of Personal Data Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and of Tourism Senate of the Republic of Italy

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
A successful component of the project has been the generation of a rigorous process of analysis and review within the administration involving management, technicians and users. This has encouraged a review within the various offices of their respective internal processes of document management allowing for growth of rationalization. This has certainly favored the development stage, and has incentivized the use of digital and collaborative management methods within the administrative work flow. The phase of software development has been left to commercial offerings, thus creating a mixed public-private partnership, with an increase in importance for all parties involved. The public participant has been able to capitalize on essential technical expertise, while the private partner has had the opportunity to learn procedures and methods used by this Ministry. The co-funding by the Agency for Digital Italy (AGID) that directs information technology in public administrations has conferred visibility to the project that has resulted in other public agencies requesting code re-use. This interest has stimulated the growth of new developments in the pipeline. On the other hand, the addition of new technical requirements has had as a consequence a delay in delivery times and a definite increase of the planned costs. From this experience one feels that a number of recommendations for the implementation of future projects can be proposed. The involvement and approval of management is essential for achieving goals. Thanks to this, when required, the authority to impose technical decisions not always shared by all can be summoned. However, since persuasion is more effective than obligation, it is better to involve the end users and convince them of the benefits that the new instrument will bring to their action. Although it is always enticing to supplement the program with additional new features, at some point one must halt development and progress to the canonical stages of testing and deployment. Otherwise, one faces the risk of confronting excessive complexity, which makes the project unwieldy.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   Maria Teresa Di Maio
Title:   Head of Office  
Telephone/ Fax:   +39 06 3691 8380
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   Piazzale della Farnesina, 1
Postal Code:   00135
City:   Rome
State/Province:   Italy

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