The core of social services administration in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia consists of the district government in Munster and 11 subordinate social services offices between Bielefeld in the east and Aachen in the west. Against this geographical and organizational background, the district government faces the challenge of directing the work of the 11 offices – despite their relative independence – to guarantee the uniform application of the law and to provide services throughout the state.
The long-stated goals of upper management were to link the individual elements of administrative modernization (such as cost and activity accounting, target objectives, budgeting, and controlling) with each other and to enable strategic control of administration. That’s why management by objectives oriented to the principles of the balanced scorecard methodology was introduced as a modern management instrument as early as 1999.
Better Performance: The STRATOS Project
The controllers in the district government of Munster and in the social services offices originally used Microsoft Excel to map the balanced scorecard and its comprehensive reporting and controlling. But a call for high-performance software was soon heard, especially because the limits of Excel were quickly reached with consistent mapping of balanced scorecards – cause-and-effect chains, for example. The situation gave rise to a project on strategic and operating control with a management information system based on the balanced scorecard approach: STRATOS. The project began in March 2004.
The goal of the STRATOS project was to pilot use of balanced scorecards for the disabilities law at all hierarchical levels of the district government of Munster and the social services offices. The STRATOS project team consisted of upper management and controllers at all levels of the hierarchy and of staff representatives. The managers first developed a vision and then supplied it with strategies, a strategic direction, and goals along with the appropriate key figures and actions. The perspectives of the balanced scorecard were reworked at the same time. The perspective of performance supplemented the traditional perspectives of orientation to citizens, cost-effectiveness, business process optimization, and orientation to employees. Setting goals with employees included targets for individual goals that will be redefined each year. The project team developed cause-and-effect chains to map the relationships between the goals.
The project team needed three months to create the entire business plan. It needed another six months to set up the data warehouse, program all interfaces, define the authorization and security concept, and train users. STRATOS has been operating live since January 1, 2005. In terms of both technology and content, the solution links information from SAP Business Workflow to key figures from cost and activity accounting, quality management, and controlling. Additional data (such as the results of surveys of citizens and employees, personnel statistics, organizational data, and project status reports) also flows into the solution.
A Targeted Selection: SAP Software
The project team found it easy to decide to adopt SAP SEM and SAP BW based upon the SAP NetWeaver integration and application platform. The project required the integration of content along with a reduction in the number of technical interfaces to other programs. Using SAP software kept the number of interfaces low: all workflow for all aspects of social services administration in North Rhine-Westphalia, such as the implementation of the disabilities law or the federal law on child support payments, are supported with SAP software. The majority of data and key figures needed to manage these programs already comes from workflow. In addition to these criteria, SAP convinced the project team with its mature and ready-to-use SAP Balanced Scorecard application.
Better Results: The Benefits of STATROS
Since the beginning of 2005, social services administration in North Rhine-Westphalia has had a high-performance management information system. All information and statistics are imported into the data warehouse monthly and quarterly. From the data warehouse, key figures relevant to control are transferred to SAP Balanced Scorecard. They are mapped in terms of goals reached and supervision required, and then they are formatted graphically. The possibility of transmission errors has been eliminated. The result is a complete, always up-to-date overview of all the social-political and administrative data in one place – data that is available to all managers.
The STRATOS project has removed the time-consuming need for controllers in district government and social services offices to capture, combine, transmit, and format key figures relevant to supervision. That feature alone has reduced administrative personnel and transaction costs significantly. At the same time, data evaluation, analyses, reviews, and agreements on goals have reached a new level of quality. Departments in district government and social services offices can be managed optimally because the vision and the strategy of upper management are mapped transparently and can be implemented. Benchmarking in the social services offices has also been noticeably increased because STRATOS lets each office see the results of the other 10 offices in real time.
Customer service is another important consideration. The availability of up-to-date information on site clearly supports uniform application of the law throughout North Rhine-Westphalia. Results and decisions can be displayed transparently and in context. But the key figures also offer support for internal processes. Meetings to set goals can now use more targeted visualizations of training programs, so they can be planned with a better structure.
After just six months of use, the data confirms in black and white what was based on gut feelings before the STRATOS pilot project. It has become clear that the social services offices that perform better also have better key figures for quality. If the results continue in this direction, they will remove the old idea that the quality suffers when productivity increases in social service agencies.
The key figures from SAP BW have also forced new ways of thinking in other areas. Comparisons of time series have now shown that the shorter throughput times demanded by controlling do not lead to a higher error rate. And STRATOS has also shown that holding several meetings to review a situation does not lower productivity. In fact, it shows that social services offices that communicate more often and better with regular reviews are also more productive.
Overall, the STRATOS project with SAP has given social services administration in North Rhein-Westphalia several internal advantages. It also contributes to a better external image – all to the benefit of its citizens.