Four Steps for Startups

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 portal solution

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:

  1. In the first step, the aspiring business owners call up the registration page of the portal. The registration page provides all information about the various authorities where they will need to file applications. The applicants then register on the portal and receive the contact information for their single point of contact.
  2. After applicants have registered, the system prompts them to enter important data about the type of company they want to found and the legal form it will take. The portal provides templates for various kinds of businesses, such as cafes with or without an alcohol license, limited liability companies, and private companies. Based on these entries, the system automatically determines which applications and documents the applicant needs to submit to the various authorities. If information is required by multiple authorities, applicants enter it only once and it is distributed as necessary. As soon as the portal’s online payment function has conveniently handled the payment of the administration fees, the application is complete.
  3. In the third step, the system passes the application to the single point of contract, who checks that the necessary information is complete. SAP Customer Relationship Management CRM (SAP CRM) supports the case management for the application. When all of the master data for the application is complete, the system automatically determines the follow-up activities required by other authorities downstream in the process, such as the registry office, the trade supervisory authority, or the building authorities. It also sets the deadlines for the various milestones in the application process. The system stores the application documents in a centralized document management system, where a role-based authorizations system governs the relevant authorities’ access to them.
  4. The downstream authorities take over in the fourth and final step. The system displays all open applications and their current status. As soon as all authorities have finished processing an application, the system automatically informs the single point of the contact and the company founder. The authorities then issue the necessary licenses, and the company founder can go into business.

Step-by-step roll-out

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.

Streamlined administration 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.