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Seine-Saint-Denis Departmental Council Customer Story

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Seine-Saint-Denis Departmental Council sets an example by introducing paperless systems for accounting flows and administrative documents, a cross functional EDMS, and collaborative work.

Many of France’s important landmarks are located in the Seine‑Saint‑Denis department – including Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, Europe’s second‑busiest terminal, and Saint Denis basilica, the burial place of the Kings of France from the 7th century onwards. Seine‑Saint‑Denis is a highly urbanised area and has the 5th highest population of France’s departments, with 1.5 million people living in its 40 towns, two of which have over 100,000 inhabitants.

The Challenge

The Departmental Council faced pressure from the French Government to digitise its administrative and accounting procedures. Apart from the significant legal context and the precise scope of the project, the Council was keen to replace the existing proprietary solutions with a cross‑functional, open‑source EDMS and to facilitate working in a project‑based environment.

In addition to this digitisation

  • of administrative documents (deliberations, agreements, orders)
  • and of the accounting system (supporting documents and additional documents for invoicing),

the Department decided to extend the use of Alfresco to many other projects and uses:

  • Digitisation of HR (Human Resources) files
  • Creation of a digital reference library (DRL)
  • Introduction of collaborative sites for professional, project‑based or structural networks
  • Single secure storage unit for RSA benefit files.

The Solution

The first library to be set up was the reports and deliberations library in 2011 (digitised since 1968), with data being made available on the intranet from 2012. The project now incorporates the complete cycle from digitising deliberations up to the signing of the statement enforcing the document (digital signature connector in Alfresco). 

A digital reference library was created in 2013 to centralise over a thousand documents, selected according to specific editorial criteria – cross‑functional documents, knowledge transfer documents, strategic guidance documents, practical documents (charts and guides), and memos from the Directorate‑General. The documents indexed and stored in Alfresco are made accessible via an embedded graphical interface on the intranet, for use by all 8,000 employees. Each electronic document has a summary, keywords and categories associated with it. The DRL allows instant access to the information required, prevents duplication, and saves time and resources, while eliminating the need to recreate documents that already exist. When a document reaches the end of its validity period, it is transferred to the Alfresco Governance Services or Records Management (RM) module.

In 2015, the Department rolled out the collaborative sites (Alfresco Enterprise standard) to break down knowledge barriers and enable different departments and services to work on shared information and documents in a project‑based environment. Seine‑Saint‑Denis Departmental Council currently has some sixty sites that have gradually been opened up to around a hundred external partners by granting specific access rights.

The switch to a paperless system for public procurement invoices, corporate invoices and other supporting documents (SEP V2) entered the final production phase in 2016, following the successful completion of the first phase in 2015. The digitisation chain includes workflows with three control points (accounting, operations, line management). The switch has made it possible to simplify, streamline and speed up invoice processing and improve security of the complete processing chain, as well as preventing the loss of documents and paper storage.

For this project, subject‑area representatives were brought together for the needs assessment phase. A complete training plan was then organised for the 250 staff members involved. A dedicated site was set up for the launch, containing tutorials and a FAQ section. When the project launched, a special task force reported back to the DINSI (digital innovation and computer systems office) each day to raise any incidents.

Likewise, in 2016, staff payslips (previous five years) were switched to a paperless system and made available for staff to access on the intranet. Each staff member’s digital file will soon include their individual career records.

The change management was different for each project. An “EDMS Committee” was set up in 2014 to take charge of all new projects using Alfresco, namely to establish goals and priorities and flag up issues, as well as taking any opportunities to extend the advantages of the cross‑functional, open‑source EDMS to other areas. The Committee is managed by the Strategy, Organisation and Evaluation department, and brings together the Communications, Digital Innovation and Computer Systems and Archiving departments, together with the Knowledge Management service (CORPUS). Other departments lend their support where needed, depending on the roadmap: Personnel department, Administration office, department for Budget, Finance and Accounting Management, etc.

A “collaborative sites” sub‑committee was formed in 2015, led by a project manager in charge of supporting the process. One key responsibility of this committee is to approve the creation of the sites and any changes. The project manager drew up a use chart, created a test collaborative site containing practical information, guides and tutorials, and started up a network of site managers who meet on a quarterly basis.

The Result

By digitising its administrative procedures, Seine‑Saint‑Denis Departmental Council has been able to meet the French Government’s requirements. Broadly speaking, using the cross‑functional EDMS will enable the Council to gradually reduce the amount of paper documents it keeps on file. The statistics show an increasing number of site creation requests (60 in two years), which proves that they are highly valued.

The Department estimates that around half of its 8,000 staff members make direct or indirect use of the Alfresco cross‑functional EDMS. These users have been able to:

  • Bring their working methods and procedures up to date
  • Improve access to documents
  • Make use of their knowledge
  • Save time in their work
  • Ensure communications are secure

Jannick Labatut‑Pouyllau, head of the CORPUS service (Knowledge Management and Monitoring) within the Strategy, Organisation and Evaluation department, says: “Alfresco is a useful tool as it can be adapted to suit many different needs (storage, archiving, collaborative work, workflows, library), and it interfaces smoothly with the computer systems to accept incoming flows and generate outgoing flows, as well as with third‑party applications (digital signatures, creation of deliberations, intranet, accountancy software, etc.). Alfresco is very flexible and offers precise management of rights as well as keeping track of cycles and modifications. It has enabled us to reduce the number of applications, particularly specific EDMSs.” She adds: “It’s also important to receive good support in the implementation process from authorised, specialist Alfresco providers, and we get this from the experts at Atol CD”.

The Department intends to extend its use of the Alfresco EDMS even further. Some of the projects currently being considered include:

  • Using the intermediate RM archiving module for all binding documents: administrative documents, accounting system, and HR files. At present, this is only done for a small selection of documents (the reference library).
  • Making available on the internet certain specific documents stored in Alfresco (deliberations and the DRL, currently only available via the intranet).
  • Allowing organisations to access their grant application files online.
  • Managing partnership agreements.
  • Facilitating telecommuting with submission and sharing of documents instead of office automation networks, and thus avoiding the use of email and USB drives (which are not very secure).
  • Extending the accounting system to the purchasing department to ultimately achieve full digitisation of the documentation process, from the ordering stage through to payment.
  • Managing signature authorisations or further simplifying the distribution of internal memos through decision workflows or simplified approvals.

Jannick Labatut-Pouyllau is aware that this is a large number of projects, but these aims reflect the size of the local authority. She is confident about the future, because the ways in which the local authority is using Alfresco are becoming more and more sophisticated, as are its possible applications. Seine‑Saint‑Denis is one of the local authorities leading the way in this area: “We already have a wealth of evidence showing very tangible and effective ways for us to continue working in this direction.”

“Alfresco is a useful tool as it can be adapted to suit many different needs (storage, archiving, collaborative work, workflows, library), and it interfaces smoothly with the computer systems to accept incoming flows and generate outgoing flows, as well as with third‑party applications (digital signatures, creation of deliberations, intranet, accountancy software, etc.). Alfresco is very flexible and offers precise management of rights as well as keeping track of cycles and modifications. It has enabled us to reduce the number of applications, particularly specific EDMS's.” Jannick Labatut‑Pouyllau, head of the CORPUS service (Knowledge Management and Monitoring), Strategy, Organisation and Evaluation Department