First F2 Pilot Project in the USA

cBrain A/S
Company Announcement

 

cBrain has signed an agreement with a high profile federal government organization in Washington to pilot the F2 product. 

cBrain is investing significant resources into its international growth plan, and this first pilot project in Washington represents an important milestone.   

About F2 

F2 is a fully integrated production platform for government organizations supporting all work functions including case processing, knowledge management, formal and informal communication, collaboration, relations management, document and records management. 

F2 is built for government in close collaboration with Danish ministries and is now used by half of all ministerial departments in Denmark as well as many agencies. 

 

Per Tejs Knudsen, CEO

cBrain establishes office in San Francisco

Following the September announcement of a partnership with Code for America, cBrain has now agreed to establish an office at the SUPERPUBLIC Lab in San Francisco, where Federal State, City, Academia and private sector collaborate around public sector innovation. 

The office will allow cBrain to collaborate and work with the most technologically advanced cities in the world, at the heart of Silicon Valley innovation and entrepreneurship. 

cBrain brings many years of experience as a supplier to public sector organizations. This includes the F2 standard software and cloud. F2 was built for government in close collaboration with Danish ministries and is now used by half of all ministerial departments in Denmark as well as many agencies. cBrain also brings in a new fast track approach for delivering better citizen services as well as business and data control for Municipalities and Cities, based on F2. This is called "Municipality-as-a-Service" and is used by cities like Copenhagen City in Denmark and Liverpool City in the UK.

About SUPERPUBLIC.

SUPERPUBLIC was launched in May 2016, by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, U.S. General Services Administrator Denise Turner Roth, U.S. Department of Commerce, and the City Innovate Foundation as the first-of-its-kind Innovation Lab bringing public, private, nonprofit, and academic sectors together to solve urban problems. The Innovation Lab at SUPERPUBLIC is located on the top floor of 50 U.N. Plaza in the heart of the civic district of San Francisco

Delivery is the Strategy - digital government in Denmark and the US

Digitisation is not about IT, it's about service. Service is the key issue. That was one of the points made when Greg Godbout, former Director of 18F and Lars Frelle-Petersen, Denmark’s national CIO, discussed digital government at cBrain’s headquarters in Copenhagen recently.

Lars Frelle-Petersen, CEO of The Agency of Digitisation (left) and Greg Godbout, CEO and Co-Founder cBrain North America.

Lars Frelle-Petersen, CEO of The Agency of Digitisation (left) and Greg Godbout, CEO and Co-Founder cBrain North America.

”The future for software solutions is service,” underlined CEO for the Agency of Digitisation, Lars Frelle-Petersen, when he and Greg Godbout compared experiences between Denmark and the US.

It was a packed room full of leaders, government decision makers and government employees. All had turned up for the event: “Delivery is the Strategy,” that took place Thursday 6th of October at cBrain in Copenhagen.

Get rid of the silo thinking

Greg Godbout, who is currently Co-Founder and CEO of cBrain North America, used to be Executive Director of 18F and then Chief Technology Officer at the US Environmental Protection Agency in Washington. From his experience working in Washington two things stood out:

”Often people work for a unit. Not necessarily for the entire organization. Members of IT steering groups are often more focused on covering their own back than developing shared visions,” Greg Godbout said.

In order to succeed with a shared vision he thinks that government needs to break down the silo thinking and stop being territorial - focus on the service that the user needs and how to best to deliver that. We also need to reform the way that change is delivered in government:

”We have to think agile throughout the whole process. Agile management, agile services, agile delivery and agile acquisition. It's not just about software development”

Think alpha, beta and operational scaling

There’s a need for a digital transformation and a culture change within government if we want IT projects to become successful.

”We have to be more experimental and fail faster,” Lars Frelle-Petersen pointed out.

It is import to start small to speed up the learning process. If we fail faster and at smaller scale we can quickly assess what works and what doesn't, and it’s not as painful in terms of cost and time. We have to approach IT projects in another way, Greg Godbout says "We have to be agile. Do an alpha, then beta and if it’s a success scale out the solution within the entire organization."

Agile acquisitions with shorter time limits can be used early on to get a deeper understanding of the business and its problems and allow to build prototypes and do small experiments. Later in the project when you are more sure of exactly what you need you can be more sure about costs and look to optimise for price.  

Even though there’s room for a culture change Lars Frelle-Petersen noted that Denmark has a huge advantage when it comes to change: Trust.

The Danes trust Government

”In Danish society we have a high level of trust in individuals and that trust is something we have to maintain,” said Lars Frelle-Petersen.

He gave the example that 4.2 million Danish citizens receive Digital Mail and that their satisfaction level is high - over 80 percent. But there is still further work to be done, and Lars noted that government is increasingly being seen as an attractive place to work for those with digital skills. 

”Google and Apple are popular companies to work for... we have to be better explaining that in Government you get to play with some of the biggest tools and be part of developing the future working with data and digitisation,” Lars Frelle-Petersen explained.

F2 in the cloud - what's in it for the user?

Moving business applications to the cloud is typically a decision made by the IT department, but in reality the business users are the ones who see the most benefit. 

To give an example: when I first joined government I had to work with a set of applications that were six years old. 

By the time I left we were still using the same applications - only now they were eleven years old. 

Being stuck with old versions of software is a typical legacy problem - the longer you leave an update the greater the cost of change, but also the greater the opportunity cost in terms of missed productivity benefits (to say nothing of the security implications of running out of date software).

At cBrain we regularly issue updates to our F2 platform, and we aim to keep all our cloud customers no more than one release behind. So when we issue a new release customers typically upgrade within the following 3 – 6 months. Our cloud customers can be maximum 12 months behind the latest version – which is a pretty significant change – and certainly better than using software that was last updated in 2005!

Being part of ‘The Club’

Because F2 was built specifically for government, being a customer means you are joining a kind of club. 

We can use our platform model to help drive future product direction. Customers start to innovate in how they use our platform, and we can then build support for successful innovations in future releases or new modules that are available to all our customers.

This means that the early adopters can push ahead with their ambitious transformation programmes. And those who are operating to a slower timescale can take advantage of new features and functionality that have already been tested and implemented for other customers.

And because we take care of upgrades with our automated deployment process, customers always have an up-to-date service and avoid the obsolescence and generation leaps that take place with installed software.

cBrain accepted onto G-Cloud 8

Being in the cloud also offers a convenient commercial ‘rental’ model for the software, which avoids large up-front investment. 

This is why we are on government cloud frameworks in Denmark and UK - and have recently been accepted onto the latest iteration of the UK cloud framework: G-cloud 8.

In G-cloud cBrain is offering the F2 digital public administration platform. 

F2 supports standard government work such as case and knowledge processing, along with support for regulatory requirements such as FOI, ministerial correspondence and Public Records Acts.

And along with the software we have developed an understanding of the operational model required to run a digital administration. We can see how government customers have successfully regained control over their data and how adopting best practice leads to more efficiency.

So being part of ‘the club’ means organisations can also get access to tried and tested ways of changing to become a digital public administration - based on seeing what works in other, similar organisations.

What’s it like to work at a Danish digital embassy?

What’s it like to work at a Danish digital embassy?

During my stay at the Danish embassy in Berlin I experienced the transition to 100 % digital archiving, which taught me a lot about how far advanced Danish digitization solutions are.

Maria Djurhuus Petersen

It’s not always a popular decision to switch to a new system. Old systems and habits are comfortable. But occasionally if you invest some time in learning a new system, you will find better ways of doing things. That was at least the case for me when I began as an intern at the Danish embassy in Berlin and was introduced to F2. 

The embassy in Berlin was the first Danish embassy to switch to F2 and today the physical archive is empty. We made a whole extra room available at the embassy just by changing our mindset. That’s a very tangible piece of evidence of a forward thinking approach to Danish diplomacy supported by F2.

Improving knowledge sharing
Especially being an intern at the embassy for a shorter period it was a huge advantage that I could easily follow the workflow of specific tasks and register files with a single click. The system also made it easier for me to search the history of what my department had done before. I could quickly tap into the knowledge we already had in the organisation.

When living and working in Germany I learned that you cannot take that kind of digital foresight for granted. I really appreciate German culture and people but I got surprised by the fact that German society is still largely driven by paper solutions when compared to Denmark.

However, the German government is investing heavily in digitization so I think that eventually you will see a shift toward more digital solutions, too. This summer as a response to the German development, the embassy hired a digitization advisor to focus on driving the Danish digital agenda in Germany forward. Showing the way to a digital future is definitely a management task which I am very pleased to have experienced at the Danish embassy in Berlin.

Even though Denmark is digital frontrunner in Europe I think that we can always improve our own performance as well. In this regard, I am convinced that having the right level of digital ambition and leadership are key to changing. 

 
 

Today the room is used as a meeting room.

cBrain partners with Code for America

As a next step in the US, cBrain is now partnering with Code for America.

Code for America is a non profit organisation with headquarters in San Francisco. By efficient use of new technology Code for America works to modernize government organisations in the US. The organisation has more than 5000 active members.

As part of the agreement cBrain will participate in the annual Code for America Summit in Oakland in November.

Greg Godbout nominated for industry leadership award

cBrain’s Greg Godbout has been nominated for a 2016 FedScoop 50 Award in the category of Industry Leadership. The Industry Leadership award celebrates the private sector leader driving change by being a valued partner to government and leading teams that help agencies work smarter and lower costs.

Greg joined cBrain to continue the mission of transforming government IT that he started at 18F and continued at EPA. 

“The success of cBrain’s F2 software in Denmark is evidence that a platform built from the ground up specifically for the public sector, using modern practices - can and does release organizations from the burden of legacy systems and processes. Allowing agencies, organizations, and vendors to transform from a classic IT department focus to a mission digital services focus.”

Voting for the FedScoop 50 Awards is possible here until 16th September.

 

 

 

Checklists in Practice: Digital Divorce

Faced with the challenge of reducing business costs by 30% and saving 90 million Danish Kroner, the Danish State Administration chose F2 as the platform to support their ambitious business transformation project.

The State Administration has over 200,000 cases a year, dealing with family law (adoptions, divorces, child custody) and a number of other complex matters. At any one time there are more than 30,000 open cases.

Services such as divorce are chargeable to citizens, so there is a constant pressure to provide value for money.

By taking a checklist based approach and adding self-service, the State Administration were able to take out more than 50% of the cost for administrating divorces.

Doing the hard work to make things simple

At cBrain we’ve been spending some time looking at how to support mission critical processes from a standard platform.

The ambition was to provide something that directly meets what users need, but without locking people into fixed processes and creating a new legacy system.

For this to happen we had to start with a big assumption: our users are smart enough to know what they need to get done. Our job is just to make it as easy as possible. 

By working with users we came to two realizations.

Swimlanes don’t work

The first was that traditional process modelling using swimlane diagrams didn’t really help. People found it very hard to get anything other than a superficial understanding of the process. Most people looking at a swimlane would say it looks more or less OK. But when walking through actual cases they quickly find variants and conditions and lots of reasons why the swim lane doesn’t represent what actually happens in practice. 

And if we don’t support what people actually need to do then we are short-changing users.

Only automate what should be automated

The second realization was that we shouldn’t try to automate tasks where dealing person to person is more beneficial. While some government transactions are purely data driven, many are dealing with complex personal circumstances, different motivations and social pressures. Often speaking with a person is the best way to clarify what the real need is. 

So we needed to find a way to automate the trivial work while at the same time supporting tasks where the knowledge and experience of practitioners is critical to getting the right results for the citizen. 

We also wanted to look at the data around outcomes: people make mistakes, but we wanted to understand when and why they did so. 

The Checklist Effect

This is where checklists come in. There is a growing body of evidence that shows checklists can have impressive results in getting the right outcomes for service users.

“Checklists allow complex pathways of care to function with high reliability by giving users the opportunity to pause and take stock of their actions before proceeding to the next step.”  World Health Organization (WHO)

Led by Professor Atul Gawande, the WHO introduced a Surgical Safety Checklist which had a significant effect in reducing patient mortality during surgery. Professor Gawande in turn was inspired by the checklists used by airline technicians to improve aircraft safety.

And it’s not just for surgeons. In one of our early implementations when doing user research at Ministry of Interior we got the comment:  “If you really want to know how we work, we just use this” said the user, and pulled a checklist out from their drawer. 

Putting it into standard software

And that user comment led to our checklist approach to process modelling being born. 

Using lists as a way of organizing work and ensuring quality has the advantage of being easily understandable, and a neat way of simplifying complex actions. Even when intelligent people know what to do they can help ensure the right outcome by introducing moments of review to ensure that common causes of error are addressed.

And putting a checklist into software instead of on paper allows organizations to build a dataset showing how the organization actually works.

We decided to build a process editor on top of the core F2 platform that would allow users to add tasks and structure them in phases. We could create different sets of tasks for different processes, grouping them in a ‘Task Guide’

It quickly became apparent that for mission specific tasks you would need to extend the data model with additional data, so we provided a way to specify the extra fields required for each case type.

Added to that we introduced forms to capture the additional data - either by self-service, integration or internal user input.

Simpler, Cheaper, Faster

Using the checklist approach, and introducing self-service for the divorce process the State Administration was able to reduce internal administration costs by approximately 50%, which in turn led to the charge for citizens being reduced from 900 Danish Kroner to 420 Kroner.

If both parties agree, then divorces can happen quickly and effectively. However if there are disagreements the checklist allows for variances and complex cases where there are children involved, financial disagreements, and where face to face discussion or legal representation is required. 

This means that complex processes that require administrator involvement could be supported alongside simple processes that can largely be automated - in one instance a process that normally took 5 days just to receive an acknowledgement of request has been shortened to taking only 5 minutes end to end with no back-office intervention. 

Interestingly the question now for the State Administration is whether they have become too efficient, and whether they should introduce a pause for reflection in the divorce process.

Which is not something you can say about many government organizations…

cBrain to deliver F2 for the Danish Ministry of Taxation

cBrain has signed an agreement with The Danish Ministry of Taxation to deliver F2 case and document management software as a new digital platform for the department. 

The agreement with The Ministry of Taxation comes shortly after cBrain announced agreements with the danish Rail Authorities (Rail Net Denmark) and the danish Tax Authorities (the Danish Customs and Tax Administration). 

The agreement is important for cBrain. It shows that cBrain continues to win market share as a leading supplier for the danish central government. Half of all danish ministies have now chosen F2 as their digital production platform.

cBrain delivers solution for dividend tax refunds

cBrain has signed a deal with SKAT - the Danish tax authorities - to deliver a solution for dividend tax refunds.

The solution is based on F2 – an integrated production platform for government work - and the process layer in F2. It will support the entire process from self service to supervision/control and authorization of payments.

cBrain has had a lot of success with F2 in Danish ministries, and about half of Danish ministries use F2. cBrain’s growth plan is to use the strong reference position with ministries as a basis for expanding into government agencies and institutions. The deal with SKAT supports cBrain’s plan for growth, and will also enable the Danish tax authorities to support requests for dividend tax refunds.

 

Danish standard inspires Bruxelles

A recent EU report highlights the Danish standard for electronic file and document handling and also the F2 solution which is used widely across the Danish public sector.

Breakthrough for cBrain in the UK with first G-Cloud contract

Following the pilot project, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council has signed an agreement to procure the F2 solution as Software-as-a-Service, using the national G-Cloud framework, starting with approx. 50 users out of potentially 1.500 users.

Built for Government

Higher productivity, greater transparency, and happier civil servants. F2 is different because it is built for government and new design makes Version 5 a bit easier, a bit faster and a lot more fun.