The project was born from the need to redesign the Ministry of Education's (MI) decision-making processes. The ITeR application is an organizational and management tool built to suit this purpose. The beneficiaries of the innovation are the MI actors involved in the process, but also the citizens who benefit from the measures being issued more quickly. ITeR is innovative because it enables the cooperation of all actors, keeps track of all documents and greatly simplifies the decision-making process.
By innovation in the public administration (PA) we mean the introduction of new design and planning methods, at the basis of the production of public values and services; it basically means creating positive change in order to make an impact. Innovation represents one of the elements that allows public administrations to have a greater chance of success, but, at present, there is a scarce inclination to it. In recent years, in fact, this is one of the main criticisms addressed to public institutions, considered "blocked" in the technicalities of bureaucracy and, therefore, not very predisposed to change. Excessive reference to laws and rules therefore becomes an obstacle to the affirmation of innovative processes within the PA which is required to respond to the increasingly demanding requests of civil society. By way of example, we cite the requests for increased transparency and traceability of processes, support for regulatory changes that modify processes or organizations and, with a look at the very recent times we are experiencing, the response to emergency phases such as the Covid-19 pandemic. Public institutions are "perpetually" exposed to states of crisis (think of how much policy choices are changing today due to the evolution of the war in Ukraine).
Innovation represents a fundamental lever of change and development for a country that, like Italy, has always looked to the future, thus making the PA an even more competitive sector and in step with the challenges that will also arise at the European level. Although in the analysis of the innovation trends of each member state, Italy remains a moderate innovator (https://data.oecd.org/italy.htm), with a markedly improved relative performance compared to other EU countries over the long term, there is still much to be done especially at the national level where there is an uneven and patchy situation.
The project aims to redesign the MI decision-making processes with a global approach focused on the overall consistency of the actions that lead to specific outputs in the various levels of government. ITeR conceived as an innovative approach has been designed to create a lasting impact, especially in institutional models subject to structural turbulence deriving from continuous political turnarounds. Furthermore, ITeR, also in order not to create divisions between "old" and "new", is an integrated system, or better, harmonized, with the existing systems. The project leads to an overall redefinition of the entire system of activities through the creation of management actions that support decisions: economic-financial valorization, sharing-information in the MI, inter-organizational synergy; institutional communication systems. The objectives and goals of ITeR are to:
- promote integration between organizational actors;
- define time management tools;
- define accountability mechanisms in every part of the organization;
- simplify work organization;
- support institutional welfare policies.
ITeR was created to re-engineer processes focusing on medium-long term sustainability in terms of capitalization of information, activities, processes, and valorization of: informal documents; regulatory frameworks; identification keywords; summaries of processes. During the pandemic ITeR allowed employees to remotely sign relevant documents without the necessity to do it physically and avoid possible service interruptions due to pandemic restrictions. This could potentially create issues at all levels within the Education system impacting millions of students, teachers and employees. Service continuity provided by the solution lead to employees’ satisfaction increase too. Implementing a keyword system for supplying a virtual repository could be compared to an IoT system.
By virtue of the results of the experimentation that were completed successfully and without particular critical issues to be highlighted, with delegation to the competent DG, the following improvement actions were implemented:
- migration of all data entered in the testing phase;
- implementation of the work flow for sending a notification to the user involved both at the time of entering the request and at the completion of the deed;
- insertion of new types of workable documents: notes, directives, agreement / memorandum of understanding;
- insertion of requests "for examination" regarding critical aspects in time, due to the impact of the choices, but which do not require the formalities of the signature;
- implementation of a dashboard for users belonging to the “Cabinet Office” context and concerning the trend and statistics of the entries made by users;
- profiling of the secretariats of the Units based on the pre-existing administrative structure (pending the finalization of the implementing regulations of the new organization chart).
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The implementation of ITeR is an innovation in the governance of decision-making processes according to a public management approach. ITeR aims to create a virtuous relationship between the initial moment of needs analysis behind the decision-making processes and the final decisions in terms of institutional communication. So, ITeR aims to manage and monitor document flows in signature and for examination of the Head of Cabinet, Heads of Department, General Directorates and Offices Directorates. The application provides for a document flow from Ministry of Education officials up to the Education Minister. Each actor involved, according to the qualification, can receive, view and verify documents, make a judgement of adequacy, submit for competence or sign documents (notices, circulars, decrees, orders, appeals etc.).
What is the current status of your innovation?
The testing of the project took place between December 2019 and June 2020. MI users entered 152 different types of documents for validation. Offices involved 4 Directorates General (DG) : DG for Student, Development, and internationalization of higher education, DG for Structural Funds for Education, school building and digital school, DG for School Regulations and Evaluation of the national education system, DG for Information Systems and Statistics, managers, office instructors; 3 Departments: Department for the educational system of education and training, Department for Higher Education and Research, Department for Planning and Management of Human Resources, financial and instrumental resources. Chief and Deputy Chief of Cabinet (for a total of 95 actors involved). ITeR was approved by the Minister but was slowed down due to pandemic worsening. Furthermore the Ukraine conflict and the Italian NRRP involved a priorities re-planning, but now ITeR is in the final implementation phase.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Government Partners: Global IT company provides its knowledge and experience, as well as suitable technologies to implement ITeR and manuals to guide users to use it. All the internal stakeholders across the Ministry of Education are involved to collaborate and participate in the initiative. Employees belong to General Managers, Departments, Head of Cabinet, Deputy Head of Cabinet and other offices.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
The users and beneficiaries of the initiative are the Ministry of Education’s internal stakeholders themselves who, thanks to the overall redefinition of the entire activity system, will be able to build integration mechanisms among the organization. The main project external stakeholder is the society as a whole. ITeR allows to implement new policies, directives and regulations. ITeR is an innovation accelerator in the implementation of a multi-level and multi-stakeholder governance approach.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
This project fully digitalized the Ministry of Education signing process of relevant documents to increase the administrative machine’s productivity and inter-institutional (Minister and Cabinet Office) and organizational (Departments, Directions, Organizational Units) cooperation. The solution managed to better the reliability of the entire process too, even thanks to the possibility to track the status of the documents and create a digital repository which can be consulted (also for future decisions) by the users. There are many management purposes: building integration mechanisms between organizational actors, determining time management tools, defining accountability mechanisms in every part of the organization, simplifying action. This will also have repercussions in the short term because it will make it possible to develop monitoring mechanisms to guide the administrative machine towards what is necessary by virtue of specific political and management priorities.
Challenges and Failures
The most relevant public policy challenge is that of giving rise to a new paradigm in the relationship between politics and administration. This goal is also possible by technical tools such as ITeR which is primarily built to:
- Design of the new solution: our main challenge was to deeply analyze the entire process to digitally replicate it. We had to identify and put together all the actors involved in the process which were physically managed before. However, thanks to the team cooperation we managed to precisely describe the documents’ sign process (phase of the institutional formalization of decisions).
- Strategic support: throughout the project, it was difficult to immediately gain trust and support from the public employees since the solutions provided would have significantly impacted on their work method. However, once we provided the first data and results showing the advantages of the process digitalization and re-engineering, we got the support needed.
Conditions for Success
The involvement of all internal actors is a fundamental success variable as well as communicating potential outputs and outcomes to the various stakeholders. To this end, the following actions have been envisaged:
- online webinar on the use of ITeR (target the secretariats);
- training plan on the management of decision-making processes as an added value for human resources (individual organizational positions, departments) and for stakeholders;
- training plan on ITeR use models to support smart working;
- coaching on subjects such as "decision making" and "digital innovation";
- plan to advertise the innovation on the Ministry's social channels (intranet) and other official channels;
- communication plan of management and organizational innovation underlying ITeR;
- actions aimed at increasing the reputational value of MI.
The solution we provided can be implemented in different Public Administrations and contexts thanks to the efficiency, accessibility and reliability: it is possible to propose this type of solution to other Administrations and to other regional and provincial Institutions. This approach can increase public actors' performance and make governments better by simplifying entire processes and reducing the approval-time needed for each document/process.
The new system of institutional, managerial and organizational relations that is produced thanks to ITeR can revolutionize the process of making decisions, assessing the impact and the ability to enhance them and make them visible to stakeholders. This internal alliance should allow to significantly simplify the administrative machine and improve internal actors’ performance. In the future, government institutions can consider replicating this work method and may open the doors for the development of new similar solutions which can increase public service delivery, employees’ motivation and effectiveness.
From the analysis of the experimentation, the planting model of the project was defined. The coherence between ideation and design of ITeR is clear: ITeR is and must for creation through the continuous capitalization of decision-making processes.
Definition of process measurement systems, outputs (intermediate and final) and outcome of decision-making processes are parts of ITeR's innovation model.
Specific areas of attention are listed below:
- elimination of the paper flow of documents;
- simplification of decision-making and administrative steps;
- time management;
- streamlining of formal and informal steps in the decision-making process;
- decrease in "loss" of documents;
- supervision - directing - by the Cabinet Office;
- acceleration of smart working;
- greater transparency of the disclosure action;
- integration into the dicastery for access to decisions, phases of the decision-making process, decisions taken.
- Implementation - making the innovation happen
27 November 2023