How long lost brothers merged after 200 years – and became a digital leader
Sør- and Nord-Trøndelag made Norwegian history when the two counties merged – after being long lost brothers for over 200 years. But being in the forefront comes with its challenges.
When Two Becomes One
After being separated for 213 years, Sør- and Nord-Trøndelag were the first Norwegian counties to merge after the regional reform in 2018. Culturally, the joining of two neighbouring counties into one – now simply called Trøndelag fylkeskommune – went surprisingly well. More challenging was all the business processes, organizational structures, cultures and systems that needed to be combined and restructured.
The objective was clear: The new “mega-county” was to become the best place to live and work in Norway. But how could this be achieved, when new business processes and systems were to be implemented – while still operating the current ones?
About Trøndelag County Council
Trøndelag County Council is the democratically elected body, providing a wide range of public welfare services to the councy such as upper secondary education, dental health services and public transportation.
HQTrondheim and Steinkjer
With a new county responsible for a greater geographical area and with highly ambitious goals, the need to become digital was long overdue. As with any merger, Trøndelag experienced an increase in manual tasks and data maintenance due to the need to combine different systems and processes.
Yet, despite the challenges that comes with a merger, Trøndelag was determined to be a frontrunner on the digital journey among counties in Norway. With the goal of developing digital competence and improving both internal business processes and user experiences, they took the matter in their own hands and mobilized a team of internal and external members with complementary expertise.
Avo was welcomed into Trøndelag to identify and realize opportunities through process analysis and process automation with Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to reduce time spent on repetitive tasks and data maintenance.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA)A computer program that mimic the exact actions of a person on the computer. Simply put, the robots are digital employees that follow instructions to perform tasks in the same user interface as humans, such as clicking on a button or writing in a text field.
A lot of manual business processes and data maintenance
Larger geographical distances
Greater responsibilities and a narrower financial framework
A generation change in 2022, when approximately 120 employees will retire
When we started our cooperation, Trøndelag had already identified a process with lots of improvement potential, namely Skoleskyss – a school bus offering for elementary and high school students with disabilities or geographical disadvantages. Firstly, the application process was unnecessary time consuming, requiring a lot of manual work for employees. A simple application for the service would typically have a lead time of two to three weeks, where the applying user had to fill out a non-digital application form, as well as pick up a physical Bus-ID card after the application was accepted. Also, due to service peaks around school start, a lot of the applications had to be processed during the summer vacation period.
The process identified by Trøndelag had huge potential for improvement. Brought in to perform a process analysis review and implementation of RPA, we began by getting to know the process from all point of views to understand the needs and woes of all parties involved. From there, challenges and opportunities for improvement was identified, and technologies suited for the process applied. The result was a digital application form connected to Bank ID, in addition to a digital Bus-ID card. Both solutions were developed by Trøndelag, helped by Avo’s RPA – making them able to automate the back-end process of registering and accepting application in the internal systems.
"We heard a story about a student who applied on their way to school, and who had their bus ID ready for their trip home."
In one year, the automated process has registered and approved more than 8000 applications for students needing bus transport. This equals close to one full-time employee in freed-up time, which can now be spent improving other offerings for users.
A natural next step was to investigate internal processes in order to work towards the goal of creating a cost-efficient administration. A process brought forward was the ordering of laptops and smartphones for new employees, which is part of the goal of digitizing the onboarding and offboarding processes. Like the previous process, this required lots of manual work and data maintenance by IT. To have enough resources to handle the back-end work tied to employee equipment during peak periods, the plan was to hire substitute employees equivalent to 1,5 full-time positions.
Together with Trøndelag and the employees involved in the backend tasks and support, we started by getting to know the current state of the process – from data maintenance and service inquiries to invoice processing. Together we illustrated the current state, and came up with an improved solution with process automation from start-to-end; from ordering computers and phones to controlling and processing invoices, and data maintenance accross the various systems involved.
"The robot detects even the smallest error in the invoices. Not only do we save a lot of time, but the compliance is increased, and we’re now able to stay updated on breach in SLA by suppliers.”
Trøndelag continues to work towards becoming a digital Trøndelag and meeting their goals of becoming the best county to live - doing so with great success.
Today, Trøndelag have two new digital employees, Robert and Roberta, whom have shown great results on the automated work by RPA. This includes thousands of hours saved on manual tasks, better compliance and control, and increased excitement among employees about the digitalization initiative. Moreover, the internal competence in process improvement and automation has increased after the initiative started.
We continue to implement new technologies to improve various areas, such as RPA to automate tasks, Power BI to visualize data and APIs for data maintenance and control.
Some key facts about job done by Robert and Roberta
More than 1000 computers are ordered by the robot in less than 10 months
More than 7000 emails are sent by the robot in one year
More than 1000 invoices are processed by the robot in less than 4 months
More control of supplier SLA