apps 11 apps
built with OutSystems Platform
devs 3 developers
in a software factory model
locs 145 locations
worldwide, including embassies and consulates

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Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs creates a software factory to accelerate processes automation and integration

The Challenge:

The Secretary General (SG) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MNE) is the entity responsible for providing technical and administrative support for all the Ministry’s departments and offices. The SG is responsible for services in the ICT area (Information and Communications Technology) that include monitoring of policy implementation and management of all systems within the Ministry’s departments.

Across the public administration, the keywords efficiency, integration and agility are increasingly being adopted. With the launch of the Portuguese government’s Simplex strategic initiative in 2006 the focus on these has become a driving factor for MNE.

To address this challenge, the SG needed to optimize, redesign and automate its bureaucratic and administrative processes. This included the elimination of bottlenecks and replacing non-controlled, dispersed paper and Excel files with agile web applications and workflows. This is especially critical to MNE employees that are working in a foreign country or constantly traveling.

The new applications had to be easy to use, scalable and transparently integrated. The development approach had to be rapid, flexible and cost-effective, addressing current and future requirements. To achieve these goals the SG evolved their ICT processes and adopted an agile application delivery and maintenance approach following a “software factory” model.

 

The Solution:

The Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs chose OutSystems Platform to deploy a wide range of new business applications, with business and IT services provided by OutSystems Solutions Delivery team and PKF, an OutSystems Certified Partner. PKF has been assisting the SG in improving efficiency, maximizing performance and automating processes since 2007 and, together with OutSystems, has been responsible for the creation, development, implementation and monitoring of all OutSystems-based custom applications.

The flexibility provided by OutSystems Platform has been crucial to support the high level of customization required by the SG and to ensure that user feedback is constantly reflected in the custom applications. In addition, all automatic approvals and payment mechanisms have to comply with government security policies and regulations.

In May 2009 a “software factory” model was adopted in order to keep all systems up to date and deliver new applications fast in response to changing business needs. At this point SG has 5 applications in production:

  1. Missions Management: the first application developed with OutSystems Platform. Designed to control and manage all processes to support the public service missions of MNE. Capabilities include the description, forecast and payment of travel and accommodation expenses, travel request, validation and approval workflows, invoice registration from travel agencies and automatic email notifications. It includes a Statistics Module for reporting that automatically calculates, monitors and controls the missions expenses for each MNE organization.
  2. Electronic Admission Proposal: this application is integrated with the Missions Management system and allows MNE employees that need to travel to self register, get approved and be paid prior to traveling.
  3. Centralized Registry: collects and registers the information of all MNE employees - a central repository integrated with several related systems.
  4. Schedule Map: integrated with the Centralized Registry information, this application manages the information related to working hours, schedules and vacations of all MNE employees around the world.
  5. Budget Execution Map: business intelligence system that correlates information across MNE units and provides budget information. This system shows what is being spent of the overall budget and what each Embassy & Consulate receives per month.

As of Fall 2010 there are 6 additional applications being developed to address the continuous need for processes automation and optimization.

This new set of applications includes a PSE Salaries application that will manage salaries for non Diplomat employees around the world; a Vehicle Management system that will manage all MNE vehicles worldwide; an application to monitor and control Rent costs of embassies, consulates and other government buildings and houses worldwide; an Allowance management application to control and assign allowances for Diplomats’ benefits together with an Embassies & Consulates Budget Transfer system that will gather the information necessary for the automation of the Budget Execution Map; and finally an External Services Information System that will include all the features for managing a public service mission.

 

Results:

  • Decrease the backlog of ‘must-do’ projects. Emerging needs can easily be reflected in new applications, improving the ability to do more with the same number of people;
  • Achieve a fast Return on Investment for each existing application;
  • Accelerate development of applications and delivery of projects thanks to the reuse of components;
  • Easily reflect user feedback in the system ensuring that the end result is what users need;
  • Always align IT with the business - the OutSystems build-to-change approach makes it easy to change existing applications at any time in a cost-effective way;
  • Deliver web applications and the required functionality in a scalable way, deploying them as they become needed and avoiding large initial investments and big-bang approaches;
  • Deploy user-friendly and intuitive applications providing users with easy-to-access information;
  • Centralize, integrate, automate and control business processes- with positive impact in the employees’ efficiency, productivity and satisfaction;
  • Innovate and proactively respond to new markets, the business and overall users needs.

 

About the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

The Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a Portuguese public institution that provides technical and administrative support to the Ministry’s departments, offices and services in the areas of State protocol, management of human and financial resources and properties, staff training, legal and litigation services, information, public relations and information and communications technology, and also to monitor and evaluate the implementation of policy, planning tools and results of management and organization systems, jointly with the Ministry’s other departments.

  
 

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Benefits

  • Centralization, integration and control of data (no duplication).
  • Short release cycles to deploy new applications and continuous realignment of existing ones.
  • High user adoption due to an agile approach that aligns business needs to application functionality.
  • Process simplification and easy access to information.
  • Automation of time-consuming administrative tasks, elimination of paper and reduction of human errors.

 

Project Card

Implemented by:

PKF and OutSystems

Timeline:

Software factory set up in May 2009.

User Profiles:

MNE employees in Portugal and around the world.

Functionality:

Architecture and Process Infrastructure; Configuration and Change Management; Testing, Dashboard Metrics, Quality Assurance.

Number of Reusable Components:

15

Factory Release Cycle:

4 weeks

Average # Changes / Release:

4

 

Evaluation Criteria

Top Criteria:

  • One platform to develop, deploy, manage and change custom web business applications, quickly and easily
  • Fast application releases
  • Flexibility and easy implementation of changes
  • Out-of-the-box scalability for all applications
  • Custom build applications capable of addressing the complexity and the special needs of such a complex organization
     
 
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