Chief Financial Officer Hans S. Christensen, The Danish AgriFish Agency (former Danish Food Industry Agency): "The configurable SOA-solution was chosen because it is open to recycling of functionalities. This makes good sense to us, as we need to handle one reform after the other."

A new configurable standard system makes it possible for The Danish AgriFish Agency to carry out extensive reforms and streamlining while placing main focus on customers.

105 billion DKK paid out as subsidies, primarily from the EU. Extensive monitoring of five  accountancy bodies abroad and nationally. Running communication with 65,000 agriculturists and 6,000 fishermen and fish farmers in Denmark. Frequent changes of rules. Many system integrations. Intentions of meeting the government’s target of 100 % digital communication with citizens as from 2012.

“The requirements for the IT system in The Danish AgriFish Agency are many. And in parallel to solving the daily tasks we also focus on fulfilling our long-term visions of creating improved facilities for applicants and lasting benefits in case management.” says CFO Hans S. Christensen, Danish Food Industry Agency.

“In 2005, EU's agricultural reform gave us a 'burning' IT platform, as the then system for hectare subsidies was to be phased out. At first we developed a temporary system with the intention of developing a new long-term system. Recommendations at the time were that we went for a configurable SOA solution. That is the way we have chosen, even if we have been faced with quite a few more challenges than we had imagined.

Now we are ready for our shift over to a much better system. Stage one in the new system, which is the development of a configurable standard platform, has been completed. This has equipped us with the necessary infrastructure, which sets us up ready for stage 2 with configuration of subsidy schemes. The plan is that the system can be in use for a round of applications in 2011.” says Hans S. Christensen.

Recycling functionalities

“We have chosen the configurable SOA solution because it is open to recycling of functionalities. This makes good sense to us, as we need to handle one reform after the other. In the last year alone, we have been dealing with a rural district reform, a fishery reform, a reform of EU's agricultural policy and a green growth plan in Denmark. And in 2014 new reforms are waiting. The numerous changes could entail ongoing investments in the development of new software. But with speed and financial resources in mind we have opted for flexibility and intelligent recycling so that we don’t have to start from scratch every time.

The business case forming the starting point for the system modernisation is not going to be proven in the short run, as payback time will be longer than we thought. However, by 2013 when we are implementing EU’s next agricultural reform, we will already be saving a lot. There is value for money for many years to come.” says Hans S. Christensen.

Customers in focus

'Customers in focus' is at the core of the The Danish AgriFish Agency's vision. In IT context it is our goal to develop one overview of engagements for each farmer and to implement 100 per cent digital communication with citizens.

“Today, approximately 90 per cent of applications in the large single payment scheme is carried out digitally. By gathering all communication on either portal or eBox, we reduce man-hours spent on answering paper mail. By targeting the application forms we can discover errors and correct them earlier, which is to the benefit of all parties.” says Hans S. Christensen.

The next step in digitalisation entails an authorisation-based solution for the digital signature, which can be used by agricultural consultants, for example. On a data level, a new digital area system will give us more possibilities for validations and for year-round mapping adjustment. It is also the plan to establish a new mutual call-centre for Danish Food Industry Agency.

“It is our goal in future to ease the administrative burden of the business community via good digital solutions.” says Hans S. Christensen.

Exploiting benefits of scale

“It is the vision of The Danish AgriFish Agency  that the new system will in time be able to handle all of the ministry's subsidy schemes and be a driver for IT development in the entire ministry.” Hans S. Christensen points out.

“Today we administrate more than 100 different types of subsidy schemes and it is evident that we can exploit the scale benefits by using the same system.

At administration level we have many IT units with their own biggish IT systems. This is the heritage of a previous organisational structure divided into the Structural Directorate and the EU Directorate. We are breaking these units down as the new system progresses. This is going to be a giant leap in the direction of a more digital Denmark.

We have gathered 20 people centrally as a middle station between those responsible for business in the field offices and IT architecture. These people are able to understand the business and help out with specification requirements. IT workers know the system inside out and understand how the subsidy schemes are put together. They can help those responsible for business with defining the specification requirements. We have intentionally built a central professional environment rather than spreading the competencies in the organisation.” says Hans S. Christensen.

Financial risks

The main part of The Danish AgriFish Agency's subsidies to farming and fishery is financed by EU. This places great demands on control measures, on IT safety and on the stability of our operation. “We are subjected to an enormously extensive control system from the EU as well as from Danish accounting authorities. Errors can result in demands of considerable paybacks to the EU Commission. If, for example, subsidy payments are not carried out on time, we risk losing our reimbursement. This, of course, affects the way that we develop IT solutions.” says Hans. S. Christensen.

International potential

Taken into consideration that 27 countries have the same need for administrating EU subsidy schemes, one could expect some cooperation about IT solutions across borders.

“The potential for mutual solutions is definitely there and it is incredible how national borders serve as a barrier. The development towards SOA has been particularly prominent in North Europe. One should not belittle the rapid development in those countries that do not have large IT systems to amortize. In recent years, we have been in contact with Sweden, Holland, Lithuania, Finland and France and we are working on increasing our knowledge sharing.” says Hans S. Christensen.

About CAP

The purpose of The Danish AgriFish Agency's CAP project is to support the reform of EU's agricultural policy (CAP), to streamline case management and to implement the government's digitalisation strategy.

During the first stage we have developed a standard platform, in which the fundamental functionalities for digitalisation are set up as configurable modules. This means, for example, that stock phrases, codes of practice, working processes and calculations can be adapted to the specific professional area that the system supports, via configuration rather than programming.

The system contains electronic working processes, which enable automation and streamlining, a customer portal with case overview and digital forms, an employee module for managing tasks and deadlines and a control and spot check module. In addition, the system contains a complete case module and can be integrated with standard ESDH systems, which can be used as an administration archive.

During the second stage of the CAP project, which is now started up, we implement the subsidy schemes and business processes of The Danish AgriFish Agency step by step.

About Danish AgriFish Agency

The main task of The Danish AgriFish Agency  is to manage subsidies for the production and sale of food, for the development of rural districts and of the fishery sector and for research, development and innovation. 

In 2009, The Danish AgriFish Agency allocated subsidies amounting to DKK 10.6 billion to farmers, gardeners, fishermen, food enterprises, research institutions etc., of which the main part were financed by the EU. The Danish AgriFish Agency is a part of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries and employs approximately 500 people.