In order to advance the Guichet Entreprises service, it is important to assess our obligations through the eyes of the user and our administrative partners. The service is, ultimately, a process to provide information; a method that requires collecting, organising and distributing data to the relevant partners on behalf of our users. It is extremely important to engage with our partners to help develop the information our services provide. Establishing layers of knowledge and building an organised structure of communication will, in the future, optimise each individual process for business creation. From the moment the user clicks onto our business portal, they have unspoken expectations: revision, simplicity, trust and translation. In order to fulfil these expectations and meet their needs, it is important to provide updated information and regulations, simplify processes, and include different language options to satisfy all member states.
For the Guichet Entreprises service to reach its defined purpose, we need to be objective, efficient and influential. 2016 was the year we were able to take a step back and fully understand the most important challenges we face: connecting, collating and controlling.
The complex network of communication
Administrative, regulatory systems in France over the last thirty years have largely been divided and enforced amongst the country’s regions, departments and municipalities. Administrative supervision is provided by regional prefects, which work closely with the central government, acting on behalf of the State.
Metropolitan France is divided into 13 regions, each with a separate regional council that control regional planning and local budgets. Within these regions, there are 96 prefectures, one for each department. Prefectures are administrations associated with the Ministry of the Interior, responsible for identification, registration and permissions and authorised by one prefect appointed by the State. Each department is made up of separate general councils elected to manage local welfare and economic development as well as providing administrative organisation. France also equates to almost 37,000 communes or municipalities, each one with its own local, elected mayor and administrative variations.
The initial formation of Guichet Entreprises under the previous Groupement d’Interets Publics (GIP) was a way to bring together departments and services with the same administrative interests. Therefore, our work, authorised by the State, began by working alongside the Centre de Formalités des Entreprises (CFE), the network formulated to help organise administrative processes and represents the different authoritative departments for all modes, size and variants of business. However, working directly alongside the CFE has not alleviated the complexities of administrative processes; each regulatory, business authority has varying methods or processes depending on the particular region in France. The Greffe du Tribunal de Commerce (GTC), France’s trade and companies register, for example, has 134 separate entities, which does not include their supplementary competencies: the Tribunal d’Instance and Tribunal de Grande Instance. Alongside the GTC and placed under their regional councils, the 13 regional committees for business (Directions Régionales des Entreprises, de la Concurrence, de la Consommation, du Travail et de l’Emploi or DIRECCTE), which oversees competition policy, consumer affairs and labour and employment matters, adds another layer of complexity. The network of communication further expands with the existence of 12 diverse professional orders used for the creation of certain, regulated professions authorised by our ministerial colleagues.
Presently, there is a Norme system in place that provides an effective method of file transfer once our user files have been processed by the CFE. The relevant information is transmitted to various administrative bodies: employee and employer contributions, state taxes, the validation of independent business, and the allocation of trade and business identification numbers. Norme is, therefore, a group in which the standard of transmission of information is discussed, particularly during regulatory developments. However, it is currently not a straightforward process because not every department has deployed the Norme software.
Despite the CFE network, the different methods of administrative organisation across France mean that communication still remains a long-term challenge for the Guichet Entreprises team. The mixture of administrative entities combining State and private organisations means that guichet-entreprises.fr, at first point of entry for business creation, needs to be at the heart of this administrative network. At the moment, our communication process is limited: we communicate intermittently with the CFE, but we need more decisive ties, a means to communicate regularly and effectively. In order to provide the best service for our users, we also need to push our boundaries and start to build connections with all administrative entities across France. In order to efficiently obtain authorisations to match the needs of every individual user, better methods of communication are key.
Connecting with all our partners is a consistent challenge because we are the first point of entry for multiple destinations and providers, engaging with a complex and diverse range of actors. We also have to rely on these partners to pass information on to the relevant regulatory authorities. The challenge is intensified because of the varying levels of regional administrative systems. At one end of the spectrum, it means dealing with a large department within a certain region that may include several officers who can facilitate the right procedures effectively; at the other end of the spectrum, it can mean communicating with a small city department that may only have a mayor or administrative secretary with little understanding or technical means to carry out certain requests. As an administrative partnership, over half of our work is dominated by collaboration and sharing responsibility with all our providers to meet the demands of every business creation. We are in need of an innovative strategy to ease and eventually alleviate the multi-departmental complexities. In order to carry out every single business request within a set time frame, obtain any necessary information and avoid contention, we need to establish and, most importantly, maintain a strong and fully functioning network of knowledge and professionalism. To be successful in our mission, we need to build a consistent and coherent bridge of communication with all our partners.
Since the 2006 European Directive, business services have been regulated in accordance with European laws and administrative processes. In France there are now 105 regulated professions under the Services Directive and, since 2013, there are a further 250 regulations under the latest Qualification Directive. The Guichet Entreprises service aims to retain and integrate all dematerialised formalities in relation to every business and qualification in France as well as deploy and initiate authorisations. This intention remains a complex and lengthy process. The challenge is partially centred around productivity: our team is small and our budget is limited, but the biggest part of the challenge is initiating a formal method to obtain information. Eventually, the challenge will be focused on building formality variants: matching every business creation to the specific and tailored needs of each business whilst trying to maintain a relevant and manageable process for the user. Remaining productive and constructing better methods of collecting regulatory details is vital for the progression of the Guichet Entreprises project.
However, in terms of productivity, we have made progress. The implementation of the numerous dematerialised administrative formalities and a process to update them in accordance with changing regulations is now simplified through the completion of our new form generator. Previously, the data we provided was read and presented to our users through one applied Excel file but this meant we were spending huge amounts of time altering data on each connected file, which required specific knowledge and complete system updates. Our new form generator took over a year to develop but has completely changed the parameters of our formality process. Now using stand-alone XML data files, descriptions can remain simple and easily reassembled with no need for shared parameters. This means that the process in collating formalities is expandable, flexible and easily maintained; our new software has enabled simple data migration; descriptions are now easily defined and can be carried out by anyone, anywhere. The initial process will include separating user accounts from the old system and linking them to the new generator but the production of formalities is now accelerated and comprehensive. With additional translation, the new form generator will make significant steps to alleviate complication and meet further productivity targets.
Both guichet-entreprises.fr and guichet-qualifications.fr are websites of information, gaining the trust of our users by presenting the essential details in French business processes, qualification recognition and renewal. However, obtaining and reinforcing content and regulation changes by asking permission is often a burden on our productivity; we need instant and constant access to verified information so that we can become more efficient.
Each regulated profession under the Services Directive and the Qualification Directive requires specific and updated information. Currently, the Guichet Entreprises service manages 105 activity web pages for guichet-entreprises.fr and we are in the process of completing the 250 web pages for guichet-qualifications.fr. However, for each activity, there can be up to 8 regulations, and each regulation, on average, changes every two years. As it stands, we are facing one-year delays or more when it comes to updating information and regulations because modifications are either not communicated or lack clarity. Understanding how much information each separate organisation or department needs from us to meet legal requirements is also difficult. The challenge, therefore, is not completing the activity pages but finding a means to develop our influence and position when these changes occur; we need to be automatically informed and be able to efficiently update our users. In the same way that we must adapt to regulation changes when collating formalities, we must clearly demonstrate to our users when changes in their business activity occur. At the moment, the method of modifying and validating information takes far too long and will prove even more problematic when we look to optimise information to meet more specific, individual needs. If we are given the opportunity to control relevant information, it will allow us to provide a better service for our users, which in turn will help gain their trust and shape our reputation as a competent and efficient authority.