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Province of Ferrara's virtual desktop: a flexible Plone application from a PloneGov member

by Cesare Brizio last modified 2009-07-02 14:51

A Plone "Intelligent Intranet" suite of applications, integrating document and dossier management with ISO 9001:2000 - certified organization processes, used in a mid-sized Italian Public Organization, is going to be reused by other similar organizations of the Italian PloneGov subcommunity


The planning ability of the Province of Ferrara, demonstrated also by the achievement of UNI EN ISO 9001:2000 Quality Certification on Organization’s processes, was also expressed by its design of effective IT solutions, requiring support from qualified external technical providers, and the training of internal personnel.

A confirmation of this attitude to grasp the true significance of technological change, comes from the initiative of migrating and developing its internal IT systems (Intranet, documents and procedures management) with the Plone open source platform. One may ask, why migrate advanced, best-practice solution, whose original configuration is already capable of fulfilling perfectly the organization needs, and of arousing favorable comments by the many Public Organization visiting Ferrara IT department in search of inspiration?

The Province, with this choice, wants to show its attention to the new IT scenarios, its respect for public money and its will to increase as much as possible the value of its human resources.

Plone CMS is an open source software (available for free), accessible (as such, respectful of user’s different abilities), can be entirely maintained just by using a browser (so, it’s independent from other software for content preparation), is immediate and placeful (operators work directly on contents), secure (only contents having passed an approval workflow will be published) as well as flexible (so, it can be enriched by more and more features).

But there’s more than that: by passing to Plone, the Province of Ferrara gains a place among the first Italian Public Organizations to join PloneGov (, the international best practice uniting worldwide Public Organizations using Plone. So, on one side the Province puts at disposal of other organizations its experience and the software being developed, on the other side it gains free access to those Plone solutions that other organizations have decided to share.

Available solutions are modular and are available for reuse by interested Public Administrations. The main modules available are listed hereunder


It’s an easily used tool to create and manage official as well as internal documents. In particular, it allows the user to create outbound mail (to be digitally signed, assigned a mail register number and sent also by Electronic Certified Mail) or traceable internal communications among the offices.
The solution is implemented with digital signature module and integrates with the mail register application (the Italian law-compliant software for assigning official unique “register numbers” to track the organization mails).

Internal forms

This tool creates and manages forms for exchanging and tracking internal request of services among the Province offices. These too can be digitally signed, and are subject to a workflow before being sent to the office in charge of that specific kind of request. By now, the available forms include request of Intranet login credentials, and forms for ordering goods and services from the purchasing department.

Virtual Desktop

It’s the environment that allows an overview on the incoming dossiers than need to be signed (external and internal mail, modules, decisional procedures etc.), and to send one’s own dossiers to another office for signature or management.

The virtual desktop can switch between two different scopes: one’s own dossiers, or one’s office’s dossiers.

Organization chart

The “gray”, internal forms. and virtual desktop modules are integrated with the organization chart and with the quality management tools. The “gray”, internal forms. and virtual desktop modules are integrated with the organization chart and with the quality management tools.

This module manages users (organization personnel) by role and department, and their respective access policies to the different applications available.

“Process cards”

It’s the module that allows to manage the Organization processes in compliance to the standards of UNI EN ISO 9001:2000 Quality Management certification. This tool can be used also by uncertified organizations that want to benefit from managing procedures by monitoring times and methods.


Integrated with “Process cards” database, Quasar manages documents and dossiers. It can be defined as a structured workflow system, that can manage requests coming from the outside, as well as internal requests related with the organization’s objectives.

Besides managing files and dossiers in an entirely digital fashion (thanks to the integration with the “register” application), Quasar ensures the continuous monitoring of the Organization’s activities and management times for the different kinds of dossiers.

The process-driven Quasar management has offered an opportunity to redesign process structure and improve their leanness and efficiency.

Quality management systems include also NCO, the module for managing unconformities, and  MSOD, the model for monitoring user satisfaction.


The Province plans also to develop soon Plone applications for mail register management and decisional acts – integrating them with document management applications and with the Organization’s certified mailbox.

The final outcome of this project  will be a Province Intranet entirely made with Plone open source technology: it will be the shared virtual workspace making available all the main tools needed for daily work, according to each user's specific needs.