More than anything else, the past 18 months have changed how people work and interact, be that socially, in their communities, or professionally. It has driven a digital revolution that has far deeper implications than simply increasing the number of minutes spent on video conferences. For innovative local councils, this has been an opportunity to improve the efficiency, but also depth, with which they engage with their communities.
Civica research suggests that 79 per cent of citizens expect their main interactions with their local council to be via self-service technologies within the next five years. Digital transformation and change has always been on the cards, and while many local councils felt unprepared for the disruption caused by the pandemic, better community engagement has always been the goal. In addressing the disruption of the pandemic, councils have also had the opportunity to deliver these modern, efficient services.
“[Having] less human interaction has highlighted how disjointed our processes are in communication with the community,” the CIO of a Queensland regional council reported in a Civica study.
The value of local councils transforming and digitising has positive implications well beyond the scope of COVID. Those councils that can undertake transformation will also improve the ease of interactions for citizens, be able to provide true 24/7 access, and achieve greater cost savings.
What does digital transformation mean in local council?
McKinsey recently coined the last 18 months as “the quickening” in which organisations – both public sector and private - have been required to accelerate transformation by as much as ten years. Initially, this transformation was simply an effort to “keep the lights on”. As a KPMG report noted: “Some councils are adopting a ‘quick fix’ approach by immediately seeking to transform the front end of customer experience” – in other words, rapidly adopt zero-touch and remote interactions to comply with social distancing best practice.
However, that’s only step one for the more innovative and forward-thinking councils. As the KPMG report also noted: “a truly successful transformation program must also involve a great deal of middle- and back-office transformation as well.” What many councils are finding is that the “quick fix” is now turning into an opportunity to adopt a more strategic approach to IT – the question then becomes how can they deliver this successfully?
The challenges and opportunity of transformation for council
Successful transformation exercises begin by starting small, with the initial goal being to prove the value of the transformation exercise. CIOs or IT leaders need to look for an opportunity for a “quick win” that highlights the benefits of transformation to all other stakeholders, thus validating subsequent projects.
This is where Civica solutions come in. Civica’s Modern.Gov meeting and agenda management software allows local council to start digitising key processes immediately, delivering a cost-effective and efficient change, and allows the local council to demonstrate the benefit of transformation, while improving community engagement and governance, before diving into more complex activities.
In addition to saving the council the cost of paper printing, management and archiving, Modern.Gov delivers the ability to co-ordinate a higher volume of meetings, track decisions made and actions taken, record gifts and hospitality, and ensure governance and transparency across the entire organisation.
The solution even allows for in-app voting and public consultations, questionnaires, and e-petitions, so that many of the key interactions within council and facing the public can be transitioned to digital platforms and handled remotely.
As noted by Carl Cheevers, the Town Clerk of Harpenden Council on the value of Modern.Gov: “We estimate Modern.Gov has reduced admin time on committees / reports by 50-70 per cent. By giving us the opportunity to offer more flexible paperless options, Modern.Gov has also been a key part of our objective to at least halve our paper consumption by 2020. As a council, we want to be more efficient, more productive and more modern. Modern.Gov is an extremely useful tool in helping local councils to modernise their way of working.”
The solution benefits public organisations outside of local council, too. In another example, Modern.Gov helped the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority in the UK introduce automation and paperless processing of committee meetings that can run to over 200 pages, and require changes in the documentation at the last minute. Civica was able to deliver single click reports and a 75 per cent reduction in administration time per meeting (read more about this case here).
The experience of the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority neatly highlights the underlying reason that a transformation exercise will be successful; when it delivers immediate benefits to the end users, without requiring extensive retraining. A lot is written about the concerns that employees have with automation and digitalisation – there is the pervading sense that transformation is a risk to their jobs. Local councils that can use automation to make the mundane and stressful parts of their employees jobs easier, which Modern.Gov helps makes possible, will be the ones that deliver successful transformation strategy, engage more closely with their citizens and stakeholders, and, ultimately, deliver better services.
Modern.Gov is now available in ANZ: visit civica.com/moderngov