How Society’s Digital Transformation is Impacting Local Government

Written by Ben Sebree

What does the latest technology mean for local government and your citizens?
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Do you remember when the phrase, “there’s an app for that,” was a revelation? The proliferation of mobile devices and the explosion of niche mobile applications marked a period of technology innovation with possibly the most significant impact on society since dial-up modems brought the Internet into nearly every home. Mobile app convenience quickly transformed the way that people worked, created, transacted, and shared digital content. Looking for a recipe? There’s an app for that. Need directions? There’s an app for that.

Mobile app convenience quickly turned to mobile app necessity, as brands and software systems infiltrated app stores with mobile solutions that allowed us to accomplish nearly anything from the palm of our hands, from pre-ordering a latte to updating a spreadsheet, to updating a website.

From Mobile Apps to Internet-Enabled Appliances

Today, we are standing on the brink of the next digital societal transformation. The availability of mobile technology was so impactful on how we live, work, and interact with brands and entities, that today’s digitally-minded citizens want even more digital interactions in even more personal and meaningful ways. We are no longer satisfied to merely have an app for that. We want Web-accessibility on every medium and every device, without even needing to click a button or touch a screen.

Believe it or not, the technology to enable such conveniences exists (even technology for local government), and is quickly becoming as mainstream as the smartphone.

Need groceries? Give your refrigerator a voice command. Can’t remember where you left your keys? Ask your personal home assistant to ping them. Trying to lose weight? Let your wristwatch track your calories, steps, and heart rate.

This proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT), the interconnectivity of Internet-enabled everyday devices, now enables individuals to live smartly, work efficiently, transact seamlessly, and obtain information immediately and more efficiently than ever before. The implications for local government are no different.

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The Impact on Local Government

What does the latest digital transformation mean for local government? It means the days of phone calls and walk-ins are quickly becoming as antiquated as landlines and fax machines. It means citizens no longer think exclusively of engagement with brands, businesses, and public entities in terms of one-on-one, personal interactions. It means they are thinking of obtaining information and submitting requests with a digital-first mindset. It means your citizens—and your voters—are demanding new experiences and greater access to data, while your employees want greater work-related application convenience and the ability to utilize the systems and tools they need to accomplish their job functions from anywhere, on any Internet-enabled device.

Why Local Governments Should Embrace Digital Transformation

We know that technology will always continue to evolve, and will continue to impact how we live, work, and learn about the world around us. We also know that today’s citizens want greater digital self-service convenience and that municipalities need to take a device-agnostic, services-first approach to content management. Local governments that fail to embrace such trends fail to meet the needs of their citizens and risk seeing levels of engagement and civic participation decrease as a result.

For both the public and private sector, the trend toward digital transformation can be leveraged to allow entities to accomplish business goals. From a business perspective, the term digital transformation refers to the evolution of business activities, workflows, and processes to leverage the latest trends in digital technology and the impact such innovations are having on society.

You already know, for example, that it takes less time and is more efficient for both you and your citizens if a resident submits a permit request via an online form rather than walking into your office to obtain a printed application. The evolution of digital content management solutions was the first step in government digital transformation and workflow automation. Imagine, however, how much more efficient you will both be when the form is submitted from a smartphone, payment is immediately processed via your integrated accounting system, and the permit is automatically routed to the necessary department for review with no added steps or manual interventions.

Taking the benefits of digital transformation a step further, imagine having the ability to add an event to your online community calendar by giving a voice command to an Amazon Echo device that syncs to your website’s content management system. The calendar addition then automatically notifies subscribed citizens via email, text, or mobile app push notification, and posts a message to all your social media accounts—all without a single keystroke. Such conveniences are possible, and they are far from future innovations. The technology for local government entities to accomplish such efficiencies exists today and is fully accessible by, and affordable for, municipalities of any size.

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How to Leverage Digital Transformation in Your Local Government

Information technology (IT) departments are set to play a critical role in leveraging this next phase of digital transformation and building the transaction-based systems that will enable the interactions that employees need and that citizens want. To be successful in leveraging the latest technologies, to impact employee efficiency and citizen engagements, IT must lead their administrations in accomplishing the following:

  • Align Technology with Business Goals.  To be successful, IT stakeholders must partner with internal departments to align the value of digital transformation with business goals to then ensure focus is given on connecting the systems that will make the most significant impact on the administration. It is essential to think of digital transformation in terms of business goals, and not just projects. Taking too narrow of a view, or focusing only on technology for the sake of technology, is where too many initiatives fail.
  • Embrace Integrations. The key to accomplishing digital transformation is connecting systems and software in ways that enable shared data, eliminate manual interventions, and minimize data entry redundancies. In an age where local governments must do more with less, systems should be interconnected to eliminate silos and wasted time. The primary tool for accomplishing such integrations is the use of application program interfaces (API)
  • Collaborate with Department Stakeholders. Find partners in other key departments that share your enthusiasm for digital transformation, and that will partner with you in building solutions and finding efficiencies. Success will be dependent upon inter-departmental collaboration and upon leaders that champion initiatives and generate buy-in among all staff
  • Build a Digital Transformation Roadmap and Go Agile. Adopting agile methodologies as part of digital transformation allows municipalities to start gaining value without an enormous upfront cost for a project that takes years to implement. The term agile refers to an iterative process in which projects evolve through the collaboration of cross-functional teams. Creating value iteratively allows risk-averse public sector entities to see the benefits of digital transformation initiatives quickly, allowing IT to gain more stakeholder buy-in. 

CivicPlus®: The Integrated Technology Platform for Local Government

At CivicPlus, we have one goal: to empower the public sector to accomplish impactful initiatives using innovative solutions that save them time while connecting them to the citizens they serve. In working with over 2,500 local governments over the past 20 years, the pathway to achieving this goal became clear: build groundbreaking software solutions to power the workflows of individual departments. Then, host them on a single, robust platform that enables convenient collaboration and streamlined operations. To accomplish this goal, we developed the CivicPlus® Platform.

The CivicPlus Platform Integrated Solution for Local Governments

With the CivicPlus Platform, all CivicPlus solutions, including CivicEngage®, CivicHR®, CivicReady®, CivicRec®, and CivicClerk®, work together seamlessly and securely, leveraging existing data and reducing the number of information silos within a municipality while increasing efficiency and decreasing redundant tasks.

Our CivicPlus Platform serves as the foundation for all of our department- and function-specific unified applications, providing data access, APIs, and shared content across solutions, and it can help your local government take the first critical step toward meeting citizen needs throughout your digital transformation evolution.