Out. Of. Control.
Those three words may best summarize how we are all feeling during the COVID-19 crisis, as individuals, as family members and parents, as employees, and as community leaders. For public sector workers who carry the weight of their communities on their shoulders, disorder is an unsettling, unfamiliar, and unwelcome feeling. With uncertainty still looming as to when we will fully eradicate COVID-19 (which we will), local government leaders must do what they can to maintain business continuity, transparency, and citizen trust and take back some of the control they feel that they’ve lost. To accomplish this goal, they must accept two foundational changes: 1. Manual processes are out, and low-code development is in, and 2. The future of the citizen delivery model is digital, and it’s a good thing.
What is Low-Code Development?
Low-code is a software development approach that allows for faster application development and solution launch with minimal hand-coding. It uses visual modeling in a graphical interface to build and configure applications. On a more technical level, low-code solutions leverage a family of tools that allow non-technical business leaders to create complete applications visually using drag-and-drop functionality, basic data, and logic. With low-code development, it’s as easy as saying you want your data to enter your hub from point A and move to point B. Low-code development eliminates the need to write thousands of lines of code and syntax.
In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, low-code software systems are helping local governments rapidly bring citizen services online that for decades have been handled via in-person, in-office, paper-based processes. Such workflows are no longer feasible for administrations whose staff members were unexpectedly relegated to newly adopted home offices to maintain social distance. With low-code development, local governments are maintaining business continuity and future-proofing their citizen service model. After all, once citizens experience the convenience of paying bills online, streaming public meetings from home, and accessing public documents from their mobile device, they will not be willing to return to a life of waiting on hold, long lines, printed forms, and postage stamps.
Thanks to the customization and flexibility of low-code development, local governments are not just transitioning paper-based citizen service to online models, they are revolutionizing the core of the citizen service and staffing model in three ways:
1. Eliminating the Nine-to-Five Service Model
Even before COVID-19, it has not been easy to obtain civic services when access requires time carved out of your schedule from Monday through Friday, nine a.m. to five p.m. for an in-person trip to the town hall to pick up a form, submit an application, or pay a bill. Staffing offices with administrators to process citizen requests manually may have been sensical before the digital era, but at a time when you can order a pizza via Tweet, the expectations for what “convenient” service means, have changed. By building mobile accessible forms and applications using low-code development software, local governments can flip the orthodoxy on the citizen service model for optimal efficiency and on-demand access.
2. Broadening Applicant Pools
Social media giant Twitter made headlines when it announced mid-pandemic that it would allow some employees to work from home in perpetuity. By doing so, it will foster loyalty among those employees who value such work-home balance flexibility and hugely broaden its applicant pool from only those able to commute into its offices, to an entire globe of possible candidates. Who says local governments can’t benefit from the same hiring ubiquity?
The public sector has been battling its private counterpart for top talent for years. By enabling employees to work remotely, it broadens its hiring capabilities and offers a competitive advantage against private sector businesses, not as forward-thinking as Twitter. To facilitate this opportunity, all it needs are secure, interconnected cloud-based software systems that allow administrative staff to facilitate workflows from any Internet-enabled device—and low-code development can help.
3. Creating More Personal (Digital) Experiences
Traditional customer service models would argue that the most personal service experiences are created in person with a smile and a handshake. In the framework of COVID-19, however, we are all questioning the hypothesis of whether in-person is truly best. It can certainly be agreed that until we have eradicated the coronavirus disease that it is not safer, but is standing in a socially distanced line for hours to file unemployment paperwork in person a positive service experience?
Through no fault of their own, overwhelmed public service offices were subjecting bereft citizens to this very situation. What if, a citizen could file for unemployment privately, from the safety of their home, not under the exposed eye of neighbors and passersby. Even better, what if the citizen already had an account set up with their municipal website, and they were “remembered” when they began their application, which expedited the processes and eliminated many of the basic form field submissions. That, certainly, seems like a better, more personal, and comfortable experience. Fortunately, low-code development software facilitates these types of smart, personal digital interactions by allowing software engineers to create connections between systems to share citizen data and preferences.
COVID-19 is changing hundreds—maybe even thousands—of nuances of how we work and interact with businesses, brands, and each other every day. From exchanging handshakes for elbow bumps and doctors’ office visits for telemedicine sessions, these changes, while different, are proving not to be negative. They provide safety, convenience, and security, and for local governments that have been racing to keep up to the private sector, they are leveling the playing field with customers and staff and finally accelerating their digital revolution.