Bringing local councils up to speed in a digital age

When was the last time you made a payment, scheduled an event or performed some other administrative task without using the internet in some way?

Chances are it was the last time you dealt with your local council.

A large proportion of us prefer completing our tasks digitally and we expect the same personalised digital experience with councils that we get from other public and private sector providers. But according to a new report by KPMG Enterprise and the Public Sector Network, Customer and Technology Transformation in Local Government, only 3 percent of councils consider themselves digitally up to speed.

Many local councils are developing digital strategies or are in the midst of rolling out digital transformation programs. These transformation programs focus on improving customer experience, digitisation and updating technology. Many start with the front end, designing new websites, complete with chatbots for interactive communication and sophisticated data analytics to capture customer information.

Despite an effort to transform, the report identified ongoing inefficiencies in digital channels. Many forms are digital on one end only, and a lot of manual work is still required throughout the organisation to process them, resulting in higher costs. A PDF form online for a parking permit is not a digital solution if it cannot be processed through the website including payment for the service. The ability to fix this lies in straight through processing from the front end (website), all the way through to the back office including customer relationship management and finance systems to ensure seamless integration between the old and the new. Without this preparation transformation could become a very costly exercise.

But this transformation won’t happen without the right resources and people.

The report identified a lack of adequately skilled resources as the largest drawback in successfully planning council transformation programs. This was followed by lack of clear leadership and insufficient financial collaboration.

Successful delivery of new technology requires bringing together a range of unique skills sets across a variety of disciplines. Councils may have a lack of technical skills in house and must be prepared to tap into external resources if necessary.

While it is very important that plans and solutions fit the individual culture and environment of each council, benefits can also be obtained by pooling resources, leveraging what others are doing, and even referring to some standardised toolkits to help kick-start the digital transformation. ‘

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