Customer Experience Operational Excellence

Digital Innovation in Councils: 4 Webinar Takeaways

By Mark Harris 24 June 2022

Local authorities have a reputation for being slow to adopt new technologies. But, like many organisations, they’ve undergone rapid digital transformation over the last 2 years.

Now the initial rush of pandemic-driven, reactive digitalisation has settled, it’s time to look to the future. And that’s what we did in our latest webinar.

Kevin Stewart from Mid Sussex District Council and Thomas Clark from Birmingham City Council recently joined me to discuss their digital innovation experiences ­– and how their approach is helping improve efficiency while exceeding resident expectations.

Here are 4 key takeaways:

1. Start small and deploy incrementally so you can make progress amid a constantly evolving environment

Demands on councils are great and ever-changing. They’re continually asked to provide more services with less money – all while managing complex legislative requirements and battling legacy systems and processes.

Driving innovation and digitalisation within these constraints can be challenging. But an important lesson from Birmingham and Mid Sussex’s experience is to start small and work iteratively. Councils don’t need to invest in the latest tech and embrace agile ways of working overnight. Even something as simple as introducing web forms and online chat can make life easier for residents and reduce demand on busy phone lines.

2. Consider compliance and security from the beginning to streamline deployment processes

Local authorities handle so much sensitive data, including financial and medical information. Therefore, it’s crucial that new technologies are fully compliant from day one. And GDPR is just one piece of the puzzle.

Compliance extends to PCI for revenue collection, and many more regulations. A range of stakeholders, including procurement and information governance, should be involved early in decision-making processes to minimise the need for excessive rounds of sign-off that delay deployments (and value delivery).

3. Don’t be constrained by department silos

Strict data security practices, when implemented with a legacy mindset, can lead to equally strict silos between departments. And that makes information-sharing extremely difficult.

One impact of this situation is that it leads to extremely frustrating and disjointed experiences for residents. They get passed from pillar to post; staff are left floundering, desperate to help but unable to join the dots needed to make things happen. And that leads to high complaint rates, low employee morale and potentially damaging headlines.

Technology deployments should facilitate secure data sharing between departments, thereby making experiences smoother for staff and residents alike. Both Birmingham and Mid Sussex found this approach boosted operational efficiency and mitigated risk, because people spent less time tracking down information and issues could be more easily resolved proactively.

4. Don’t forget the human element

While many residents may prefer to access services and communicate digitally, many still need access to human support – by phone or in person.

Digital transformation journeys therefore need to be designed to enable and improve human interactions.

One element of this is offering more digital self-service options – from web chat and email to Chatbots and SMS – thereby freeing up staff resource to deal with more vulnerable service users and complex issues.

Another element involves giving staff a holistic view of all residents’ interactions with the council (no matter the channel). That way, there’s a seamless transition between channels as people seek support, with no need for frustrating repetition or duplicated effort.

Embrace the digital council of the future – one step at a time

Watch the full webinar now to learn more about the role of digital innovation in improving efficiency and exceeding resident expectations.

See other posts by Mark Harris

Head of Government Partnerships

Mark is an expert in technological solutions for Local Government, delivering quick and quantifiable results. He has successfully project managed complex technology into 40 Local Governments, dealt with almost all Local Authorities within the UK and ran a team which implemented software to over 3,000 schools across the UK. Mark worked at C-Level for several years and have over a decade of knowledge dealing with Local Government departments and understand the complex challenges and processes being faced by each department.

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