As part of a panel session held during Collaborate, three local government experts shared their insights on the digital transformation challenges they have faced and how they've turned these into organisational opportunities.
Overcoming resistance to change The group was each asked to highlight their digital blockers and how they transform these into digital enablers. Tim Allen was quick to point out that "certain groups with the organisation are simply resistant to change". This is unfortunately seen as a common thread for local government agencies. For Ipswich City Council "the mandate is to enforce change and ensure we keep records that are easy to search for and that includes their latest activity. This was key and went a long way to removing that resistance." He goes on to say, "one area we are working on is around our elected officials that still print out agendas, so we need to review how to change this old habit." For Tim, being an advocate for digital change is straight forward, "we need to demonstrate transparency and good governance and the only way to do that is digital".
"If the typical officer doesn't see paper they'll simply assume that's the method of managing their activities, so we're embarking on a mission to replace paper with electronic forms." This is how Dianne Colls encapsulates the driver for digital transformation. She goes on to point out that "adoption still varies between business groups, for example HR has no physical files and places most of their information into our system of record, Objective ECM." Moving forward this should be the goal for all departments. Small wins are a path to successful digital adoption and the focus for Dianne and the City of West Torrens includes mandating that all emails are saved in Objective ECM.
One aspect of digital transformation that businesses struggle with is "the focus is more on the digital element and not the transformation piece," said David Eade. It might sound obvious but he recommends that it's important to "focus on the challenge first then work back to the technology, not bend the technology to work."
Injecting digital into all areas of the business One thing that was consistent amongst this group of experts was the importance of streamlining the interaction with the customers. They highlight that it's not enough to simply go digital on the outside, but it's equally important if you want to be successful to go digital on the inside. This ensures that processes are not only streamlined for the customer but also for the forgotten customer, the council staff who are responsible for managing them. Tim admits that Ipswich City Council currently has 14 websites and this is not optimum as a customer experience. They now have a 12-month program to streamline the web experience by making all website activity look and feel the same. Dianne says that "at City of West Torrens a large proportion of our residents won't interact digitally, so we need to make online lodgement the next focus."
The group point out that they are starting to encounter a new generation of digitally enabled workforce, which are being asked questions of why some council processes seem antiquated and not in line with private sector expectations. They are even offering up exciting ideas in the digital space.
Whether your council is evaluating its digital maturity or you've already embarked on digital change, the advice of all three experts is to be the advocates for that change and own it. As Tim succinctly pointed out, "Councils can't afford to not move digitally."