Customer expectations today are not that they will be satisfied, rather they that they will be delighted by the service we offer. Local governments are expected to do this in an environment of decreasing budgets.
This is the challenge facing every CEO in local government. While it may seem a daunting challenge, it is a very realistic goal. As CEO you can make your customers happy at half the cost. The move to digital channels makes this all possible. Interestingly, the barriers that will stop you getting there are almost all non-technical.
The New Digital Environment Councils Require
To drive customer improvement and cut costs you need to build a new digital environment. It should build on what has been done by other government organisations around the world. Here are three things every council should know and understand about digital before the build a new digital environment.
Consider open source
- Open Source software is being used by your government peers around the world.
- Today’s open source solutions are robust and scalable.
- They are licence free.
- Open source solutions are increasingly being used for content management, GIS and mapping solutions, CRM and web services.
- Open source means you can save hundreds of thousands of dollars on licencing fees and the same again on development costs.
Make open standards mandatory
While not all new systems you install will be open source, every new system you implement from now on must be built on open standards. This means every new system will have the ability to integrate and speak to other systems and to share data. Traditional systems, were (some still are) proprietary and closed, locking you in to the vendor and making it difficult to integrate systems.
- You must make open standards mandatory for all new systems introduced to your organisation.
- You must look to swap out existing traditional closed systems over the coming years and replace them with systems based on open standards.
Middleware “glues” everything together
Middleware is the glue that ties your systems together, and allows data to move from one system to the next. To delight your customers, you must ensure they are recognised by your organisation to be in every channel they use. They want a consistent experience with council, no matter what the channel (digital, face to face, phone etc.) or the department. In years gone by, the cost of middleware made it prohibitive for local government. Today there are open source middleware solutions available, meaning you can download it and get started for free.
The three technologies above are what will drive better customer service and reduced costs. All three are being underutilised by the local government sector, meaning there are great opportunities for organisations willing to embrace this new way. Why then haven’t they been embraced to date?
Barriers to Overcome
Next we consider three barriers often encountered in local government.
Web services skills
- There is a shortage of skills among local government staff.
- Your IT staff must understand terms like SOA, Rest, RestFUll, API’s, web services, and what they mean for your organisation.
- You will need to upskill staff and/or bring in new people with experience with these technologies.
- You need to assess the skills in your IT department and its ability to steer the organisation through digital change. Then provide adequate resources for training and upskilling.
Resistance to change
- The digital world is underpinned by web services. This allows us to tie all our systems together and to deliver seamless services to customers.
- Web services means IT will need to move beyond the comfort zone of their core systems.
- Digital services mean customer service staff will be forced to think beyond their traditional CRMS and underlying processes.
- Digital platforms mean communications and marketing departments will need to understand that the websites they deliver are now part of a complex, connected organisation-wide system.
- Similar change will play out in other departments.
- Paradigm shifts in so many departments will meet with stern resistance among some staff.
- Some staff will dig their heels in and insist that only the existing traditional system can be used. Others will refuse to acknowledge that to deliver seamless customer service all systems must be interlinked.
- Be prepared for it and develop change management techniques to manage and overcome that resistance.
Reluctance to take a holistic view
Digital is broad and affects every aspect of an organisation. Organisation-wide change is often viewed as too difficult and as a result senior management often decide to focus on particular digital projects in one part of the organisation. This is not a barrier if it considers its impact on other parts of the organisation. (In fact, we advocate a step by step, staged approach to digital transformation). However, often these projects are focused on an outcome for one department only. This approach often creates unforeseen barriers to digital transformation in the future. For example, a dedicated department website built on the wrong platform can make future integration with web services very difficult. When it comes to delivering a seamless customer experience you may be forced to rebuild the website and develop new processes, incurring additional cost and time.
What is your role as CEO?
Every digital project must be viewed in a holistic organisation-wide context. As CEO it is your job to create the holistic context and to provide a framework within which all departmental digital projects must sit. This is a role fulfilled by a digital roadmap.
If you are a CEO considering digital transformation take some time to investigate open source, open standards and web services. Find out how these technologies are driving better customer experiences and driving down costs in other sectors. Then consider the barriers in relation to your organisation. Do you have the skills? Where will you encounter resistance to change? Have you developed an organisation-wide, holistic, digital framework?
For more information on how Symphony3 help CEOs clarify their thinking, contact us today.