Is the public sector unfairly labelled as digital laggards?
Does the public sector have an undeserved reputation as digital laggards? Local governments are actively embracing innovation. For instance, councils are clearly interested in the potential of advancements in artificial intelligence (AI).
Writing for Council Magazine, Dr. Adam Mowlam from the City of Greater Geelong explored how using large language models like ChatGPT could potentially automate handling similar queries—such as issuing camping permits—across multiple councils.
Some councils are already using AI-powered apps to deliver novel community engagement experiences. A Perth LGA deployed a virtual assistant to answer people’s questions about its community infrastructure plan via two-way text message conversations.
The fact is—local government, like most industries, is primed to invest in, and apply, technology.
However, a desire to be at the cutting-edge doesn’t always mesh with executing systematic technological change that provides lasting benefits. This is especially true when it comes to systems that help councils holistically understand and meet the community’s needs.
Broad, customer-focused transformations are slow to be realised
It’s fair to say that many councils’ efforts to fundamentally modernise how they function and deliver a great customer experience (CX) have been sluggish. That’s in part due to lack of resources, and in part due to cultural and mindset barriers that make continuous progress difficult.
Our ReadyTech Customer Centricity Survey 2023 found the majority of Australian councils place a moderate-to-high priority on digital transformation in their ICT strategies. Yet, spending on software and customer-centric solutions is a fraction of their budgets.
That’s despite 100% of senior council executives surveyed agreeing that customer centricity is vital to their council’s long-term success, and a recognition that they need to do more to effectively engage and serve communities via digital channels.
Competing priorities hamper connected experiences for customers
Global public sector research from Adobe reflects a similar story. Its 2022 Digital Trends: Public Sector in Focus report found that enduring innovation was a challenge for government organisations—with many struggling to enact quality user-centric experiences (a whopping 37% felt their digital experiences lagged behind people’s expectations).
Adobe’s report reveals the sector’s competing priorities for digital investments such as:
- increasing organisational efficiency;
- reducing costs;
- addressing security and compliance; and
- supporting remote work.
Managing budgets, personnel and internal politics to achieve these aims, in addition to delivering seamless digital experiences for customers, is complicated. In fact, it’s downright daunting.
In such an environment, it can seem more practical to focus on immediate wins—like a project-based app—compared to strategic transformation, such replacing outdated legacy systems.
As a result, stop-gap tech investments may be more likely to get a green light. Which, in turn, can lead to increasingly disconnected data sources, increased redundancy, and more complex organisational change.
Modern, unified systems beat novel tech for customer centricity
A danger for local government is that providing online services or engagement activities through emerging tech in an isolated way won’t do enough to improve how councils can anticipate community needs long-term.
Strategically planning how you can best help customers achieve their desired outcomes—before deciding on the channels and solutions you need—is critical to creating an customer centric business, according to Gartner’s advice for CMOs in 2023.
Gartner argues that once you understand the ideal journey for different kinds of customers, you can prioritise channel investments based on “where your company is well-positioned to deliver the desired experience.”
In other words, what can you feasibly deliver to sustainably move towards an organisation-wide customer-centric approach where you can consistently recognise and adapt to customer needs, wants and goals?
We’ve noticed that disconnected councils tend to:
- Focus more of business use cases than improving the customer journey.
- Make ongoing investments in separate tools to address a single use case.
- Struggle to bring data together to respond quickly to customer issues.
Whereas, customer centric councils are more likely to:
- Prioritise a single customer view to unite customer and employee experiences.
- Consolidate tech, data sources and workflows through integrated platforms.
- Share data across customer-facing and business functions for better analysis and action.
Strategic forethought about enabling customer centricity means any digital touch points that arise will be more cost-effective for councils and genuinely useful for customers.
Start with consolidated systems that embed customer-centricity
Regardless of constraints, organisations will continue to invest in tech. How strategically your council invests can either move you closer to customers, or sink you deeper in a quagmire of complexity.
Gartner has predicted worldwide IT spending of $4.7 trillion in 2023. This includes double-digit growth for the software market as enterprises look for efficiency gains driven by core systems like enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms.
An end-to-end software ecosystem can help centralise data and streamline collaboration across multiple functions. But if customer centricity is a truly strategic driver, you’ll also want to ensure your ERP approach is designed to capture and leverage customer-facing data as the starting point for informing your back-office processes, data analysis and daily decision-making.
Ready Community, our unified solution for councils, makes this possible. It’s built around an integrated online portal for customers, instantly creating a two-way flow of data critical for achieving meaningful insight for your council about the people you serve.
Get in touch with our experts.