Australia’s local councils provide a diverse range of services directly to local residents, but unfortunately interacting with them can be a somewhat challenging activity, writes Stephen Derry.
Different departments install IT systems to support their activities, but often little thought is given to how information in those systems might be shared with others. As a result, having a single view of each resident and their dealings with the council tends to be little more than a pipe dream.
Thankfully, this situation is now beginning to change. Growing numbers of councils are adopting a customer-first strategy and looking for ways to streamline how they deliver services and provide information.
One of the key reasons for this strategic change is the pressure being exerted by residents. They have become used to easy, online interactions with banks, retailers and other service providers. Now they’re starting to expect the same thing from their local council.
To make this a reality, councils need to undertake integration projects to link existing IT systems together. Once this is achieved, data can be readily shared and a single view created of each resident.
Those residents will then be able to interact with the council via an online portal that gives them simple access to key services. Anything from registering a dog and paying a parking fine to checking on rates bills or applying for a parking permit will all be possible using the portal.
There are 10 key steps that councils will need to follow to reach their customer-first goal. They are:
Start with the end in mind:
The first step is to have a clear idea of the project’s goal. Decide which services will be made available and in what form. Having a clear understanding of what is required from the outset is critical.
Develop a business case:
To ensure the project is backed by senior managers, create a detailed business case that clearly outlines the expected benefits, costs and timeline. This will ensure everyone is on the same page from the outset.
Secure a project budget:
Once agreement on the business case has been reached, secure committed funding for the project. Recognise that, in many cases, it may run for an extended period and so the funds will be required in stages.
Identify a suitable external IT partner:
It’s unlikely the council’s internal IT team will have all the knowledge and skills required for a large-scale integration project. Consider an experienced external technology partner that can help with the job.
Agree on a pilot”
After engaging a technology partner, work with them to create a clear and detailed brief for the works to be undertaken. This will ensure misunderstandings don’t occur during the process and the original vision is reached.
Undertake an audit:
Begin the project by thoroughly assessing exactly what systems are already in place. Determine what new linkages need to be established and how data will be accessed across the organisation.
Complete the integration:
With planning completed, the project can begin. Existing IT systems will be integrated to allow them to exchange data, and a customer-facing portal designed to allow efficient access by both staff and residents.
Conduct user training:
Once integration is complete, undertake user training for all staff. They need to be comfortable with using the new integrated infrastructure and understand how it can support their day-to-day operations.
Build internal resources:
By working closely with the external technology partner, the council’s internal IT team will have increased its knowledge and understanding of the newly integrated infrastructure. Continue to build on this knowledge and ensure the team is capable of managing the infrastructure moving forward
Monitor and evolve:
Councils are constantly changing to meet the demands of residents. Review the integrated infrastructure on a regular basis to ensure it continues to support the requirements of both staff and residents.
By following these steps, councils will be able to reach their goal of being customer-first organisations. Staff will be supported by a fully integrated IT infrastructure and residents will have much better access to the services they require. Effective system Integration will have been worth the investment.
*Stephen Derry is Southern Delivery Manager at Anatas
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