The Need for Transparency and Accountability Within Local Government

April 3, 2019
The Need for Transparency and Accountability Within Local Government

Local government organizations around the world are in the throes of change. The cloud and improved digital latency have led to new best-of-breed apps. Many councils are pushing to make their city "smart" using the Internet of Things (IoT). Digital transformation is happening, and for councils it's no longer a question of "if" but of "when."

Here in Australia, we’re seeing first-hand how the pressure to deliver digital services, coupled with pressure to operate more efficiently, is affecting our local councils. Councils are starting to look at the big picture: it’s not just about delivering essential services but also about continuously improving customer interactions across all channels. And that requires modernization.

Understanding Citizen Needs

No two councils are exactly alike. But regardless of size or location, there is at least one thing that all councils have in common: the need to understand their community. The drive for modernization stems from the need for a 360-degree view of what customers want and need, which can only be obtained through accurate, unified data.

One of the unfortunate side effects of moving from monolithic legacy systems to cloud-based best-of-breed multi-vendor approach is the creation of data silos. Many of the new apps are cloud-based, leading to a hybrid IT environment where some of your data is in the cloud and some is on-premise.

Galaxy42 specializes in assisting organizations — including governmental councils — with implementing the TechnologyOne application suite. We've found that for councils, citizen data may sit fragmented in TechOne, Infor Pathway or a customer relationship management platform like Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics.

Each system may be designed specifically to work with certain key components of the business, but depending on the system or its specific functional requirement, you may only hold subsets of that view of the customer.

Unless you can connect these systems and integrate and manage the data that resides in them, you can neither get a true picture of your residents nor consistently deliver a positive experience to the community.

Without Integration There Is No Transparency

It’s important that councils provide the services the community expects and provide them in a way that leaves them satisfied. But without integration, there are also no workflows, no notifications and no escalations, because the systems aren’t talking to each other. The resulting lack of transparency and accountability leads to unhappy residents.

If someone wants to report an issue with a garbage bin not being emptied on time, they will fill out a form online with the expectation that the council will provide notification of the progress of the request.

Once that form is submitted, there should be a workflow that routes it to someone who can address the problem. Issue resolved, happy customer!

Unfortunately, it doesn't always happen that way because the systems are separate, and there are too many points in the process that depend on people carrying out manual processes.

It could be that the form is set up to send an email to someone, but that person is out on extended leave. Their backup is out sick, and there isn’t anyone else assigned to look for complaints generated this way. The systems simply aren’t set up to handle that scenario, so the request gets stuck in limbo.

Meanwhile, the resident hasn’t heard anything about the status of their request, and the bin still hasn’t been emptied. They are getting increasingly more frustrated, not just because the rubbish is still there, but also because they don’t know what is going on with their request. They then make a phone call to follow up, and someone at the council has to manually search for what happened with that request.

Internal Pain Points Lead to External Pain

Councils aren't just experiencing difficulty with community engagement and satisfaction. They are also prone to internal inefficiencies, which can be frustrating for employees and equally detrimental to operations.

One issue we frequently see within councils is around contractor engagement. We recently engaged with one council and discovered that for more than 50 percent of its transactions, the value of the transaction was less than the cost to process that transaction. So setting up contracts sounded like a great way to increase efficiency and save money.

But, in many councils, the contract management and procurement systems are completely separate. This creates significant costs and complexities to manually manage this process: opening up the contract, finding the unit rate for each product, and checking it against the purchase order. So much hard work!

A second example is onboarding. Onboarding is particularly challenging for local government. It's not unusual for a new hire to turn up for their first day of work expecting to have a desk, a computer, building access, and be on the payroll — but nobody has anything prepared.

The result is lost productivity not only for the new person but also for everyone else who then has to scramble to figure out how to get the new hire set up.

Integration Unlocks Accountability

There are always going to be challenges with trying to integrate multiple systems. We have local government clients who manage requests in one system and carry out those requests in another system. Trying to get those two vendors to talk to each other and agree on an integration path is close to impossible.

That’s where the Dell Boomi integration platform becomes very useful for us at Galaxy42, and particularly for our clients with multi-vendor application suites. Boomi not only connects the disparate systems, it helps connect the people and the processes as well. With Boomi:

  • A human resources (HR) system can automatically flag someone as being out sick and automatically route any critical work to someone who would be able to take care of it.
  • The contract system can push the right information to the purchasing system, eliminating manual work and increasing business efficiency — allowing the council to save money.
  • From the recruitment process to the HR process to IT provisioning, onboarding would be streamlined and automated, allowing the council's new hire to be productive from Day One.

Trusted data is the goal in unlocking and unifying data. Boomi goes much further than simple integration, providing a master data hub that helps councils with data governance and compliance for obtaining the true view of residents that is needed to provide positive interactions across all channels.

Data Governance and Compliance

Within councils, governance plays an important role in providing a framework and structure for how data should be managed.

All local government entities have document management requirements surrounding record-keeping, retention and destruction for regulatory compliance. Any concerned member of the community, may, by law, request information at any time. And the council has to provide supporting documentation.

In an un-integrated world, those requests become very difficult because you’re searching through many different repositories and trying to get all the information.

Also, it's more likely that information will be lost. People are in a hurry and forget to manually register the data in the document management system. Or, people don’t follow the protocols because there are no controls in place to enforce them.

Without integration, data becomes more and more fragmented. Councils wind up with multiple systems that each want to be the master of the data. This results in redundant and inaccurate data.

With Boomi, we can bring related data into a central location and manage it and ensure its quality, which is something that we’re very excited about for our clients.

Compliance. Efficiency. Transparency. Accountability. If you are a council, you now have everything you need for success.

To find out how Galaxy42 and Boomi are helping local councils across Australia, contact a Boomi integration expert.

About the Author

Chris Biro is a practice lead at Galaxy 42, a boutique consultancy with the key objective of helping organizations realize a greater ROI on their IT investments. After a number of years working with software vendors in consulting, architect and operational roles, Chris now spends his time advising clients on the importance of aligning system, business process and organization culture.