Digital Strategies for Governments of Any Size

Lena Eisenstein
5 min read
Competition drives the need for digitization in the commercial sector. The general public holds the expectation that governments at all levels will follow suit. It's important to note that local governments don't have the same resources or priorities as commercial businesses, and they don't operate in the same way. McKinsey & Co. estimates that digitization in government could generate over $1 trillion annually the world over.

Municipalities in every country compete for workers, knowledge, and other resources just as businesses in similar industries do. Digitizing provides the benefit of helping local governments meet the expectations of citizens and businesses, even when budgets are tight. Digital services also empower citizens and broaden engagement with their municipalities. In addition, digital transformation bolsters the efficiency and responsiveness and helps improve quality of life and the quality of governance.

How Does Your Local Government Compare to Others?

According to Deloitte, most local governments are stacking up better than they think along the journey to digital maturation. They found that no local governments are fully mature at all. In fact, they found that 26% of local governments are digitally maturing early, 60% are developing, and 30% are maturing. While 30% of local governments said they were digitally more advanced than the public sector, around 70% said their local governments were behind the public sector.

The two primary drivers behind digital transformation in local government are budgetary pressures and the demands of citizens.

How to Get Started with Digital Strategies

In helping your local government move forward with digitization and modernization, start thinking about the type of digital strategies that you'd design if you didn't have any legacy structures to start with. With that in mind, establish your top priorities.

Next, begin taking stock of the differences between the systems that you currently have and compare them with the symptoms and products that you need. At this point, you need to make two decisions. Decide which services and products your government would need to make up the difference. Finally, determine whether you would need to get rid of any existing systems. At this point, you can compare your current digital transformation efforts with the tools and resources that your local government still needs and set some new priorities to help achieve your new overall vision.

Core Capabilities and Organizational Enablers for Digital Strategies

McKinsey & Company identifies the two main considerations for digital strategies in local governments. They are the core capabilities of your local government and its organizational enablers.

The core capabilities that local governments use to engage citizens and businesses and carry out their work include the methods and tools they use to provide services and the processes they implement. It also includes their approach to making decisions and the sharing and publishing of useful data.

The organizational enablers that support local governments in delivering the stated capabilities are strategy, governance and organization, leadership, talent, culture, and technology.

Community by Diligent is a software solution for meeting management and online citizen engagement that was designed specifically for the unique needs of local governments.

Building Organizational Capabilities for Digital Transformation

Employees and elected officials are one of the main focal points of driving digital transformation. To prepare your organization for new digital strategies, identify and address gaps in digital skills and invest in resources to help build the capabilities you need.

The best offense is a good defense, so you'll also need to identify the processes that could inhibit digital transformation and make plans to remove barriers. Local governments have longstanding business processes and often, they also have employees with long tenure. These elements can create a change-resistant culture within the workforce. Getting feedback from the community helps to convince employees that digital strategies are helpful and valuable.

After implementing digital strategies, local governments can work toward attracting and engaging users. Workshops, training, and videos are good ways to help users get familiar with new digital systems. As for feedback on new digital strategies to encourage innovation and collaboration.

Work to Increase Workforce Skills and Address Gaps

As current employees leave, look for new employees who are familiar with or have a strong comfort level with digital systems. Hire temporary employees that have good digital skills and consider hiring them full-time.

Set up workshops and training programs with upskilling in mind. Look for opportunities to partner with the private sector to create collaborative learning opportunities.

Millennials and younger populations are your workforces of the future. Be aware that they're looking for flexible work opportunities and opportunities to work at home. In seeking digital-savvy employees, don't take a sit and see approach. You'll have more luck when you're proactive and seek such qualities as motivational levels, cultural fit, and working style.

In the spirit of transparency, be willing to share data. Local governments don't have to do it all. Citizens and businesses can often tap in the right data to create digital apps or programs that benefit the entire community.

Simplify and Improve the Procurement Process

Vendors will appreciate digital strategies that reduce vendor selection time and those that offer short contract periods. It's not necessary to make large changes all at once. Look for small ways to create efficiency and build on those innovations. Break large contracts into smaller parts. As digital programs become more readily available, they will offer more savings and at this point, take the savings where it's offered.

Make open data standards and open interfaces a high priority for procurement to avoid paying premiums for non-standard requests. Keep processes as flexible and agile as possible so you can keep your options open and change priorities as necessary. Work to allow collaboration among vendors whenever possible which will help to integrate services. Develop and train your procurement employees so that they take advantage of agile-based contracts.

Change and innovation will continue to iconize digital strategies. Successful local governments will be flexible, recognizing that we are merely on the cusp of digital transformation. It will be increasingly important for local governments to continually innovate the way they engage with customers. The most successful local governments will take advantage of all that digital transformation offers.