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Resilience and regeneration: accelerating digital progress in local governments

If the Covid-19 pandemic has been a sprint for local governments - as industries like tourism go on life support and impacted businesses close in cities and towns alike - recovery could well be a marathon. That’s why a suitable Digital Experience Platform (DXP) is foundational for local governments wanting to make faster digital progress.

Just released by SOCITM and partners, Digital trends in local public services 2021 report on local government CIO priorities, notes that digital solutions will underpin responses to all the key challenges, from economic regeneration and social pressures to climate change.

In this article, we discuss why a suitable Digital Experience Platform (DXP) is foundational for local governments wanting to make faster digital progress.

Patrick FitzGerald

Written by

Patrick FitzGerald
Head of Local Government
5 March 2021

Your old CMS won’t cut it  

An earlier blog post explored the differences between CMS and DXP. But here’s why your old CMS won’t help you make progress as quickly: in a nutshell - data handling.

CMSs are great for making it as easy as possible for local governments to create and manage large-scale content and multiple websites and making that accessible and user-friendly on any device.

However, to deliver services digitally in a modern website, app, or portal; user data, and organizational data, and content are required, often from multiple sources. Efficiently developing and managing those richer digital experiences requires a DXP.

How a DXP accelerates local government digital progress in 2021

Cloud and open architecture

The Covid experience brought home some advantages of Cloud: assisting flexible working, mitigating painful legacy barriers, providing constant incremental improvements.  However, legacy systems, sunk IT costs, and data sovereignty concerns slow Cloud adoption. In the interim, Hybrid Cloud environments are the default for most councils.

A DXP speeds up the ‘last mile’ integration and data flow between your customer, your website, portal or app, and the enterprise applications in a hybrid cloud environment. In doing so, it enables and orchestrates the delivery of those richer digital experiences comprising data and content, to enable services and transactions, as well as information finding and engagement.

When evaluating DXPs, open architectures best support fit into any environment, including hybrid Cloud environments - and allow the CIO maximum flexibility for changing out elements of the environment as needs change. Besides, ‘integration as a service’ reduces the initial cost of integrations and streamlines ongoing management, monitoring, and maintenance.

Provided as a public cloud, enterprise SaaS, a DXP also reduces the maintenance overhead on council IT teams through behind-the-scenes upgrades (and delivers feature releases affording incremental improvement), plus support for flexible working.

Low code / no code development

Covid, and public health containment measures, called for rapid development of new services and applications to fit local / community needs. Local governments responded:  agile development methods and accelerated development environments dramatically sped up delivery.

A DXP supports this agility by providing low code and no-code development tools. Users should be equipped with visual interfaces with simple logic and drag-and-drop features, instead of being expected to use extensive coding languages. Look also for the availability of pre-built components, extensions, templates, and integrations that support getting to value more quickly.

Digital inclusion

The response to Covid has seen digital services replace or augment face-to-face in several areas from education to health and social services - thereby highlighting existing digital divides. Good accessibility (in the technical sense of compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) can help minimize several of these divides: in addition to removing barriers for people using enabling technologies such as screen readers to self-serve, it also makes web sites and applications more usable on a range of devices and bandwidths.

A DXP should support council staff efforts to comply with digital inclusivity standards such as WCAG. Look for in-page assistance for non-technical content authors as well as automated accessibility checking across web properties.

Lightening the load on your local businesses

With shifting Covid compliance requirements and lockdown levels, accurate, timely information and data are critical for businesses. The core CMS and DXP capabilities council teams need are:

  • Content authoring,  page creation, and easily configurable approvals workflow
  • Fast, efficient methods to create once, publish across multiple social media and web properties
  • Ability to source and orchestrate data from multiple sources
  • Fast, accurate search with machine learning, and the ability to serve consolidated search results from disparate web properties and databases
  • Analytics for insight into user needs and behavior
  • Personalization capabilities to accurately and efficiently support self-service and reduce the load on council service centers.

For example, the South Australian government’s COVID-19 response page for business and work allows affected businesses to access relevant information in one place, including COVID-management planning, health information relevant to the industry,  and JobKeeper payments.

To help local governments further streamline compliance requirements for businesses, a DXP supports faster user portal development leveraging faster, cheaper integration, low code / no code capabilities, and digital workflow development with business-process-as-a-service tools.  The combination of streamlining compliance requirements for businesses, and operational efficiencies for the compliance agency, can make a compelling business case.

CIOs to balance standards and flexibility

One legacy of Covid is increasing ‘digital dependence’: as we do more online, inevitably our reliance on secure, available digital services increases.

To assure service availability, security, and performance, CIOs, therefore, are signaling more focus on standards compliance. However, in a Hybrid Cloud environment, with connected supply chains expanding outside the corporate firewall, the CIO has less direct control and more reliance on contractual obligations with suppliers.

At the same time, there is renewed pressure on local governments to 'do more with less’ - a driver for local government collaboration and sharing of services arrangements, data, digital infrastructure, and ‘ecosystems of trust’ - all potentially requiring accommodation rather than obstruction from system and platform vendors.

Achieving the right balance will be multi-dimensional, with multiple relationships and commercial dimensions, as well as technology and capabilities. Perhaps paradoxically, this suggests that even as digital technology is abstracted into the Cloud, human intangibles such as trust, reputation, and willingness to collaborate inside an ecosystem of trust matter evermore.

Squiz supports a range of formal and informal shared service arrangements, such as the 60+ councils running over 100 websites and portals on a single Squiz DXP instance managed by the Local Government Association of South Australia, and the shared ICT service between Hammersmith & Fulham Council, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and Westminster City Council providing the councils’ website search.

Local government digital progress accelerators

In our experience working with over 200 local governments in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the United States, we see the following DXP and vendor capabilities as key to faster digital progress.

  • Open architecture
  • Cheaper, faster, maintainable integrations 
  • Data handling for digital services and richer digital experiences
  • Scalability to run multiple web properties and ‘headless’ CMS capability
  • Low code / no-code / marketplace of components and templates
  • Fast, flexible digital workflow development
  • Customer Experience (CX) intelligence and control - analytics
  • Vendor flexibility to support inter-council collaboration
  • Compliance with operative standards
Patrick FitzGerald

Written by

Patrick FitzGerald
Head of Local Government
5 March 2021

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