Demand management, we all know, is a huge agenda right now. Alongside this, councils are recognising that we are living in an era of digital change that is transforming the habits and expectations of their customers.
At the moment the predominant customer is the ‘digital convert’; digital is something they are comfortable with but have had to learn.
However, by 2020 the ‘digital native’ will have taken their place. Digital natives are those who have grown up with, and know nothing other than, digital - they will be people who have never, for example, bought a CD, let alone a vinyl record.
With customers leading the way and driving this digital change, councils need to respond rapidly if they are to remain relevant. This digital shift is going to have a massive impact on how councils assemble their resources, and manage channels and technologies.
They will need a business strategy for the digital age rather than, as is often the case, simply a digital strategy.
Councils need to move beyond tampering with tactical solutions - digital needs to seep through the entire organisation.
Processes will need to become even more simplified and standardised across all access channels. There will have to be more use of ‘convergent technologies’ - technologies that allow people to experience the same processes whether they are using their phone, home computer or a mobile device.
Councils, too, will increasingly need to use digital channels to become facilitators rather than providers of services.
Digital solutions can be pushed out into the community - a lever to mobilise communities and end users for mutual benefits, as well as offering savings.
Social media platforms will increasingly allow councils to enable genuine two-way dialogue and, in turn, foster greater community ‘ownership’ of decision making and delivery.
All this requires strategic vision and leadership and, to an extent, a preparedness to take risks and experiment.
Local government has often had a reputation for struggling to keep up when it comes to technological innovation, but there is no reason why that should be the case.
In fact, there is a huge opportunity here. Making relatively little investment in digital initiatives can offer an effective way of significantly reducing costs.
Digital should not just be about a council ‘going digital’; it should be about councils becoming leaders of this agenda, providing a platform through which organisations and individuals - whole communities - can be connected.
Stewart Wilson, director, technology group and local government team & Tim Hoban, senior manager, customer operations and local government team, PwC
Special feature supplied by PwC
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