“What do we need it to do?”
When local governments are searching for software solutions to support their citizen engagement, this is the question they’re trying to answer.
There are specific features the community could benefit from right now — such as payment processing for licenses and permits, mobile service apps for workers in the field, or self-service options that make it simple for residents to find the information they need.
But future needs aren’t as easy to anticipate. Local governments often create new programs to address the evolving needs of residents, and managing those programs will require new tools that you’re not yet aware of.
As external circumstances change, public sector agencies often need to change internal processes to adapt, and their software needs to be flexible enough to support those changes. And technological innovation from the private sector is constant, making it necessary for local governments to continue updating their offerings to keep up with residents’ expectations and avoid falling behind the times.
By choosing a platform that’s designed to be extended, modified, and updated, without an expensive and time-consuming software development process, local governments can ensure their software investment is future-proof, and that they’re well-positioned to meet their community’s future needs, whatever they may be.
Future-Proof Citizen Engagement Tools: A Case Study
Any experienced public sector worker knows that citizen engagement is a continuous process, not a one-time event. The community engagement tools your community needs today will change over time, and even the most careful planners can’t predict what they’ll need their software to do six months from now, as the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated.
Like most municipalities, the city of Pico Rivera, California had to make some dramatic changes virtually overnight to manage the pandemic. The city needed to reduce in-person transactions, while continuing to deliver high-quality city services to residents and business owners.
But the disparate citizen engagement tools Pico Rivera had added one by one over the years weren’t designed to be expanded or reconfigured quickly in the event of a crisis. As city leaders worked to move in-person transactions online, they seized the opportunity to move to a platform that could be easily modified to meet their community’s shifting needs.
Working with 3Di Systems, Pico Rivera’s leaders implemented a software solution that meets the current needs of the community, and can adapt to meet its future needs as well.
The next time they need to add new functions for additional departments or new use cases, current features like payments, case management, or service requests, it’ll be much easier. Rather than having to switch systems again or wait for developers to design something new, they’ll be able to adapt their current system in a matter of just days or weeks.
How To Identify Future-Proof Citizen Engagement Tools
We hope the benefits of choosing community engagement tools with the future in mind are clear. But what makes some tools adaptable to future needs, while others aren’t? What makes a system flexible enough to stand up to demands that can’t be anticipated yet?
There are three components of future-proof community engagement tools that you’ll want to be on the lookout for:
- No-code or low-code software platforms
- Solution accelerators
- Modern technology
- Experience with and understanding of the public sector and how it’s evolving
No-code or low-code platforms are software systems that allow software applications to be built or modified with little to no traditional, code-based development work. For example, a no-code or low-code platform’s online licensing and permitting process could quickly be modified to comply with a new law in a few days rather than waiting on months of development or needing to source a new software vendor.
The best future-proof citizen engagement platforms are also supported by solution accelerators, which help users address new needs even more quickly. Solution accelerators are predefined configurations of a platform for a specific type of use case.
For example, when the City of Los Angeles needed a solution to address price gouging early in the COVID-19 pandemic, they worked with 3Di to launch a portal where the public could report incidents of price-gouging and city staff could manage each report. The portal was launched within just 48 hours, a timeline that was only possible because it was built on the low-code 3Di Engage platform using 3Di’s Case Management and Customer Self-Service solution accelerators.
If you’ve found a solution that can be adapted and/or implemented as quickly and easily as a low-code/no-code platform with solution accelerators, the last thing to check is whether the software vendor is keeping up with the latest technology. If the solution isn’t already making use of currently-available technological advancements like mobile computing, augmented reality, and machine learning, it’s unlikely it will keep up with future advancements such as the growth of artificial intelligence capabilities.
Choosing Citizen Engagement Tools that Are Built to Last
Technology never stops evolving, and the needs of the public sector never do either. By choosing a software platform that was designed with change in mind, you can ensure your community engagement tools will continue to support your goals for effective service delivery, no matter what challenges come your way.