Have you ever felt like your phone or computer feels more advanced than the software you use for work?
Government software systems are often notoriously behind the times, in part due to a large number of obstacles facing the public sector. But as we’ll discuss, many of these obstacles to digital transformation are smaller than they used to be, and the benefits of moving to a fully digital system are only growing in number.
Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of your organization, in a way that fundamentally improves every aspect of how you operate. It helps you manage your agency’s processes, communications, analytics, and everything in between.
Since you’re here, you’ve probably already recognized a need for better digital tools to solve a specific problem. Maybe you need a case management system, or something to streamline inspections. But while it may begin with addressing one issue, digital transformation can be an ongoing effort across your organization to bring significant improvements, such as:
- Efficiency: a fully digital system lets you automate complex workflows to an extent that surprises most people. Between that and automated notifications, you can quickly cut hours of labor and provide superior service delivery.
- Reduce errors and redundant work: by having all your data in a single place, everything is organized and easily accessible, meaning you can stop requesting he same information more than once. When it comes to citizen engagement, from permits to rental registries, nobody falls through the cracks anymore.
- Easier to prove value and secure funding: with better data tracking, sharing, and visualization, you can demonstrate the progress and impact of key initiatives to stakeholders.
While it’s clearly beneficial to evolve past obsolete, decades-old software programs (or worse, archaic paper systems), government agencies often struggle to properly leverage technology and update their processes for the digital age. Let’s explore why that is, and explain how you can move forward.
The Obstacles to Digital Transformation in Government
No matter how many issues modernization can alleviate for government agencies, it can often feel like an uphill battle for government officials who want to adopt more effective systems. There are several major obstacles in the way, but many are more addressable today than they were only a few years ago.
This is frequently cited as the biggest obstacle to adopting software: you don’t have the budget or other resources to allocate to a new platform.
These days, budgets are less of a constraint than they used to be. The costs of software development are dropping, and certain platforms offer pre-built setups that can be easily customized for the agency in question — without racking up costs from hiring engineers.
Implementation timelines and resources
Adopting new software used to be a massive project, sometimes requiring you to hire expensive in-house software talent, or requiring someone to oversee the project.
Now, however, newer digital platforms are much more user-friendly than they used to be, eliminating the need for advanced skills or technical training. Much less is required of the government agency, and the implementation of no-code government platforms like 3Di Engage can be ready in a matter of weeks or months, rather than years.
No amount of technology is going to save a disorganized system, and sometimes agencies try to adopt new tech without having processes in place that would let them get the most out of it.
We encounter this often with our clients and have found that working with them to better define their processes helps us provide them a much more effective software solution.
It’s hard to get buy-in for a digital system when there are more urgent matters, regardless of the improvements to efficiency and costs.
But modern systems are increasingly essential to addressing — and preventing — the problems that politicians and the public care about. And with powerful data reporting capabilities, it’s now much easier to prove that impact to your stakeholders.
Limited knowledge of solutions, or of the increasing need for updates
Government software systems in use today tend to be old, but accepted as “good enough, mostly.” This makes it harder to rationalize an upgrade.
But older technologies have a ton of issues, and are prone to bugs and crashes. They make it hard to pull data on metrics like project progress or participation numbers, creating unnecessary inefficiencies. Our clients are often surprised at how much faster and easier this work becomes with a modern system.
How to Get Started with Digital Transformation in Government
So what should a government leader do to get started with this transformation? What are some of the first steps they can take to make the process less daunting? Before jumping into hiring a software company to help you, you need to have a good sense of the problem you want to solve — and whether it’s the right candidate for a technology solution.
Identify the specific problem
The biggest advantages of digital transformation center around automation and data management, lowering workloads and improving outcomes. Going digital also creates huge improvements in collaboration, communication, and efficiency, for instance.
But not all problems can be solved with technology. Not every project is a good candidate for digital transformation.
So before you move forward, establish a well-defined objective you want to achieve. A poorly defined problem might be “improve traffic safety in the city,” whereas a better objective might be “decrease traffic deaths and injuries in this neighborhood or intersection.”
Other issues might center around inadequate homelessness programs, medicine delivery delays, a slow DMV, lack of consistent trash pickup, or insufficient public drinking water, to name a few.
Define priorities for the public
Some problems simply won’t be as important for the public, so of course you will need to select issues that have greater public buy-in.
Some problems, while addressable with automation or data, will require more investment. This isn’t always realistic given the size of the problem. Other problems, however, are much more easily solved, and can be tackled even if they’re not at the top of your list.
Decide if the problem is really suitable for digital transformation
Once you’ve established the problem you’re trying to solve, you have to consider whether technology will really solve it. In other words, if your town is prone to flooding, sometimes you just need to invest the money to build levies. No modern software solution is going to change that.
Ask yourself why you want to adopt new tech — why are you looking to technology for this solution? Is it to improve an existing process, or are you just looking to tech because everyone is? You don’t want to treat tech as a “solution looking for a problem,” because it’s not going to solve everything.
Break down the problem into addressable processes
Part of using software solutions involves breaking down issues into more manageable, granular processes. To assess if you have a good candidate for a digital solution, consider whether things like automation or better data collection could help improve the process in question.
If you’re trying to improve traffic safety by reducing traffic accidents in a dangerous intersection, for instance, consider the ways you could get relevant data to inform changes. Data points might include speed limits, volume of traffic flow, timing of stoplights, time of day of accidents, and any other factors that contribute to intersection safety.
Good processes can exist without technology, and often do. Technology serves to increase efficiencies, improve communication, and create easier ways to understand and share actionable data — especially when there are large quantities of that data.
Establish timeline constraints
There’s no single timeline for how quickly a local government can transition to a fully digital setup, so make sure any new tech initiative isn’t constrained by your internal project timelines.
For instance, during the early COVID-19 eviction crisis, people suddenly relied heavily on government tech. They needed to find out whether they qualified for payments, where to get their payments, and a way to get relevant information to the government when needed. They also needed a way to track their applications for certain relief funds. This process was entirely digital, and the process was rolled out relatively quickly. These kinds of processes can be setup in a matter of days or weeks.
Meanwhile, say you’re dealing with an affordable housing problem, where people are getting displaced due to rising rents. Rent control and stabilization projects are complex undertakings, with a lot of moving parts and legal requirements. So while simpler projects might only take a couple weeks, building a platform for managing a large affordable housing initiative might take up to 3-6 months.
How to speed up and simplify digital transformation in your government agency
Most people understand digital transformation is needed for efficiency. What’s less understood is how you do it. Tech isn’t as expensive as it used to be, and it’s more accessible than ever, with faster paths to usable platforms, and cheaper implementation.
For instance, 3Di has built a collection of software components for the public sector, so government agencies can quickly have an effective platform, custom assembled for the services needed. From asset management, case management, and customer relationship management (CRM), everything is highly integrated. It’s all on one platform and designed for your specific use case.
With 3Di Engage, you don’t need highly trained employees to manage the system — it’s easy to use, and fully maintained on our end.
Furthermore, we understand you can’t anticipate every solution you might need. That’s why we offer ongoing training, consultation, and support, which you can even use to make requests for more custom tools on an as-needed basis. And it’s all rolled out quickly to match your needs, with no need to build anything from the ground up.
Put simply, 3Di Engage enables governments to embrace digital transformation more quickly and easily than ever before.