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New Technology in Local Government

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Once, email sparked a workplace revolution. The office was a din of ringing telephones and “just one sec” interruptions, quickly replaced by quiet delivery. Any relief, however, was temporary. Decades later, many local government administrators face a barrage of unopened emails each day; the most-cited average is 121 messages. Email has its place, but for local government teams, it can serve unintended roles, from archive to news service. Today, city clerks and other staff may spend irretrievable work hours searching for old messages or attachments simply to perform their jobs.

There are solutions to email-related inefficiency, but when it is time to evaluate new government management tools, city clerks can encounter resistance. Finding time for conducting assessments, managing approvals, and coordinating training is challenging. Doing the work often takes priority over implementing improvements—a hard habit to break.

A few steps can overcome team resistance and transform government management from cobbled-together tasks to more efficient solutions.

Listen to Key Stakeholders

Modern governance tools such as portals have benefits for every type of stakeholder a city clerk can identify. Helping stakeholders understand the value begins by listening to and quantifying their experiences. Whether in focus groups, one-on-one interviews, surveys, or other methods, building empathy is key.

For civic leaders such as the mayor, council, and board or commission members, modern tools and strategies for managing local government work create efficiencies and reassure local government representatives that they have complete, accurate, and timely information to inform decisions.

For members of the public, fast, accurate information and accountability from their leaders are paramount.

Local government teams have limited hours in the day to prepare meeting agendas, respond to public information requests, handle leadership vacancies, and produce all the other work required to support and engage with the community. When selecting representative staff members, consider inviting individuals at all levels of your organization. Staff at the entry levels of an organizational chart are often the ones with the most hands-on experience.

Questions staff can ask:

  • What are two or three tasks you spend the most time on? How much time do you spend on each?
  • Where are errors most likely to happen?
  • If you had additional time, where would you direct it?

Catalog Inefficiencies and Quantify Potential Savings

An experienced city clerk or administrator already can name the areas ripe for improvement: redundant tasks, human error, bottlenecks, and more.

Still, understanding exactly where these issues arise and how much they affect the team’s ability to meet objectives will be useful when selecting a new solution. Taking stakeholder responses and turning them into data is a worthy use of resources to measure success and inform later decisions. When implementing new tools, recorded data can inform decision making such as how to prioritize features, where to devote training hours, and more.

Additionally, being able to quantify cost savings allows for increased accountability and transparency when keeping citizens informed.

Circle Back with Stakeholders Frequently

When days get busy, keeping stakeholders informed throughout the process can be the first thing to drop off the to-do list. But for administrators and others who may not be part of the active project team, memories can be short and quickly filled with their own projects and priorities.

A few strategies can help keep the transition and its purpose at the forefront of stakeholders’ minds:

  • Create a discrete communications plan that piggybacks on existing vehicles, and then stick to it. A weekly or monthly newsletter article featuring an expected improvement as well as the project status is critical, but so are less-frequent presentations, videos, or other appropriate channels.
  • Email is not foolproof; internal government emails have about a 70% open rate. So balance out email communications by offering a single point of contact (individual, form or similar) for questions or concerns to ensure correct information is being shared within groups.
  • Visit with stakeholder representatives throughout the selection and implementation process. Cite their input and tie it back to anticipated improvements that will alleviate their specific challenges.
  • Share the enthusiasm. Positive attitudes and genuine anticipation will influence every step of the project.

Starting the transformation process can be intimidating. To make it easier, city leaders can work with a partner such as Diligent, whose iCompass is designed for the needs of local government stakeholders. While email has its place, it creates inefficiencies and worse. Ensuring tools are up to date has payoffs for every stakeholder group.


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