It's a phrase that's used a lot, and it seems it has a number of different meanings: digital transformation. People use it to describe the process of digitally transforming their business — mostly through the digitalisation of processes. As most businesses have many processes, this can result in a lot of change, and priorities are a significant consideration in any digital transformation discussion.

The processes that should be prioritised in any digital transformation journey will depend on the business, but, essentially, they are the ones that impact the business the most.

Local government is an example of an industry that spans a significant number of processes. These processes could broadly be categorised as informational, employee, and community.

Most councils have moved a fair way down the informational path. They have websites that provide significant information, and, although many would want to produce more information in a timely manner, they have the mechanisms to do so. Many could modernise websites to use more multimedia capabilities, or create responsive design solutions for any device, but, generally, they do provide good information.

At this stage, however, the transition of employee processes hasn't had significant adoption. Most councils could be sending staff to locations using devices, and there is some digitisation of these processes, but there are many others, such as time sheeting, work orders, and inspections, that could be transformed. This would add significant value through improved council efficiency and lead to more job satisfaction for staff.

The ability for councils to engage with the community is the area that needs to be prioritised. Most commonly, the ability to pay rates is the process that's enabled, and most councils don’t digitalise much more than that. There is so much more that could be enabled, such as raising requests, lodging applications, registering animals, booking inspections, and other compliance events. In a world where in-person contact is discouraged due to COVID-19 concerns, it seems sensible.

Another way digitalisation helps councils is through the reduction of duplicated processes. This leads to a more efficient council that is engaging in the way a lot of the community now wants to interact with the council.

Councils need to work through a transformation programme that covers all these elements over time. Doing all these elements at the same time would be too much for almost any council. The biggest wins would be prioritising the community first. Councils will build a stronger relationship with the community, which would ensure councillors get good feedback. The employee processes could then be digitised. Digital transformation is a journey. Let's make sure the most important steps are at the beginning.

Mark Matijevic is head of sales, projects, and alliances for Datacom's local government team. Mark has been involved with over 200 councils whilst being involved with local government for 20 years, most of which has been transforming the way councils work.

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