Digital transformation

Steve White, Head of Business Development for Local Government, Yotta, looks at how digitalisation can transform local authorities’ environmental service delivery.

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the process of digital transformation across local authorities. When it comes to waste and recycling collections, authorities are focused on driving through digitalisation to improve the services they deliver to the public.

That’s an especially urgent concern today. Largely because of the ‘Amazon Effect’, people have a much greater expectation about responsiveness to their service requests and, coupled with that, about being provided with updates and associated information around the status of their query, and being able to interact easily with it, for example to report a missed bin or a fly-tipping incident in their local area.

Getting external communications right

With more people working from home or in a hybrid work model, the quality of service delivered by the council in these areas is increasingly visible. It is therefore unsurprising that a primary goal of councils’ push to digitalisation in waste and recycling is around their external communications.

Ultimately, that is about improving the end service they provide the public. To do that, the authorities want to make it as easy as possible for the public to interact with them, at any time, from anywhere, using any device.

However, they also need to ensure they are delivering an efficient service and keeping the public up to date with the status of service deliveries through websites, portals, mobile apps and social media.

This multi-channel citizen engagement delivers enhanced transparency. Citizens can see the issue they reported, for example, a missed bin collection, or a new collection being arranged, and the issue being resolved in real time.]

Having that live information is key in keeping residents happy and reducing pressure on councils at the same time. 

Such an approach should also support good communication between asset management technology and local authority websites through APIs and other connectors and adapters.

The connectivity means that councils no longer have to update both their database and website manually. If they have a date in place for a piece of work the customer may be interested in, they can just change the status in the asset management system. Customers can access updates simply by visiting the website.

That integration and live data getting through to the customer reduces impact on telephone calls to contact centres and communications officers having to manually update the website every day.

Having that live information is key in keeping residents happy and reducing pressure on councils at the same time. 

Collecting the right kinds of data

Digital Cloud Computing, Cyber Security, Digital Data Network Protection, Future Technology Digital Data Network Connection Background Concept.

Local authorities making good use of the data that they have at their disposal is of course, a key element in delivering on this enhanced transparency and improved communication. However, the danger for local authorities is that they may well end up drowning in data.

There’s no point just collecting data for data’s sake. Councils need to be quite clear on exactly what data they need to collect to achieve tangible improvements in service delivery. That public-focused, outward-facing connectivity is therefore key. 

At the same time, local authorities are aware that if they digitalise their internal workflows and processes and make them more efficient, that will ultimately make it quicker and easier to action their services.

A key element of this focuses on improved resource management. Technology is now available that allows local authorities to take a forensic, data-driven look at the demands across all the services they provide and to optimise what they have at their disposal.

Collating all insight and intelligence into one place makes it possible to analyse usage and uncover patterns. This provides authorities with the full picture required to boost efficiencies and extract every drop of value from the existing team and resources.

Councils need to transform both their public facing systems and their internal processes and technology. The two are inextricably linked…

Another key element is for authorities to adjust to new modes of operation. Councils that are digitally advanced, have adapted seamlessly to the new pandemic world of remote and hybrid working.

Supervisors that have the technology to work securely from home are able to continue scheduling waste collections, while using collaborative technologies to continue communicating with operational teams working out in the field, and making schedule changes if there are staff shortages or ad hoc delivery requests.

Operatives can be assigned their daily schedules and deliver their work without any need to visit the office to pick up paper-based plans, or deliver completed reports.

Further, time-consuming rekeying of data from one form and system into another, pushing paper around or undertaking unnecessary travel is all but eliminated, reducing the opportunity for errors and ensuring that the precious time of staff and operatives is reassigned to more value-driving activities. 

As we look to the future of environmental services at a council level, digitalisation is an increasingly urgent imperative both to drive operational efficiencies and deliver optimum service levels.

Councils need to transform both their public facing systems and their internal processes and technology. The two are inextricably linked, but if councils successfully digitalise both, they will succeed in keeping costs down while raising public satisfaction with their services to new heights.

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