They are the custodians of hundreds of billions of dollars of infrastructure assets, and they deliver hundreds of real services for every person in the country — whilst managing roads, drainage, community buildings, parks, footpaths, gutters and more.
However, this objective is often hamstrung by ageing infrastructure and outdated technology.
Elected members must understand the impact transformative technology has on operations. As current systems reach end-of-life, new systems must allow councils to focus on customer-centric models, reflecting contemporary life.
Peter Suchting, Group Director of Local Government at TechnologyOne — Australia’s leading enterprise SaaS provider, long-recognised for its expertise in local government — says consumer expectations of councils are influenced by their interactions with commercial organisations like retailers or banks: the service needs to be easy, efficient, online and available from any mobile device.
However, council managers often find it challenging convincing elected members that technology investment is vital to long-term efficiency and sustainability.
“It may not be as well understood as it is in the boardrooms of listed companies,” he says.
“Councils don’t operate in competitive environments or react to the same drivers other commercial service providers do. The technology they invest in is not always the most effective. It is often directed at keeping the lights on, rather than more strategic initiatives that improve business outcomes.”
Councils are often constrained by rate-capping in a number of states, meaning they cannot easily increase revenues without going through complex approval processes. Plus, they have huge infrastructure backlogs of upgrades and renewal to keep current infrastructure safe and at risk-free levels of service while planning for long-term growth.
This is further exacerbated for councils in booming outer metropolitan areas of Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne that are challenged to keep pace with the sprawl caused by housing and industrial growth.