Macro trends driving

digital transformation in

Local Government

Councils are going through times of unprecedented pressure and change.

There are internal pressures on revenue and on expenditure, but there are also a range of external pressures and macro trends such as urbanisation, sustainability, an ageing population, digital disruption and ever-changing community expectations that councils must be prepared for.

Councils must manage a raft of systems to deliver the myriad of services they offer. Corporate services will have a finance system and a HR system. The planning and environment team might have a land information system and a building planning system. The infrastructure team will need an asset management system. Then there are all the systems required to offer council services to the public.

Councils have hundreds of millions and in many cases billions of dollars' worth of assets that they're responsible for. They employ a large and diverse workforce, with hundreds, possibly thousands, of employees. And at the end of the day, councils are running a business. They have to be financially prudent, and they have to deliver results within the remit of their budgets and financial obligations.

In order to meet their obligations, councils must take a step back and look at their overall operating model. They must rethink how they are doing things today and anticipate the future challenges and needs of their community. Let’s take a closer look some of the major external challenges and macro trends that councils throughout Australia and New Zealand must take into consideration.

Increasing urbanisation

Many of us live in large metro areas that continue to sprawl outwards and continue to increase in population density. That puts a whole range of pressures on inner city area’s infrastructure as they continue to infill. Does your council have the right drainage, the right roads, and the right parking to serve that type of high-density community?

The ever-growing suburban sprawl brings its own pressures and questions. New infrastructure, new roads and new developments come with a host of new demands and planning needs. What sort of recreation services will be available? What sort of social services are required? Councils need to be able to address these questions and find new ways to meet the demands of their growing communities.

Understanding some of the impacts of external forces and changes with the way people choose to work will influence these decisions. COVID-19 has sparked a digital transformation for many businesses and offered flexibility to employees. What impact will this have public transport requirements? How will the mass shift to remote working affect the demographics of their community? Do employees even want to reside in the inner-city areas anymore? Do they prefer to drive? Do they prefer to telecommute?

The growing importance of sustainability

Sustainability, both from a long-term financial and environmental perspective, are growing considerations for councils.

Many councils already have a large infrastructure backlog and can't fund all their current renewal programs. They've got declining revenues or revenues under pressure. Much of our current infrastructure was built in the boom following World War II era, and much of it is now approaching the end of its service life. This presents a big funding shortfall that's challenging many councils, especially those in regional and rural areas. That impact is being viewed through the political lens, leading to pressures on economic performance and forced amalgamations of councils.

The impacts of climate change and extreme weather events has communities demanding that councils take concrete steps towards sustainability, to both prepare for future events and decrease environmental impact through sustainable building practices.

An ageing population

We're all living longer, with many of us staying healthy and active well into our senior years. We're seeing more and more seniors moving to new areas or places where they didn’t always live. This shift places pressures on a range of council services. There is a steadily growing demand for more aged-care services, with higher expectations of care. Many inner-city areas are seeing high concentrations of seniors and the infrastructure there doesn't always suit their needs. Councils need to consider a range of new questions about accessibility and senior support, such as “are our footpaths suitable for mobility scooters?”

Disruptive technology and community expectations

Technology continues to advance at an ever-increasing pace, and with these disruptions, come different community expectations. Smart devices have proliferated and become a key part of daily life; not just phones and tablets, but smart meters, smart poles, smart lights, smart bins, and all the types of sensors that go with them.

The growth of the Internet of Things and smart devices connected through low bandwidth, low powered networks, provide a fire hose of information to councils. Councils want to be able to use that data to create efficiencies and offer better services to their communities. While all this data can provide plenty of information and insights, assessing that data and deriving useful insights from it requires advanced tools like data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Councils also must consider the implementation of new hardware and the software that enables them to make use of all that data. Making use of that data can help them upgrade any number of services, like voice assistance technology that answers community enquiries or remote-controlled drones that help maintenance teams identify malfunctioning streetlights or improving security surveillance.

Much of the demand for these kinds of changes are driven by changing community attitudes. Communities now expect self-service options, quick responses, and digital services that are modern, efficient and effective.

Customer service expectations are higher than they’ve ever been. We now live in an on-demand society, and communities expect council services to be always-on and available on demand. They want to access council services whenever and wherever they need them, not to have to queue up at 9:00 in the morning at the customer service desk.

The impact of COVID-19

It is a challenging time, and the future is uncertain. The pressures on efficiency and digital transformation within local government have never been greater. COVID-19 only accelerated the need for the change.

Councils across Australia and New Zealand sprang into action when stay at home orders were put in place. Some councils already had IT infrastructure and SaaS ERP solutions that supported working remotely, but many had to rush into underdeveloped measures that just complicated things for their employees and left them vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Councils need to be flexible and agile. Decisions on technology reforms need to be made and implemented sooner rather than later to support the changing expectations and needs of their employees. Digital transformation is no longer an option; it’s a necessity if councils are to survive and thrive in a digital world.


If there's one thing we do know for certain, it’s that councils are going to continue to face unprecedented pressure and challenges. Councils can't keep doing things the way they have in the past. The world has moved on. Systems, technology and community expectations all require councils to be reviewing what they're doing and proactively planning out their business transformation.

Transforming the front customer-facing end will not be enough. Councils need a whole-of-organisation approach to digital transformation. That means reimagining front-of-office as well as back-office processes and integrating them into a seamless digital workflow.

The most effective way to address these expectations is with carefully considered investments in technology. Many councils don’t necessarily underinvest in IT; they just invest in low-value IT. Progressive councils have realised that the old models of IT and customer service are no longer sustainable. That’s why so many of them have embarked on their journey to digital transformation.

This is the time to ask how your council can move on from legacy IT systems. What must be done to move to a modern, integrated, ERP platform? And how can you deliver Software as a Service on any device, on any network, at any time? These are great questions, and this is where a digital transformation partner can help.

Related articles

City of Launceston case study
Whangarei District Council case study

Publish date

09 Apr 2021

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