Municipal Boards: Best Practices for Adopting Technology

Lena Eisenstein
The public has long relied on mailings and newsletters to learn about all the happenings with their local governments. In many situations, technological solutions can save municipalities on manual processes, such as costs for mailing supplies and postage. Technology is simpler than it used to be. Most citizens are starting to get better acquainted with how to use technology to obtain information in which they're interested. As their knowledge of mobile devices and smartphone apps has increased, citizens are beginning to expect to be able to use technological innovations to help manage most aspects of their lives, including how they receive information from their municipal governments.

To get the best all-around results for adopting technology, municipalities will need collaboration between people and processes, as well as a strong commitment by community leaders. The keys to successfully adopting technology for local municipalities require having a willingness to change and adapt and to be open to the value that technology offers.

Setting up a community technology resource board can be a useful step in gaining internal and community support.

Set Up a Community Technology Resource Board

One way to get collaboration about the best ways to implement technology is to set up a new board that has knowledge and expertise in information technology. The board's responsibility would be to explore what's available and how municipalities can make use of new technologies responsibly and safely. This board could consist of members of the municipality, at least one elected official and members of the community.

In setting up this group, the municipal government should make their role description and goals clear. A community technology resource board might have a list of duties and responsibilities, such as the following:
  • Make recommendations to the council about information and communications technology
  • Accept suggestions from elected officials or the public about using new technology
  • Research ways that technology can provide efficiency or save money
  • Encourage public access to government info through use of technology
  • Research how to improve communications through use of technology
  • Research and provide options about electronic civic engagement and e-government services
  • Set up committees for specific projects
  • Champion projects and positions
  • Gather public input
  • Learn more about technology suppliers

Setting SMART Goals

SMART goals are used in many different types of industries to help set responsible goals. Municipalities should encourage the newly formed community technology resource board to use SMART in setting their goals:

S is for Specific

M is for Measurable

A is for Attainable

R is for Realistic

T is for Time-based

SMART goals will lead the board to find and recommend responsible technological solutions that work for the mutual benefit of the municipality and the community it serves.

Importance of Management Support

Getting others onboard with adopting technology begins with the highest leadership positions. Top-level leaders who introduce and promote the many ways that technology can improve and streamline operations while helping employees do their jobs set the stage for successful adoption and implementation. Find an organizational champion who's willing to take ownership for assessing risks, resolving potential problems and taking ownership of how the municipality communicates new technologies throughout the various departments. The champion will need the authority to make decisions, so they can be accountable for the success or failure of projects.

Getting Off to a Great Start With Launching New Programs

Key management stakeholders need to stay on top of new programs after the initial launch. It's best to involve administrators or managers who have cross-organizational responsibilities and ask them to be the primary people assisting with rolling out new technology solutions.

Before implementing new technology of any kind, administrators need to understand how the changes will affect each and every person involved. Before changes take place, there needs to be an identified individual who will help other employees understand the benefit of the changes to them and to the municipality. Leaders should clearly discuss the upcoming changes and begin to prepare employees for any new responsibilities that come with using the new technology.

Excellent Training Paves the Way for Successfully Adopting Technology

A Forbes article entitled 'Driving User Adoption: Making Sure Your Employees Are Engaged Users' notes that poor training leads to underutilizing or slowing down operations.

According to a KNOA survey, 91.6% of enterprise software errors were related to the user, the design or the process, as compared with 8.4% for system-related errors. Bear in mind that employees have constant workflow interruptions while they're attempting to learn new technologies. The Forbes article explains that the average worker switches tasks about every three minutes, which may take 40'60% of their workweek.

Best practices for adopting technology include tailoring training opportunities to the employees' different learning styles, as well as generational learning gaps related to technology. Most employees respond well to blended training that incorporates some degree of online and in-person training.

Monitoring Programs Ensures Continual Success

Even the best programs benefit from continuous monitoring. The person accountable for adopting technology should measure the success of the program against the SMART goals they set before they implemented the new program or programs. Practice close monitoring, especially within the first few months, and assess whether initiatives live up to their expectations. Be realistic in assessing what the programs can and can't do.

When problems arise, try to find the origin of the problem ' it may not be the issue that everyone expects. Work with the technology provider to solve any problems and request assistance to get the program working at maximum capability. At a minimum, request a quarterly business review with the provider to assess progress in relation to goals. Take full advantage of ongoing training or support.

Choosing a Tech Provider With Expertise in Municipal Government

Municipal governments need look no further than Community by Diligent, the next generation agenda and meeting management solution for local governments of any size. Supported by Community by Diligent, municipalities can gain the assurance that they'll be following best practices for adopting technology. Clients can expect top-notch training and customer support to gain the best in efficiency and cost-savings. It's the leading source for local government electronic solutions.
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Lena Eisenstein
Lena Eisenstein is a former Manager at Diligent. Her expertise in mission-driven organizations, including nonprofits, school boards and local governments, centers on how technology and modern governance best practices empower leaders at these organizations to serve their communities with efficiency and purpose.