Councils have long been seeking a 360 degree view of the community – that is, the ability to see all the interactions of the community within the council. This includes rates information, applications, consents, permits, animal ownership, infringements, payments, requests for service, long term plan submissions, library borrowings and so on. If you are closer to your community, you can provide better, more relevant services and tailor those services to the community. But the challenge is how to get there.
Other industries, such as banking, have done a great job at building a complete view of their customers. When we call our bank we now simply expect that they will know every part of our interactions with them.
Councils have always struggled to provide the complete view. The desire is there, and the benefits of being closer to the community are well understood, but the practical reality is yet to be realised.
Is it the tools?
Councils could use the same tools as commercial organisations, except for a fundamental difference. Commercial organisations use information to sell to customers, while councils are in place to serve the community. The community are the stakeholders in the organisation and if they don’t like the services they get, or their relationship with the council, they will vote them out. Customers of commercial organisations can simply stop buying if they are unsatisfied with a product or service, but they are generally less influential on how a commercial organisation operates.
A more complex environment
Council interactions are also multi-dimensional, these can be through a variety of sources, such as phone, app, website, or in person. They also have many different transaction types, some can be as simple as an online payment, while others could be more consultant-based, such as regulatory applications and consents that have significant events and need to be worked through with the community.
Individuals have multiple roles in the community
Members of the community can fulfil multiple roles, such as landowner, creditor, debtor, staff member, company manager, school teacher, tenant, user of council services, etc. Councils really need to see how individuals interact with council through all their roles, not just one. Much of this information is currently not collected by councils, so they only see some of the interactions the community has with them.
How to get to the 360 degree view?
Councils need to get closer to their community. They need to provide the ability for the community to interact with them in any way possible and to track all their information in a manner that is transparent, open, and convenient.
To start with, councils need a single name and address register that can track all interactions. The catch is that this cannot be in one tool, but in many, with information aggregating to a central repository.
This is now possible with the openness of native cloud allowing the collation of information from numerous sources, and providing the ability to interact through web, apps, phone, and in person. This was not the case in solutions designed in the past, as they were not open. The underlying premise is that the solution needs to be designed with the complexity of councils in mind, then this solution will drill into the multitude of interactions individuals have with councils. Compare this to solutions designed for commercial interactions which are based solely on sales, pipelines, and billing.
In the past, the 360 degree view of the community was a dream, but I believe it is now something that can be achieved, as the technology is now available to produce the outcome required. This is something that the community wants, so let’s give it to them. It is now time to take the 360 degree view of the community out of the too-hard basket and work to the realisation of an achievable reality.