The job of local government is complex and varied. From parks and recreation services to police and fire departments, housing services and emergency medical services to municipal courts, transportation services and public works, local governments provide a great many essential public services across multiple business units. The potential for information silos and disparate systems and working practices is huge. Often these business units are effectively isolated from their counterparts and there is little joint planning or working. Better joint working, planning and collaboration, however, could result in cost savings, less duplication of effort and better, more efficient public services. Local government intranets are fully integrated business tools that can help to break down those organizational barriers so that citizens receive more integrated and efficiently delivered public services. In this article, we look in detail at how intranets can help local governments achieve these objectives.
Definitions: Local Government And Intranets
Before we get into the detail, let’s be clear about what we’re talking about.
Intranets: an intranet is an internal website that is only accessible to your staff. Many local governments already have a form of intranet in place although it’s primarily used as a document management system with limited functions beyond that. The world of intranets has, however, moved on from the simplistic early days. Nowadays they are sophisticated business management platforms that include a range of tools including:
- integrated knowledge management
- automated business processes
- blogs and shared workspaces
- databases and embedded apps, widgets and iframes
- online staff directories and company calendars
- news feeds and ‘follow me’ functionality.
For many companies, they are now an indispensable part of the daily working landscape.
Local Governments: The latest statistics from the United States Census Bureau suggest that there are over 89,000 local governments in the US. From county governments to townships and municipal governments, their functions may vary but will encompass a broad range of public services. The process of managing such a diverse multi-million dollar business is challenging both for the public servants and the elected officials. A town or city intranet could, however, make that task much simpler.
So now that we have a common understanding of the key terms let’s turn our attention to how city and town intranets can improve the management and delivery of local governments’ services.
The intranet will act as the central hub for managing the activities and information needs of all the business units within a county or municipal governments. The intranet can be organized on a business unit level with additional pages and information at a departmental or team level. There will also be data and information shared at a government-wide level. All of this is supported by an advanced search functionality so that users will quickly and easily be able to find the information they need by, for example, searching page or file names, subjects or text within documents and content.
The knowledge management database will, therefore, contain all the information and data that staff need to access in the course of their working day. Maybe it’s the municipal government’s constitution, the latest scheduled road maintenance program, the updated transportation budget or voter turnout at the last election, whatever the user’s information needs are, with the intranet it will be at their fingertips. Furthermore, the user can be confident that they have accessed the very latest information.
This self-service approach is very cost-effective and is a real staff time saver. It will eliminate the need for phone calls and emails with requests for information across the business units. What’s more, it will give greater transparency and the opportunity for staff to cross-check and better plan services. Moreover, access to information can be restricted using a set of permissions and rules so that potentially sensitive data remains confidential.
Automated business processes through the intranet are another way to improve management of local governments. A large number of existing paper and email-based processes are capable of being automated on the intranet by using the forms builder or an embedded app such as Google Sheets. So when it comes to ordering office stationery, staff members booking annual leave or teams reporting on monthly expenditure against budgets, all these tasks and more can be completed online through the intranet. What’s more, the intranet can also automatically route the completed form directly to the correct staff member for action.
More Opportunities For Better Planning And Collaboration
Providing integrated and efficient public services to a community is the ultimate aim for local governments. We can all cite examples where the coordination of public services locally sometimes appears to be lacking – it’s the proverbial road being dug several times in a month by different county government departments. A local government intranet can help to break down the silo mentality often apparent, fostering connections between different teams and departments. Combine this with the greater oversight achieved by senior managers and the elected officials and you have a winning combination.
One of the main barriers to greater collaboration is not knowing who to talk to. If a staff directory exists, it’s usually in paper form with just a name and a job title. One of the most popular tools on the intranet is the staff directory. With a photograph and a biography including current projects and areas of expertise, the online staff directory is a great enabler of collaboration. Staff members can also use the ‘follow me’ function to keep up to date with activities and initiatives.
Shared workspaces are another great enabler of collaboration. Cross-departmental teams can quickly be set up to tackle projects and issues that cross the boundaries of a number of business units. Pertinent data, information and insights can be shared by the project team in the workspaces through virtual meetings and discussions without labour intensive and often unproductive face-to-face meetings. In addition, documents, manuals and policies can be worked on collaboratively and are easily shared in the workspace.
And when it comes to planning those public works we referred to earlier, a local government calendar on the intranet is the perfect way to check on what’s scheduled to happen locally. So if another department already has a program of works in the pipeline for a neighborhood, it may be more cost-effective to tag on your proposed works at the same time.
Local Government Intranets: A Cost-effective Solution
Resources and funding are always under pressure in local governments. There is only a finite amount of resources available and there will be a great deal of pressure from the elected members to get as much as possible out of the budget. A city intranet is a very cost-effective solution. Some cloud intranet providers like MyHub offer unlimited numbers of users and data storage for a modest set monthly fee. There are no unexpected or hidden costs. What’s more, ongoing maintenance, as well as responsibility for the intranet’s security, remains with the provider and so that potential headache as well as the extra expense, is all taken care of.
Explore The Possibilities
Many local governments have already realized the countless advantages a town or city intranet has to offer. Do you want to provide better local public services more efficiently and effectively? Then contact MyHub today for a free demonstration of our intranet software.