Digital transformation

The agile approach to local government digital transformation

Jul 17, 2018

As local governments across Australia acknowledge the need for data transparency to enable smart city digital transformation, technology is adapting to allow incremental implementation that facilitates big-picture smart city goals.

The days when local governments and associated agencies acted independently as standalone data silos are thankfully over and organisations are now more connected, transparent and open when it comes to data.

Inter-agency collaboration driven by digital technologies is creating the scenario where citizens are contributors and collaborators, rather than just passive users of data.

I attended the Public Sector Network Local Government Transformation Series event in May, which shone the spotlight on “increasing efficiency and citizen satisfaction through ICT and digital transformation.”

What impressed me most about the event was the evidence that transformation is occurring in the attitudes of local government leaders who are aware of the need to start making small changes now to achieve long-term goals. The big-picture, ‘slash and burn’ or ‘replace and overhaul’ approach is seen as less viable and is less likely to win stakeholder buy-in over a flexible platform that allows for an agile, responsive approach.

Headlining the Local Government Transformation Series event, Toni Jones from KPMG asked the question: “What does digital transformation mean for your council?” Toni talked about the building blocks for high-performance, customer-centric councils and the need for a holistic, structured approach to digital transformation.

The challenge for local councils is to constantly innovate and evolve while remaining efficient and relevant.


One of the issues holding local governments back is the preconception that the technology to drive digital transformation is going to be too expensive, difficult to implement or inflexible. The technology has advanced more quickly than those attitudes.

The latest location-based technology platforms enable incremental implementation, allowing for a staggered adoption that ensures small steps can be achieved on the path to large-scale digital transformation.

The Local Government Access Program was developed as a cost-effective, off-the-shelf package that makes it easier for users to access the capabilities of Esri’s comprehensive, industry-leading technology.

Also presenting at the event, Glynn Henderson, Chief Information Office at Brisbane’s Redland City Council (RCC) shared his story of digital transformation in action. There had been a spatial capability in use by RCC for more than 20 years; it was embedded in many core business processes, from asset management, water supply and sewerage services to development assessment and had become essential in supporting business operations.

While Glynn’s team used a waterfall method to implement the platform, they also applied an agile approach, which brought the benefits of quick proof-of-concept and fail fast testing to reduce delays.

Rather than sticking to a set of predefined project outputs, this blend of waterfall and agile approaches allowed the strength of the platform to respond to the business.

This helped obtain substantial buy-in from stakeholders across the entire organisation – rather than the usual core set of users such as asset managers and planners – to easily leverage the technology.

The project realised a number of key benefits, including:

  • Rapid prototyping and iterative deployment of products
  • Flexibility and scalability using the ArcGIS Online SaaS platform
  • A flexible security framework in the on-premise portal
  • Consistent, contemporary product styling
  • No-code app deployment for most common uses
  • Mobility and broad device support

Examples like this help correct those misconceptions around cost, flexibility and adaptability. Glynn’s recommendation is to give it a go, test the platform, try the technology – you don’t have to jump in boots and all – it’s workable in incremental steps.

Councils that haven’t already begun taking the first steps to digital transformation will be left behind as constituents demand open data policies that share information and ensure transparency.

Ultimately, it’s about starting small to get quick, quantifiable returns on your technology investment.


As the basis for the Local Government Access Program, the ArcGIS platform is robust and has a comprehensive future roadmap.

Emerging capabilities will allow local councils to implement smart city initiatives today that respond to the needs of the community while meeting the criteria of the long-term business vision.

To find out more about how the Local Government Access Program can help your organisation, contact local government ArcGIS specialist on 1800 870 750 or send us an email.

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