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Software’s Profoundly Positive Impact on Local Governments (proprietary research)

Power Almanac teamed up with CivicPulse to survey 1,199 senior local government officials to identify critical trends regarding software in local government.

One finding stood out: new software is having a profoundly positive impact on local governments.

Other key findings:

  • 18 times as many officials rate the impact as positive than negative
  • Department heads perceive the impact of software differently than heads of IT or top appointed executives (city managers)
  • Citizen communications and law enforcement software markets are on fire
  • Local government inertia exists, but the myth of inertia is much greater than the reality of action.

These findings have significant implications for marketing strategies and tactics.  Savvy local government marketers – please read on.

Profoundly Positive Impact of Software

75% of officials surveyed reported that new software positively impacted their reliability, productivity or user experience vs. 4% reporting a negative result (21% were neutral), as summarized in the first chart below.  Strongly favorable results were reported in each of eight departments surveyed, per the second chart.

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The highest satisfaction was found among heads of communications regarding software for citizen communications and engagement.

Heads of communications raved about their new software:

“Software improvements have allowed us to communicate with our residents a lot better.”

“Citizen engagement tools have become very flexible in the last several years.”

Buildings (permitting & compliance) and law enforcement chiefs also reported outstanding results:

“I have been using software for building permitting and code enforcement for the past seven years. It is very efficient and has streamlined our process.” (Head of Buildings)

“Records management software has improved our policy accountability tremendously. “ (Head of Law Enforcement)

Results were not quite as strong across public works and purchasing departments.  

While most public works officials were satisfied, some had concerns:

“It was difficult to find software that our staff was happy with and that adequately covered multiple departments.”

“Few representatives actually understand public works, or municipal government for that matter. They have no real understanding of our needs. Too many times the software does not actually resolve our problems.”

Complaints from heads of purchasing centered around training and implementation:

“Many times, software is purchased but only one or two people utilize the program. Other times, employees forget how to use the programs.”

“The software doesn’t integrate with existing systems.”

Action implications for local government marketers:

  • Demonstrate your company’s understanding of the unique requirements of local governments. Don’t lump local governments in with other government agencies (state, federal, education) or your private sector customers.
  • Emphasize training, integration and implementation support (and make sure your company is able to deliver on that promise)

Multiple Roles and Their Varying Perceptions of Software

We know from our many govtech subscribers that local governments involve multiple senior officials in software decisions and assessments. A critical finding from our most recent research is that the perceived impact of software is likely to vary by an official’s role.

In general, department heads (who represent the primary users) are more likely to rate the impact of software positively (at 74%) than heads of IT (70%), and considerably more so than the top appointed executives (e.g. city managers) (59%).

The chart below shows the percentage of officials rating the impact as positive for each type of software, with department heads in blue, IT chiefs in dark gray, and top appointed executives in light gray.

Action implications for local government marketers:

  • Target multiple decision-making roles, including (at least) department heads, IT and top elected and top appointed executives.
  • For more complex software products, consider including heads of purchasing, finance heads, and governing board members to your marketing audience.
  • Suppliers who limit efforts to city managers or IT chiefs may be missing their biggest potential advocates – the end users.
  • Identify the primary concerns of each audience, and tailor messages accordingly

The Public Safety and Citizen Engagement GovTech Markets are on Fire

The research also uncovered the types of software that local governments are most likely to have purchased in the last three years.

Three types of software stood out:

  • Law enforcement – purchased by 92% of local governments in the past 3 years
  • Citizen communications and engagement – 86%
  • Fire protection – 83%

Three-year adoption rates for all eight departments surveyed are summarized in the chart below.

Action implications for local government marketers:

  • If your software can legitimately help a local government improve citizen engagement, citizen safety, or communications with citizens, then emphasize those benefits.
  • If your software doesn’t deliver those benefits, that’s fine. As you can see in the chart above, software related to financial administration had the lowest adoption rate, but it was still greater than 50%. And 50% translates to more than 10,000 local governments!  Given today’s tougher economic environment, emphasize the ROI likely from your software and the ease/speed of implementation. And make sure your company can deliver on those promises!

You Won’t Win Them All

Some of the comments from surveyed officials illuminate what you’ve likely experienced from time to time . . . frustrating intertia. 

“The software that we use has been in place since 2000 and continues to serve us well.”  (Head of Finance)

“Nearly all financial software for governments is prohibitively expensive. We have used the same software for 15+ years due to cost restrictions.” (Head of Finance)

“I am the building inspector for a small jurisdiction. We track permits with an Excel sheet and do have a fillable permit online. Other than that, there has not been the need for any software application.” (Head of Buildings)

“We don’t use software. We file everything with folders.” (Head of Buildings)

• “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” (Believe it or not…. Head of IT)

Action implications for local government marketers:

  • Notwithstanding the oft-recited myth that all governments think and behave this way, our data shows that this is absolutely NOT the case.
  • But there are some. We suggest not fighting these battles, and instead concentrating your efforts on the vast majority of local government officials who understands that buying and implementing new software is critical to achieving their mission.
  • Identify the segments of the local government market that display signs of inertia related to your software solutions, and invest less in marketing to those segments. But don’t make assumptions about the composition of those segments.
  • Test, test, test.

Subscribe & Follow

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be publishing more insights from this first-of-its-kind proprietary research, including:

  • Software priorities by department
  • Local government obstacles to purchasing new software
  • How local government officials learn about new software (one is a MUST know)
  • Critical action implications for software vendors based on all of the above.

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To learn more about our research partner CivicPulse or the survey methodology and sample, check out our software research appendix.

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