Why the time is right for local authorities to embrace low-code solutions.
Arguably, Australian local authorities have faced more extreme challenges in the last couple of years than in their long history. They are now facing “social and economic challenges unseen in peace-time Australia,” according to ALGA President Linda Scott. Hot on the heels of the pandemic came flooding for many in the east, and bushfires in the west. The local government has and is responding flexibly and with innovation. Communities have shown that they are, well, communities; councils have supported local businesses in their pivot to new ways of working, and millions have been poured into capital works and other local employment-generating programs.
At the same time, many local authorities – both regional and metro – are faced with funding challenges. The city of Sydney lost $75 million in six months over Covid, while others “are teetering on the edge of a fiscal cliff”  and more than half of all councils have large or very large staff shortages. Concurrently, they are also trying to deliver exceptional customer experience to their ratepayers, partners and other stakeholders.
What does this have to do with low code? As technology solutions have been brought into play to help with many issues faced by local authorities, they have also had challenges of their own. Legacy systems have proliferated, leading to data silos. ‘Home-grown’ systems from spreadsheets to ad-hoc solutions have emerged in different departments. Processes remain stubbornly manual, or inefficient and poorly ‘automated’. Platforms purchased years ago cost more to maintain than the value they deliver.
Low-code platforms (such as Appian, of which Procensol is a partner), solve many of these issues. A solution such as Appian offers a single, comprehensive platform that allows local authorities to cost-effectively build workflows and processes to meet their specific requirements without being tied to practices dictated by out-of-the-box software. It also enables councils to remove data silos, making data usable – and useful – across multiple sources, without it needing to be moved from its current location. And for organisations looking to move to the cloud, or that already have cloud strategies, it works on-premise, in the cloud or hybrid environments.
In terms of applications, numerous capabilities demanded by local authorities have already been developed on low-code platforms. Examples include dynamic case management, grants management, acquisition management, onboarding, document management, and correspondence and communication management. In each case, applications can be tailored to a specific council’s needs and processes.
Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) is an independent statutory body established to reduce the incidence of major crime and public sector corruption in Queensland, and to provide the state’s witness protection service. The CCC investigates both crime and corruption, has oversight of police and the public sector and protects witnesses. The CCC is run by a small, dedicated staff of approximately 50 people and is the only integrity agency in Australia with this range of functions.
This might all sound complicated, expensive, and frankly, daunting. But this is the inherent beauty of low-code platforms: you can (indeed, we encourage you to) start small in terms of investment and project size. No existing applications or systems need to be harmed in the making of a low-code project, so a council can ‘dip a tie in the water’ to prove ROI and efficiency, and they can do it at minimal expense. And did I mention that backend process design and management and front-end
user interface capabilities are tightly integrated, meaning that any progress made behind the scenes can be reflected in an improved experience for citizens and partners.
So low-code can automate currently manual processes and other efficiency measures; and enable the sharing of data across disparate sources for improved decision-making. But on top of this, it improves ratepayer engagement through functionality such as digital self-service and personalised interactions—all for an investment that surprises many CIOs when I discuss it with them.
As Justin Hanney, CEO of City of Melbourne puts it, “Embracing the opportunities for long-lasting productivity improvements through new ways of working via digital transformation has been a continued focus for our leadership.”  Many other councils are also embracing these opportunities, and are turning to low-code platforms to do so.
 Quoted in Davidson, ‘Australian Local Government CEO Index 2021’