The COVID-19 pandemic has forced most state and local governments (SLGs) to undergo rapid modernization. For many, modernization has meant adopting a new suite of software services to meet citizen needs as the government shifted to remote work and digital service delivery.

A new report from CivicPulse finds that SLG public safety departments are leading the charge in software acquisition and adoption.

The report conducted a national random-sample survey of 823 government leaders between September and October of 2021. The sample is drawn from 13 key leadership positions and is representative of all county, municipality, and township governments serving populations of 1,000 or more.

The survey data shows that some departments are adopting new software far faster than others. More than 50 percent of fire protection and law enforcement departments adopted a new specialized software product or service in the last three years. In contrast, only 25-30 percent of purchasing, finance, and zoning departments adopted new software over that period.

“Our online utility billing platform really helped us during the pandemic. It offered a new payment method that really made a difference,” a city manager in the Midwest said in response to the survey.

For departments that have adopted new software, the experience has been an overall positive one. In 11 of 12 departments that have adopted new software, local officials reported a net positive experience with new software adoption. Overall, 68 percent of department heads reported that the adoption of new specialized software has had positive effects.

However, as some governments are bringing workers back into the office and returning to delivering services in-person, software adoption is not quite the priority it was in 2020.  CivicPulse found that the prioritization of specialized software declined in 2021 compared with 2020. In CivicPulse’s 2020 survey, 32 percent of department heads said new software adoption was a high priority. By comparison, in this year’s survey, only 21 percent of department heads view adopting new software as a high priority.

In terms of obstacles to acquiring and adoption new software, the top challenges have stayed consistent – finances and implementation concerns. These two barriers were ranked first and second regardless of the size or type of government.

Tapping into concerns with the workforce’s ability to implement new software, a head of finance for a local government in the Northeast said, “Even if you arrive upon the best solution, the makeup of the workforce does not ensure they are capable of using it effectively or at all.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs