The many strategic priorities of local governments: MNP Digital Municipal Research Report

November 28, 2023

The many strategic priorities of local governments: MNP Digital Municipal Research Report

November 28, 2023

What strategic priorities are local governments focusing on during digital transformation? Explore the results of the MNP Digital Municipal Research Report.


A member of MNP Digital, Wendy helps organizations of all sizes accelerate with confidence and transform their business through the use of data and technology. Her services include digital technology strategy and planning, digital innovation leadership, data governance and information management and enterprise strategic management.

Katie Hayes

Katie Hayes is a Manager with the MNP Digital Advisory team in Edmonton. She is an accomplished innovation and transformation leader who works with organizations to transform complex challenges into opportunities for growth. Katie is passionate about bringing people and technology together to solve problems and enhance organizational effectiveness.

Municipalities around the world are embracing digital transformation as a key strategic initiative. It is critical to modernize your technology and enhance the use of data and innovation to meet the changing needs and expectations of citizens, businesses, community stakeholders and employees. However, digital transformation is a broad term, and it may be difficult to determine where to focus your efforts. What strategic areas should your local government focus on during digital transformation?

We recently developed the nationwide MNP Digital Municipal Research Report to benchmark digital transformation across local governments. The results revealed seven strategic areas that over 50 percent of local government survey respondents intend to prioritize in the next three to five years — including enhancing cyber security and privacy and a focus on continuous improvement and innovation.

We’ve summarized each of these strategic priorities below to help guide you on your journey toward digital transformation. We will also examine the challenges that may prevent your local government from achieving these goals — and the steps you can take to overcome them.

What are the key strategic priorities of local governments?

While strategic priorities vary between local governments, these key areas rank highly for most on the journey toward digital transformation:

Cyber security and privacy

Cyber attacks and threats are increasing — and 76 percent of survey respondents report that enhancing technology security efforts is a key priority for their local government. Municipal organizations collect, manage, and store a high level of sensitive data and information about citizens. Additionally, local governments process credit card payments for services. It is vital to ensure that both this data and the systems used to house it are protected, secured, and adhere to security and privacy regulations.

Strategy and business planning

A strategic plan helps balance a municipality’s daily operations and service delivery with long-term goals and outcomes — and technology is foundational to success. Sixty-two percent of survey respondents recognize the importance of including technology and digital outcomes within strategy and business planning efforts. Technology requires large investments, and local governments must think critically and strategically when identifying, determining, approving, and planning for new technology. This helps to ensure that these investments will enable and enhance both daily operations and long-term objectives.

Continuous improvement and innovation

Technology is constantly evolving, changing, and growing. This provides new opportunities for local governments to automate manual processes and leverage data to drive decision-making. Sixty-one percent of survey respondents cite continuous improvement and innovation as a key priority as technology continues to transform. A bottom-up approach toward innovation with hands-on engagement from leadership can help to drive collaboration through a municipality, reduce silos, and increase organization-wide initiatives.

Citizen experience

Sixty percent of survey respondents report that the citizen experience is a key priority over the next three to five years. More citizens expect a convenient experience through a channel that is right for them and meets their needs as digital adoption increases. To meet these expectations, local governments are assessing service delivery models to identify how to improve convenience and accessibility through digital channels. This may include offering service delivery options that are available outside of traditional business hours or offering more visual support and language options to improve accessibility. This will help enhance the citizen experience as the digital landscape continues to evolve.

Recruitment and retention

Employee expectations are also evolving as the digital landscape continues to grow — and 55 percent of survey respondents cite recruitment and retention as a key priority over the next three to five years. Local governments are examining how technology can enhance the employee experience to recruit and retain new talent. This may involve implementing new platforms to streamline workflows or improve communication and collaboration in the workplace. It may also include offering flexible work opportunities to support work-life balance or increasing training and development through online platforms to develop talent and nurture leadership potential.

Technology modernization

Fifty-three percent of survey respondents report that technology modernization is a key priority for their local government over the next three to five years. Many organizations are restricted by decades-old software, technology infrastructure, and processes that limit their ability to digitize, make data-driven decisions, or provide efficient service delivery. Technology modernization is critical to enable systems, tools, and processes to work more efficiently and support effective planning for municipal programs and services.

Employee engagement and culture

Fifty percent of survey respondents report that employee engagement and culture is a key priority over the next three to five years — and many are examining how technology can help achieve those goals in the workplace. Digital transformation often involves an increase in collaborative tools and platforms, allowing employees to work together more easily and creating a sense of shared purpose and connection. Implementing effective technology that supports the work of employees can also help drive an increase in workplace satisfaction and create a productive working environment. These tools may also help increase employee health, wellbeing, and morale, build a stronger sense of community in the workplace, and drive employee engagement.

What challenges are preventing your local government from achieving its goals?

The MNP Digital Municipal Research Report reveals that many local governments are facing several common challenges on the journey toward achieving their strategic goals, including:

Insufficient resources

Sixty-two percent of municipal organizations report a high level of competition for technology resources. Many are struggling to attract and retain skilled employees. Additionally, some skills such as cyber security cannot be acquired in the current marketplace due to high demand.

Legacy technology, systems, and applications

Upgrading legacy technology, systems, and applications is both time-consuming and costly. Many municipal organizations struggle to balance the need to upgrade legacy technology against higher priorities such as citizen-facing initiatives.

Lack of strategic direction

Thirty-three percent of respondents indicate that leadership is struggling to balance citizen expectations for digital service delivery models with priorities such as economic development and public safety. This may result in a lack of strategic direction if not managed carefully.

Culture and employee engagement

Thirty-two percent of respondents report that their organization is slow to adapt to new trends and technologies — although progress toward embracing innovation has been made in recent years. Organizational culture transformation is a complex and time-consuming task that requires careful management and active involvement from leadership. This is crucial to ensure a successful and sustained transformation.

Organizational silos

Thirty-two percent of respondents report that departments in their municipal organization act as independent units — creating organizational silos that slow down the rate of digital growth. To overcome this challenge, many local governments are looking to establish a collaborative style of governance where cross-departmental linkages play a critical role and are supported by technology.

How your local government can do more with the same resources

While local governments face many challenges, there are several foundational steps you can take to fast forward your digital transformation priorities. These tips can help your organization do more with the same resources:

1. Consolidate functions

Identify duplicate resources within your departments and consolidate these functions. This will help to eliminate redundancy, reduce costs, and streamline your operations — allowing your local government to allocate more resources toward innovation and strategic planning. Consolidating functions may also improve security by centralizing your technology resources and enabling the implementation of consistent security protocols and practices.

2. Review resourcing models

Review resourcing models to identify where you can use more flexible resourcing options. You may be able to contract a third party to manage specific tasks or projects. This is a cost-effective way to access specialized skills without the commitment of hiring a full-time employee.

3. Perform a service review

Conduct a thorough service review that compares the cost of each service to the value that it provides to your local government or its citizens. Prioritize the services that produce the most impact and consider outsourcing or re-evaluating those that may be less essential.

4. Use your technology creatively

Explore how your local government can use technology creatively to minimize manual or redundant tasks. Implementing solutions to automate billing and payment processing or employee onboarding can help reduce the amount of time your employees spend on these tasks. This enables your organization to shift more resources toward its strategic initiatives.

5. Increase online service offerings

onsider transitioning more of your service offerings online to allow users to self-manage these processes. For example, you may implement an online portal to allow citizens and businesses to apply for permits and licenses. This will help meet your citizens’ expectations for convenient service delivery models — and reduce the administrative burden on your employees.

2023 Canadian Municipal Digital Transformation Benchmarking Report

Where does your municipality rank in the journey toward digital transformation? Download our 2023 Canadian Municipal Digital Transformation Benchmarking Report now for instant access to our insights and findings.

Connect with us to get started

Our team of dedicated professionals can help you determine which options are best for you and how adopting these kinds of solutions could transform the way your organization works. For more information, and for extra support along the way, contact our team.