The Role of Software in Local Government

Assessing Impact, Priorities, and Challenges of Software Across Eight Different Areas of Local Government

August 2020

In this report, we investigate the role of new software in local government, bringing to bear original data and analysis from a national survey of ten different leadership positions in township, municipality, and county governments all over the United States, including top appointed executives, heads of IT, and heads of 8 different types of departments/functions.

Executive Summary

Here’s a summary of the 5 key findings from our top-level analysis and the page numbers on which you can find more details about them.

  1. Whether a local government has “up to date” software varies greatly by department. For example, over 90% of law enforcement departments have acquired new software in the last three years, while less than 50% of financial administration departments have done so (pg. 2)
     

  2. New software acquisitions overwhelmingly yield positive impacts. Though departments vary in their likelihood of adopting new software, when they take the leap, they seem to like the outcome. Over 90% of respondents whose departments acquired new software in the last three years reported a positive outcome (pg. 4).
     

  3. Positive impacts lead to greater prioritization of software in the future. Governments are almost twice as likely to prioritize a software upgrade if their past experience went well, which is an incentive for vendors to provide quality support. Only about 22% of those without a positive experience share the same view—instead, nearly half of them rate software a “low priority” (pg. 5).
     

  4. Why local governments don’t update their software is not just about cost—it’s also about implementation. When asked about what may bar acquiring new software, the number one concern was cost. A close second was implementation, and in particular, the time and energy required to train staff on the software (pg. 6).
     

Officials ask their peers about software. When local officials are looking to learn about software, they overwhelmingly turn to their peers in other local governments, and to the associations they are a part of. Software vendors also play a role in informing local governments about software (pg. 8).
 

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