The Importance of Interdepartmental Communications

Government agencies and municipalities consist of numerous departments that are often involved in complex processes. Improving interdepartmental communication is key to helping these processes flow more easily and allowing employees to work more productively. The right software supports interdepartmental cooperation and allows municipalities to better connect to their citizens.

Communication and Local Government

Cast your mind back just a few decades, and local government or municipality offices would have been places that processed countless amounts of paper. Planning applications, licensing, and other tasks required folders stacked with applications. Those applications needed to be photocopied multiple times to be shared with other departments or to fulfill data storage requirements.

Today, those processes are changing faster than ever before. Influenced by technology and the need for increased efficiency, municipalities and other government organizations are looking for better solutions. The goal is to improve internal and external communications and streamline processes that would otherwise take weeks.

Just a few years ago, most municipalities processed a limited amount of data. In the age of digitalization and digital transformation, more data is being created, and communication between individuals and organizations is happening faster than ever before.

Communication is critical to the success and the efficiency of government organizations. Without it, there is no connection between municipalities and citizens. As a result, entire communities suffer. They develop at a slower pace, with citizens unable to take advantage of everything their government has to offer.

It is no longer enough for local government bodies to post updates on notice boards throughout the community because this type of communication no longer reaches the entire community. At the same time, reaching all sections of the community is more important than ever.

The Importance of Interdepartmental Communications

Interdepartmental communication is one of the building blocks of overall improved government communications. When individual employees and departments find it easy to share information with each other, they can also share this information more easily and effectively with their communities.

Before the advent of desktop computers, let alone laptops, municipality employees would carry files between departments if information needed to be shared. Or perhaps they would pick up the phone and ask their colleagues if they required details on a certain process.

This way of working may have been working relatively well in very small communities, but even medium-sized municipalities had more complex requirements. As a result, employees needed to spend time in archives or talk to colleagues across different departments to access the information they were looking for. In many cases, it was not even clear what information was already available as hard copies are difficult to search.

In short, the communications process was flawed. Imagine looking for a file handled by a colleague who has since retired. Unless your municipality had an exceptional filing system, employees may spend days searching for the right file. This delay simply does not represent good customer service or citizen service. Moreover, as employees retired or moved on to different jobs, information could be lost easily. Gathering this information again could be laborious.

Today, municipalities are handling far greater quantities of data and information. They are expected to keep data safe, yet accessible and process it responsibly. As citizens have become used to private sector entities that deliver streamlined customer services, their expectations have grown.

Meeting Higher Expectations

Citizens and communities are not the only ones demanding better services from municipalities. Federal bodies like the Government Accountability Office (GAO) are also raising their expectations for communications at the local, state, and federal levels. The GAO believes that collaboration is critical to solving problems like economic development, pandemic planning and response, and achieving food safety.

The agency believes that public sector bodies need to agree on a set of best practices to enhance their potential for collaboration. Among those practices is the establishment of compatible policies and procedures. Developing mechanisms to monitor, evaluate, and share their results is equally important.

None of this can be achieved without collaboration and communication between departments in municipalities. If information is not shared widely at this basic level of government, it is unlikely to reach other levels and be shared between agencies. Instead, information may be lost before it reaches those that would benefit most.

Sharing information and simplifying communications between departments are also relevant for the employees of each department. Without clear, streamlined communications between their department and another, they are bound to repeat tasks and processes that have been completed already. That is no way to meet high expectations, whether they come from the neighboring department or a federal agency.

Saving Time and Minimizing Costs

This brings us to another benefit of optimized interdepartmental communication: collaboration saves time and money. For years, municipalities and government agencies have been under pressure to reduce costs. Government bodies across all levels are simply being asked to do more with less – fewer employees, fewer resources, and often also reduced funding.

Streamlining interdepartmental communications is an excellent way for municipalities to navigate increased expectations while being mindful of cost savings and improving their service delivery. Optimizing communications means removing friction from every process the department is involved in. Rather than duplicating work that has already been completed by one department, employees from another department can simply access existing reports or other documents and use them.

This type of access allows municipality employees to work more efficiently by being able to collaborate easily. Less time is lost to repetitive tasks, saving not only time but also resources. As a result, municipality employees can focus on tasks that require new input and attention. They achieve more by utilizing efficiencies rather than working longer hours.

How Software Facilitates Communications

So, what does improved interdepartmental communication look like? For several years, most communications have been digital. Hard-copy newsletters have given way to their email-based successors. Email and other tools have allowed for information to be distributed faster and stored in a more accessible, searchable manner. However, this approach still limited how much data could be shared. It also limited who could access the information and where.

Over time, communications like emails around departments have been replaced and supplemented with information management systems. No doubt, those systems presented a step forward allowing employees within a department to share and access information and data available inside that part of the organization easily and quickly.

Avoiding Information Silos

In many cases, those information systems still created barriers around individual departments. They resulted in information silos. Much like the agricultural silos after which information silos are named, they store information vertically. Anyone within the system, or department, can access it and share it freely inside the system.

Information silos can work well within one department, but they put severe limits on what can be shared with other departments or outside parties, where appropriate. Picture agricultural silos – no matter how closely they are positioned together, there are no connections between them. For employees in a municipality or another government body that means that interdepartmental communications remain severely limited.

While it is possible to create information silos intentionally, perhaps with the intention of safe keeping privileged information, many of these barriers sprung up unintentionally. They are simply the result of one department choosing to implement a certain information system without considering interdepartmental integration. In many cases, this was simply an oversight or an unintended outcome because of a system’s limited capabilities.

How Integrated Software Facilitates Collaboration

As municipalities are processing ever larger volumes of data, they need access to more proficient information management systems. Products like FastTrackGov® (FTG) build bridges between the silos, so to speak. They allow municipalities to operate efficiently in service to their communities.

FTG brings the information owned by every individual department together on one single platform. Municipalities benefit in multiple ways:

  1. Information is kept safe in one single location without needing to be shared through potentially open channels like email.
  2. Because information remains easily accessible, municipalities reduce paperwork and save time when they are handling complex processes.
  3. Municipalities need to collect information only once, reducing the potential for mistakes and unintentional duplicates.
  4. Employees from different departments working on the same project can collaborate easily. They can see the status of a planning application or licensing process with a few clicks and proceed from there.
  5. Information is updated in real time, right on the platform. There is no need for time-consuming emails between departments, minimizing the chances of information getting lost.

Integrated software products bring your departments together by making interdepartmental communication and collaboration simpler than ever before. Employees can work more efficiently and increase their productivity without working more hours. They are simply working smarter because applications like FTG remove friction from the process.

Implementing a software solution like FastTrackGov® is one of the most effective ways of meeting the requirements of bodies like the Government Accountability Office. The GAO made it clear that municipalities and other government agencies need to work together more effectively.

Connecting to Citizens

Introducing software to allow municipality employees to cooperate more easily across departments not only benefits the municipality itself. Platforms like FTG also allow government agencies to connect more directly with their citizens.

Fundamentally, community development software puts citizens in charge. Rather than spending hours queueing at various offices, they can find application forms for a wide range of licenses and permits online. Online services empower citizens to submit completed applications when they are ready and monitor the progress of the process remotely. Both citizens and municipality employees save time. In addition, citizens benefit by minimizing the costs associated with transportation to municipality offices and creating hard copies.

Why Interdepartmental Communication Matters For Citizens

The advantages of improved interdepartmental communication also affect citizens who need to contact their municipalities for different purposes.

Many of the complex processes that require citizens to interact with their government involve more than one department. By centralizing all relevant information in one place, such as the FTG platform, citizens are submitting documents in one place only.

Municipality employees needing to access a person’s application documents or others can do this from one central place. There is no need to contact various departments looking for additional information because everything is right there. Citizens no longer need to submit multiple copies of documents in different departments.

Departments can see immediately which decisions have been made and where input may be required. Comprehensive information management systems like these avoid misunderstandings and put an end to repetitive processes and lengthy procedures that can derail entire projects.

Despite all these benefits, automation does not replace the need for human input. Instead, it allows municipality employees to focus on the complex aspects of their job that require their skills and knowledge. Put simply, implementing software products like FTG allows employees to devote their time to the most important tasks without becoming sidetracked.

Citizens will notice the benefits of more transparent processing of licenses and planning applications. They will also enjoy a more direct connection with their municipality and appreciate getting things done faster.

Final Thoughts

Local government is changing beyond recognition. Offices stacked full of paper are making way for clear desks equipped with state-of-the-art computers that hold access to more information than paper files could ever hold. Powered by comprehensive software, municipalities are getting ready to transform the way departments work together. Communications are no longer handled vertically, but departments can connect directly when it is appropriate for the task at hand.

The results are benefitting towns and cities through cost and time savings, and they are benefitting citizens by enabling closer connections between the community and its government. Interdepartmental communications lie at the heart of it all.