If necessity is the mother of invention, the government sector’s growing push for change in the form of greater accountability, increased efficiency, and improved public service is bound to gain steam in 2020. In fact, 2020 could be both a breaking point and a banner year for public entities nationwide.
As we enter this new decade, the processes and standards many courts and government offices have long relied upon are no longer adequate
for them, their constituents, or the taxpaying public. Employees are feeling the squeeze from all sides as they attempt to better serve stakeholders’ interests with limited resources and little room to maneuver.
It’s a tough bind. And it will only get tougher in 2020.
Meanwhile, a growing number of public officials at the local, state, and federal levels who are dissatisfied with subpar performance and results via antiquated systems and tools will be actively searching for a better way. Their frustrations will drive transformational change that, until recently, might have been beyond the ability of most government entities to achieve.
Without a doubt, 2020 offers the potential for big returns for those who go bold in pursuit of progress. Based on my discussions with public officials, the solutions available to them today, and what some of them have already accomplished, here is my list of the top challenges and opportunities I believe await government entities in 2020.
Top 3 Concerns for Government Operations in 2020
None of these concerns are new. But as they intensify, they will force more government offices to take significant steps to streamline their operations and engage constituents and the public more effectively.
1. Shrinking Budgets
Courts rely heavily on fines and fees paid by constituents involved in criminal cases. As a result of shrinking taxpayer funds, government operations outside the courts’ purview are increasingly relying on these same compliance revenues. Funding mechanisms may change down the road
, but for now, operational efficiency and effectiveness of compliance efforts will continue to be mission-critical concerns.
2. Resource Constraints
Executing case management and compliance functions consistently, efficiently, and in a manner that builds public trust requires resources and expertise that are lacking in many courts and government offices. In the absence of sophisticated tools and automated workflows
, employees face overwhelming workloads and are ill equipped to manage regulatory concerns in a digital environment. These constraints will only become more problematic as case volumes, service demands, and public pressures grow.
3. Public and Legislative Demands for Change
Public and legislative scrutiny of government practices and stewardship of taxpayer dollars is reaching a fever pitch. Some of the same fundamental issues that drive wasteful inefficiency inside government operations also result in perceptions of unfairness among constituents and the public at large.
Compliance processes are largely to blame—including, but not limited to, court systems’ premature escalations of unpaid fines to fees to outside collection agencies
). Because many courts lack the personnel and/or infrastructure required to communicate with constituents in a timely way and to facilitate payments on constituents’ terms, OCAs remain the default.
An overly aggressive approach to debt recovery not only costs taxpayers more, but also undercuts courts’ efforts to nurture compliance and ensure case closures. Worst of all, it can have a disparate impact
on poor and minority communities. In the state of Florida, 72% of driver’s license suspensions
are the result of outstanding fines and fees (currently, about 2 million residents)—preventing many constituents from getting to school or work and contributing productively to society.
In 2020, as more courts find they have fewer levers to pull to motivate constituents to make payments, we’ll likely see more community leaders and legislators draw attention to standard government practices and call for reform.
3 Positive Trends That Will Accelerate in 2020
The above pressures will make it increasingly difficult for courts to meet minimum operating standards, let alone measure up against the private sector—a goal that has traditionally been seen as too ambitious.
Today, that mindset is changing. There’s a growing recognition that government must hold itself to the highest possible standards and meet constituents where they are; that meaningful, measurable progress is essential; and that technology is key to achieving these ends.
1. More Courts Taking Ownership of Compliance
Due to limited resources and a lack of automated processes, many courts turn cases over to OCAs prematurely or without any internal effort to collect payment. The often abrupt nature of OCA demands frustrates defendants who may have been willing to pay their debts, thus adding to an already eroding and fragile public trust.
Government agencies, court systems, and municipalities looking to rebuild that trust will be increasingly motivated to bring compliance operations in house while making best use
of the resources they have.
2. A Greater Emphasis on Constituent-Friendly Service
To fulfill their public service mission, use tax dollars wisely, and nurture compliance effectively, a growing number of courts are reaching out to the public in helpful ways. Compliance and reporting processes that offer clarity, transparency, convenience, and ease are helping courts improve their recovery rates—dramatically, in many cases
—and resolve cases more quickly, benefiting constituents and taxpayers alike.
In 2020, look for online portals, payment options and plans, and communication via constituents’ preferred channels to become more widespread.
3. Wider Adoption of Tech-Powered Automation
Insufficient staff, manual workflows, and inexperience with laws and regulations governing constituent communications—these are among the biggest obstacles to progress. Today, courts and other administrative offices are overcoming them through the use of next-generation technologies that transform government operations into lean, high-performance machines.
Automated workflows and constituent communications with built-in compliance guardrails are helping government teams do more with less by making case management and compliance processes more effective with less human effort. Employees have the insights they need to prioritize accounts, and reporting requirements can be met with ease
. Automation not only reduces employee burdens, but also lowers costs, reduces compliance risks, and vastly improve outcomes.
As more government entities automate their operations in 2020, you’ll see less of a gap between the public and private sectors on key performance measures.
Overall, Less Patience for the Status Quo
Dissatisfaction with outdated, underperforming systems will likely become even more widespread in 2020, given the untenable position in which many courts and other government offices find themselves. Public officials are increasingly looking to implement an “all of the above” approach to serving the public and improving accountability and results, with capabilities such as text, artificial intelligence, chat bots, online portals, and timely, reliable reporting.
The private sector is already using these capabilities to maximize profits and serve customers well. Now, many in government are eager to bring the same sophistication and benefits to their own operations. In 2020, they’ll increasingly look beyond government-only providers and seek out tech partners that have experience serving private-sector collection teams and bringing disruptive, industry-leading innovations to market.