Eight small Alberta municipalities – including Cold Lake, Okotoks and Taber – are making big leaps in their ability to serve constituents, improve operational efficiencies and reduce the costs of delivering municipal government services. How? Through the use of shared services, a relatively recent trend in Canada that allows towns and municipalities – and their residents – to share the costs and reap the benefits of implementing the latest software and technology systems.
Until now small Canadian municipalities have faced numerous challenges when trying to implement the technologies that bigger cities and senior levels of government are using to improve their operations and better serve their constituents. Smaller centres simply did not have the financial or human resources required to pay for and utilize the applications, nor the capacity required to advance a comprehensive technology strategy from research to rollout, and finally, to return on investment.
Today, the eight Alberta communities are surmounting these challenges through shared services, which take critical processes the municipalities have in common and deliver them through a single service provider. Shared services allow the municipalities to concentrate on improving the quality of services delivered to constituents while reducing their operating expenses – a win-win situation that is hard to ignore.
In Alberta, the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) – a province-wide association of cities, towns and villages – has led the effort to bring cutting-edge technology to smaller centres to support improved financial, online and human resource systems. Recently, the AUMA completed the design of the business template for a new shared application, dubbed MuniShare.
In addition to state-of-the-art financial and human resource services, the template recognizes the unique needs of each municipality and incorporates a best practices model.
The end result is that participants share their successes to help one another find and implement the best ways to utilize their new technology capabilities.
The AUMA and the eight municipalities are well on their way to adopting the shared services program and realizing the numerous benefits they were seeking, including:
More efficient services for their constituents
Enhanced administrative processes
Another key advantage of utilizing shared services relates to the maintenance of the systems. With each separate municipality connecting into one core system, maintenance can be handled in one location to service the entire network.
Unlike prosperity cheques, shared services are not an Alberta-only phenomenon. They are applicable to municipalities – and indeed provincial and federal agencies, departments and Crown corporations – throughout Canada. With federal and provincial governments under pressure to reduce costs while providing enhanced services, shared services are gaining traction in government, Crown corporations and agencies, particularly in the resource intensive areas of health care and education.