As the new year begins, it’s valuable to take stock of the policies, procedures, and practices you have and evaluate what’s been working and what hasn’t. While doing so, it can be helpful to explore what other local agencies are doing to address common challenges like rising costs, shifts in workplace culture, communications, rate-setting, and data management to name a few. We polled our staff who lead different Raftelis service areas and asked them to share their predictions for key trends they see coming in 2023. Here are their thoughts.
Data as a service will continue to shape how data is accessed and used in 2023. Cloud-based software will help democratize data across organizations, provide key tools for analyzing and managing it, and play a large role in decision-making. Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) data will also be a common trend in 2023. As interest in reduced emissions continues to rise, we will likely see agencies collecting this information to help measure and reach sustainability goals.
Digital Transformation continues to be a major theme for our clients struggling with legacy software and duplicative, manual processes. In 2023, our municipal clients will continue to seek exponential gains from their technology investments. From how they manage their finances, customers, and assets, to how they report on employee performance, the municipal sector will continue to explore and require new software solutions and more efficient practices to achieve their desired business outcomes.
We will see an increased focus on sustainability and renewable energy investment at the national and local level in 2023. With the recent passage of important climate change legislation in the U.S., as well as the influence of 2022 global political events, the energy and utilities sector will likely be investing more toward wind, solar, and hydroelectric power, as well as energy storage solutions. Technology will also be a key player in grid modernization, allowing for an effective connection of renewable energy sources to the grid. Many municipalities have already successfully implemented smart grid technologies and will continue to do so in 2023, leading to more accurate data collection and efficient management of the electric systems.
Amanda Guci, Manager (Email)
Is the traditional cost-of-service methodology used to set rates a dinosaur? Increasing interest in water rates that address social justice and equity concerns may soon be moving the needle for a re-evaluation of how cost-of-service principles play a role in the rate-setting process.
Todd Cristiano, Senior Manager (Email)
In 2023, video will continue to lead the pack as the most effective tactic for communicating a concept, and today’s videos are shorter, simpler, and less expensive to make. Other trends I predict include local agencies collaborating more with community partners, whether nonprofits or civic organizations, or even the private sector, to help build awareness and support for new projects. Last, I think 2023 is the year agencies will start to pay attention to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how it may be used to meet customer needs and track data.
Professional graphic design will continue to do yeoman’s work for agencies who need to communicate complex ideas with their constituencies. A notable trend in graphic design among local governments and utilities is enhanced data visualization. Data visualization means representing data, information, and statistics in an easy-to-understand, graphical form. It can be used to illustrate trends and patterns, measure performance, and identify opportunities for improvement. All agencies should also be considering inclusive design using imagery that is accessible and ADA compliant.
Technology will continue to be an important tool for offsetting inflation within the solid waste and materials management sector this year. Advancements in automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and smart technologies will continue to help utilities and local governments become more sustainable and increase landfill diversion.
Thierry Boveri, CGFM, Vice President (Email)
Stakeholder engagement will continue to be an essential part of strategic planning in 2023. People support what they help build, so engaging internal and external stakeholders will help local governments ensure that their plans reflect the community’s vision and values and are ultimately successful.
Darin Thomas, Vice President (Email)
In 2023, we expect to see stormwater utilities focus on equity and affordability. This will require communities to revamp their stormwater utility rate structures, financing strategies, credit programs, and service levels through enhanced community engagement efforts, process improvements, and technology upgrades.
Henrietta Locklear, MPA, Vice President (Email)
The dominant issue our utility and local government clients are facing right now and continuing into 2023 is employee recruitment and retention. Organizations are facing high vacancy rates and evolving employee expectations post-pandemic. This has directly impacted their ability to provide the level of service that their customers and residents expect.
Agencies that meet these workforce challenges will do so by focusing on employee well-being, workforce engagement, and putting real work into diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
Whether you are working with your agency to implement a new rate structure this year or are finding new ways to use your data, looking toward new developments is always an exciting part of the new year. If you have questions about how to explore any of the trends we’ve listed above, please reach out. Our teams consistently delve into new technologies and are eager to help you find new ways to use them.