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As providers of deathcare services, Councils, and those working within the infrastructure of Local Government, face many of the same challenges as other private, or religious cemetery operators, but equally, many that are unique in terms of how they operate, how they deliver their services, how they communicate, how they generate revenue, and how they manage and utilise their data and assets.
Locations can be lightly resourced, with operations falling within the remit of larger departments, such as Public Works or Parks and Recreation. Where dedicated Cemetery Superintendent roles are rare, this pull on resources often means staff carry out multiple roles or functions - from selling plots, to cemetery management, with less time to spend with families and less time to pore through cemetery records to get the information they need.
With the paradigm shift towards digital transformation changing how all sectors and industries operate, and the rapid pace of tech adoption literally changing the world around us, Municipalities have an opportunity to meet their unique challenges and the changing needs and expectations of the people they serve by implementing digital strategies.
With all of that in mind, here are just a few ways a digital-first approach underpinned by cemetery management software can help to overcome some common challenges for Municipality cemetery operations and maximize the data they hold.
Whether it’s burial plot records, cemetery maps, or financial information, in an ideal world, all of the data we need to operate would be neatly stored and organised in one place, added through a single point of entry, linked together, be easily accessible and updated in real time.
In reality, inherited legacy systems can bring with them the multitude of challenges that come with layers of old files and maps held in multiple locations, changes in record-keeping over time, data pulled from a number of different sources, or old, unsupported software.
Not only does it create a cumbersome environment for record-keeping, making simple, routine tasks unnecessarily time-consuming, it can also result in low confidence in data, increased risk of error and less time to spend in person with families.
Cloud-based cemetery management systems can provide a ‘single source of truth’ for all of your data. With everyone literally working from the same page, that data pulled (or ‘pooled’) together helps provide clearer communication, more efficient processes and greater accessibility and visibility of all of the information required to carry out your daily operations.
With thousands of burial plots across multiple locations, a clear picture for Municipalities of exactly what they have, and where they have it can sometimes be a challenge. It is especially important, not only when viewing available space, but for getting ahead of land availability challenges by implementing plans that help to make the most efficient use of existing space.
The challenge in terms of accuracy and accessibility can come when using old, deteriorating maps, manually updated that are overwritten over time. Another challenge is when this data is in a format that makes it difficult to share freely across departments.
While many Councils may have a Geographic Information System department (GIS), for the likes of real estate, or city planning, this may be separate to the mapping information held by cemeteries. The challenge arises when the cemetery mapping information provided isn’t live or automatically updated - posing issues when making mapping information available to view by the public to view and look for space.
In this case, accurate, real time digital mapping information can help to combine workflows between departments and functions - essentially keeping them as one, while also used as a way to provide better customer service - helping families to search for graves, or even find the resting places of loved ones.
While digital cemetery mapping can help to make it easier to search and locate specific sites, manage inventory, and track availability of burial plots, a verified mapping process can also provide an audit of cemetery grounds to ensure that what’s on the ground matches what’s in the office, giving confidence in data held, reducing risk, or even - going back to land availability - discover existing untapped inventory.
Speaking of managing inventory, combining digital mapping information with records can also help with site maintenance - generating, scheduling and tracking work orders linked to online mapping tools, showing exactly where work needs to be carried out, for greater operational efficiencies.
Paperwork within local government is inevitable - especially when working within a highly regulated environment where specific records must be kept, maintained or produced, and when carrying out multiple roles, there may seemingly not be enough time to get ahead of it.
From burial or disposition permits, to interment rights certificates, to deeds and contracts, as well as grave plans and plot maps, indicating exactly who is buried where - it’s important that you have this information when you need it.
Paperwork is as time consuming as it is important. So how can a digital-first approach help to add real value?
Cemetery management software, for example, can provide customisable document templates that can ensure the correct wording and structure, ensuring forms can be easily produced, accurate and easily accessible.
Taking the ‘paper’ out of paperwork is just the beginning - moving to a software platform isn’t solely about digitising paper records, the real value comes through the wider digitalisation process - utilising technologies that allow you to enhance processes and improve operations so you can stop generating more paper. 
And speaking of paper, when it comes to the auditing process, time is often spent sifting through records, contracts and financial statements in order to piece together a clear picture, causing unnecessary stress and a prolonged process. One digital system means no reconciliation between conflicting sources and a clear audit trail with time-stamped data insertions.
 Digitization vs Digitalization. What’s the difference?
H.A. Malak, The ECM Consultant, Dec 22
Learn how digital transformation helped the City of Fall River to serve their families to serve better. Read the blog here.