7 Ways Modern Technology Enhances Capital Planning

January 27, 2020 – Jeremy Mann

Capital Improvement Planning might help create parks, but it certainly isn’t a walk in one. Even the smoothest CIPs take months to put together and require input from a broad range of stakeholders and citizens. And because the CIP is a long-term, living document, when one year’s CIP is finished, the next year’s revisions and additions begin. To help streamline and improve the CIP process, governments today are turning to the power of modern cloud tools to support and enable easier, more efficient processes in budgeting, performance, communication, and reporting.

Below, we list 7 ways modern technology can help enhance your Capital Planning.

1. Store and Track your Entire Inventory in One Convenient Location


Capital Improvement Planning begins with an understanding and review of current capital assets and maintenance needs. Some governments already possess a rigorous inventory, making it easy to check-in on the status of their current inventories. Others, need to ask around, consolidate, and create new reports to understand the status of the entire range of their capital projects.

Wherever your government lies on this spectrum, OpenGov can help to standardize, store, and track your capital inventory in one convenient location and reduce the need for duplication in upcoming years. Utilize mapping technologies to visualize where capital projects are distributed and employ graphs to help understand the fiscal impacts of different projects. Visualize progress to goals and timelines on interactive dashboards that give a more holistic sense of how capital projects are trending across the government. Share the internal inventory with key stakeholders or across the organization to help reduce duplicative questions and data gathering.

2. Solicit Feedback from the Public Using Online Surveys


Strong Capital Improvement Planning gathers feedback from the public and key stakeholders to help ensure the finalized plan will appropriately invest in the areas constituents and government staff view as most impactful.

OpenGov’s Community Engagement solutions help your government capture feedback online, at meetings or on-the-go. OpenGov enables your government to record feedback from residents, colleagues, and other stakeholders through online surveys, virtual town halls, or mobile forms. Utilize OpenGov’s powerful, interactive visualizations to communicate back out to the public how their feedback and priorities were incorporated into the final CIP.

3. Streamline Capital Budget Requests in an Online Budgeting Platform


Soliciting capital budget requests and compiling all the relevant information can be a time consuming process, distracting from the analysis and strategic decision making that will ultimately define a successful CIP. Remove the burden from staff of sorting through capital budget requests, making sure the requests have the proper information, and soliciting clarifications by standardizing capital budget requests and streamlining the capital budget requests through an online platform.

OpenGov’s Budgeting platform provides a flexible, configurable capital budget request form that can be fitted to your organization’s specific needs. Send out capital budget request forms online through OpenGov’s platform and schedule notifications to automatically ping staff members to complete their forms without needing to send individual notes. Store all capital budget requests in a central, transparent repository to which everyone in the organization can see the progress and status of their proposal to reduce unnecessary questions and check-ins.

4. Standardize Cost Estimation Methodology


One common tripping point for governments during Capital Improvement Planning arises when different departments and stakeholders have differing methodologies for estimating cost and depreciation over time. These differences in evaluation can lead to onerous standardization by budget staff and difficult explanations to the stakeholders who might have carried a different understanding of the impact of their proposal.

OpenGov’s Budgeting solution helps avoid this headache by allowing you to standardize your cost estimation methodology and place it all in OpenGov’s platform. OpenGov’s capital budget request forms will solicit the appropriate information and produce the appropriate estimations. Budget administrators can modify the business and cost assumptions that drive the estimations and can easily share their methodologies with their organization.

5. Encourage Collaborative Proposal Creation, Breaking Down Silos


Because governments have limited resources, departments often squabble over how funding is allocated, fighting for their departments to gain resources to best enact their departmental goals. The impulse is more than understandable. Public servants know they need funding to realize their dreams for the public. But budget processes that organize budget requests by department can incidentally enforce this dynamic, discouraging cross-departmental collaboration and encouraging the siloing of information to help departments gain an edge in their budgetary requests. The right budgeting process, supported by the proper technology can help encourage the breaking down of silos and encourage cross-departmental collaboration.

OpenGov’s Budgeting solution was created specifically to encourage collaboration and cross-departmental conversations and cooperation. All proposals are stored online and can be shared easily with colleagues. Additional owners and editors can be added to proposals, helping to encourage cross-departmental collaboration. Colleagues can comment on proposals and engage with colleagues in logged online conversations that won’t get lost in your inbox. All stakeholders will have access to OpenGov’s financial visualizations, which will help democratize access to data and broaden understanding of current budget realities.

6. Create and Visualize Scenario Planning Budgets for Analysis


Every government wishes it could approve and actualize all the incredible ideas for community improvement raised during Capital Improvement Planning. Unfortunately, fiscal realities make hard decisions and prioritization necessary to best provide services to the public in a cost efficient manner. But deciding and ranking capital improvement projects is not cut and dry; it involves value judgements, cost benefit analyses, and the input of a wide array of stakeholders. That’s why it’s important to utilize flexible software that allows analysts to try on and model a number of different capital project scenarios to get a sense of how this year’s CIP will affect the budget long-term and impact future capital project decisions.

OpenGov’s Capital Budgeting capabilities allow budget administrators to compile and model a number of capital budget scenarios to help analysts narrow down which projects might compose the best portfolio for their government. OpenGov will automatically visualize each scenario budget using its patented visualization technology linked to your government’s unique Chart of Accounts. Explore the visualizations by simply clicking to drill-down to any desired level of specificity. Project and visualize trends over many years to understand the long-term impacts of your decisions. Share scenarios with other budget staff and administrators or publish to the organization for wider feedback.

7. Keep Stakeholders and the Public Informed


So you’ve finished your CIP and are ready for that brief break before the process begins again. Congratulations, you’ve earned it! But don’t let all that progress go unnoticed, inviting duplicative questions from stakeholders and misinformation among residents. With a proactive communications strategy, stakeholders and the public can stay informed on progress-to-goals and the status of capital projects without needing to solicit information from overworked government staff.

OpenGov’s Citizen Engagement capabilities will help you communicate your CIP to stakeholders and the public and allow them to track project status and project goals without needing to hound your office. Moreover, OpenGov understands that data alone can often be hard to understand and process, that’s why we’ve developed OpenGov Stories, which allows your organization to surround data and visualizations with narrative or graphic context to help constituents understand the full picture. And when you’re ready, you can start the whole cycle over again by utilizing OpenGov’s survey and open town hall features to begin soliciting feedback on the success of the previous year’s CIP and learn about new and emerging priorities.

Conclusion


OpenGov’s staff has over 300 years of collective government experience. We understand intimately the importance of effective Capital Improvement Planning to the smooth functioning of governance. The hard work of capital improvement is never finished; once the process ends it’s almost time to start it up all over again.

The OpenGov Cloud™ was designed specifically for governments to, among other things, help streamline the Capital Improvement process, solicit and incorporate feedback from stakeholders and citizens, and to track and communicate progress-to-goals. OpenGov’s collaborative Budgeting & Performance software helps your government encourage cross-departmental collaboration and standardize its budget request and cost estimation methodologies, while OpenGov’s Reporting & Communication capabilities help you visualize your capital budget, understand trends over time, and track progress-to-goals in interactive dashboards. And OpenGov’s Community Engagement features will help you communicate all your hard work to the public, receive public feedback, and surround data with necessary context.

OpenGov wants to support the tireless work you contribute to our communities by providing you all the tools modern software has to offer, adapted to best suit standard government processes.

What’s Next?

Want to learn more about Capital Planning best practices and how to leverage technology for your Capital Budget and Capital Plans? Read our eBook Capital Planning in the Digital Era for a deeper dive.