July 26, 2017 – OpenGov
OpenGov users enjoy access to many resources to help maximize their use of the Smart Government Cloud™, including real-time chat support in the platform, in-person user groups, and virtual “Office Hours” workshops.
The Office Hours sessions explore reporting options, showcase best practices, and provide step-by-step instructions for building out reports and making enhancements. In yesterday’s session, we walked through how to create budget milestone reports in OpenGov.
Why Create a Budget Milestones Report?
OpenGov Solutions Engineer and former Finance Director of Greenwood, Indiana, Adam Stone, noted that Budget Milestones Reports are excellent tools for communication within and outside any organization. “The [report’s] use is illustrating and tracking how the budget changes throughout the various stages of adoption,” Stone said while noting that the report helps foster citizen engagement, transparency, and internal cohesiveness.
When Stone was an OpenGov user at Greenwood, he found that the ability to track and present changes was highly valuable. “We had a May-through-October budget process, so we started our report in May and made it publicly available,” he said. “Any department head, citizen, or Council member had real-time access to where the budget was in the process during those months.” Before implementing OpenGov and leveraging this functionality, the City did not have a way to successfully prepare a milestones report because the process was Excel-based and required multiple tabs or static PDFs. Version control was a constant concern.
In this communications context, Stone explained the report’s value in public presentations, because visualizations can be exported as static images or used interactively to provide flexible information. He said Saved Views are “incredibly powerful” during budget hearings because they can guide the presentation’s flow while also being dynamic for answers to questions on the spot. For example, if a Council member wants to know last year’s expenses or how an account has changed over time, staff can drill down and answer immediately rather than thumb through hundreds of pages.
Reports are sharable as well – with specific users, organization-wide, or to the public. When the Budget Milestones Report is added to the external transparency site, any changes in the underlying data are updated automatically. This gives any audience the ability to drill into the report and change the view in real time.
Burnet, Texas is an example of another government that has successfully leveraged OpenGov’s Budget Milestones Report in their own budgeting process. Burnet’s finance staff used the functionality to share the budget process across the organization.
Best Practices for the Budget Milestones Report
During the session’s workshop component, participants followed along with their own information to make a templatized version of the Budget Milestones Report. Along the way, some general tips and best practices emerged.
- Understand potential audiences. Milestones reports are useful for budget staff, internal staff organization-wide, Council or Commission members, and citizens. Tailor your reports to the audience that meets your specific needs.
- Save time by building the report in OpenGov’s Budget Builder™. In OpenGov Budget Builder, exporting information to a Milestone Report is as easy as clicking a button.
- Start with your base budget and add relevant stages. Think of the process in natural phases, such as base budget, current-year revisions, department requests, City Manager’s budget, and the final approved version. A valuable view is the difference between a department’s request and the City Manager’s revision. That said, a report could be as simple as, “base budget – Council changes – final adopted.”
- Don’t forget about drilling down. Because the report ties back to the organization’s Chart of Accounts in OpenGov, users still have the opportunity to drill down into the data. Your selected audience can see, for example, how budgets have changed through the adoption process for public safety. They can see the difference between police and fire requests or drill down into one area by type.
- Maintenance is key. Throughout the year, add to or amend the report easily.
- Reach out your Customer Success Manager. OpenGov’s Customer Success team is a resource to you help you configure your use of the OpenGov platform so it works for your every-day operation needs.
For more information on communications and operations best practices for public sector agencies, download the free white paper, Best Practices in Local Government Budgeting.
If you are already an OpenGov user, you can access step-by-step instructions for the Budget Milestones Report are available in this related Resource Center article. We hope you will join us for the next virtual Office Hours session or reach out to our Customer Success team at any time for assistance in enhancing your reports.
Category: Government Finance