Introducing the OpenGov ERP Cloud: The Only Full-Featured, Collaborative and Communicative Government ERP
April 28, 2020 – Ammiel Kamon
When we began our company’s journey 8 years ago, many members of the technology and govtech communities dismissed OpenGov as a quirky and perhaps overly altruistic startup.
“The next big thing in technology often starts off looking like a toy…”
“It’s Time To Build: Every Western institution was unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic.”
Note: Marc Andreessen is an OpenGov board member, and Andreessen-Horowitz (A16z) were early backers of the company.
I am extremely excited and proud, on behalf of the entire OpenGov Research and Development team (R&D), to unveil the OpenGov ERP Cloud! With this release we deliver on our founding vision by enabling governments to run the vast majority of their administrative functions entirely in the cloud -- From running all key Financials and Planning processes to ensuring all of their community facing departments are functioning - like Utility Billing for water and sewer, and operating their Permitting, Licensing, and Code Enforcement departments, and provisioning any necessary citizen forms and workflows. This modern, cloud-native government ERP is so needed these days. We’ve heard from many governments whose on-premise ERPs and aged back-office systems are preventing them from operating properly and are holding back expected services to their communities.
It’s been a three-year journey to expand from our market-leading government budgeting solution to the complete back office and robust citizen-facing suite we now have today. I want to share why this ERP offering is so unique and so empowering for our public servants and communities everywhere.
Focusing and delivering on mission-critical government workflows
The OpenGov ERP Cloud includes a fully integrated Budgeting and Planning suite, a complete Financials Suite specifically built around multi-fund accounting principles, government Payroll, Utility Billing, as well as a complete Permitting, Licensing and Code Enforcement Suite. As a modern, data-first cloud, all of these modules are bolstered by a common Reporting and Transparency Platform that delivers unique value to government workers and constituents alike. Trust, security and and resiliency are foundational, and we have made significant investments building these key layers across the entire OpenGov ERP Cloud.
All told, this powerful “suite-of-suites” and cloud ERP includes more than 500 operational processes, without which a government’s administrative functions simply cannot operate smoothly and effectively. We are humbled and proud that with OpenGov’s cloud ERP governments are able to ensure business continuity and can remain open operationally during these troubled times.
How We Got Here - Building the Breadth and Depth Required by Governments
“Where to begin?” in transforming government technology was a key critical question. OpenGov was founded on the heels of the last recession by Zac Bookman, Joe Lonsdale, and an early founding team:
“We started OpenGov after discovering the current state of government technology. The systems in use in nearly 100,000 governments in the U.S. have not seen much change in 20 to 30 years.”
By focusing on financial reporting OpenGov was able to first help hundreds of governments easily understand and improve their operations while building public trust. Our analysis showed that the Budget Process is the key strategic workflow that drives much of the planning and operations of all governments. It was one of the hardest processes to automate and, up until this point, had never been properly addressed or solved by legacy software vendors in the market.
With this glaring market gap as our motivation, OpenGov built an engineering team to specifically tackle this area and released a revolutionary government Budgeting product three and a half years ago. Today it is the fastest-growing government Budgeting solution, with more than 500 governments using it. Our customers have been able to continue to budget and re-plan while working from their traditional office or entirely remotely if needed. Yet, this budget product was just the beginning of a long term plan to deliver a modern cloud ERP for governments.
In parallel to our focus on budgeting, in recent years we mapped out ALL the critical workflows that would be needed in a modern, administrative suite that would be purpose-built for governments. We knew full well that the legacy vendors would be threatened by our plans for a highly usable and powerful ERP, and that they would employ sales tactics aimed at instilling fear, uncertainty, and doubt in attempts to freeze the market and further bind governments captive to legacy on-prem solutions. We also knew that government customers would not choose to purchase our ERP if it was not fully featured from day one. With this in mind, we quietly added multiple focused engineering teams over the years, expanded our product offerings, and strategically acquired unique and necessary market-leading technologies.
Today, the OpenGov R&D organization has more than 95 team members comprising roughly 40% of our company’s workforce. It is a large and growing investment made to ensure that government professionals get the best software possible. Focusing on modern engineering and design practices and quality architectures is how we’ve been able to deliver the 500+ workflows and the key processes mentioned above. Each of our Suites has been built in collaboration with dozens of governments, and each of our suites has been used by more than 100 governments that have demanded quality and completeness of capabilities.
Common questions from government professionals who have already partnered with us on this journey:
- Does it include accounting modules built with government multi-fund accounting principles at the core?Is there an Integrated General Ledger? What about Accounts Payables? Accounts Receivables? Can you track my Fixed Assets? Do you have Vendor Requisitioning and purchasing modules? Does that include blanket POs and contracts? Yes! We have them all, and quite a few more!
- Does this ERP include a citizen service portal? How about Community Development and Health capabilities? Of course! Our integrated Permitting, Licensing, and Code Enforcement suite allows governments to deliver the critical workflows needed by planning departments, engineers and worksite inspectors, business licensing teams, health inspectors, and many more. We’ve also delivered transformative features like the comprehensive government “storefront” portal with all the required internal government workflows, payments infrastructure, and detailed reviews for any request type needed by communities. We’ve seen an amazing breadth of these requests, with more than 150 governments already live on our cloud-native Permitting, Licensing, and Code Enforcement suite. The current COVID-19 crisis has also increased the adoption of our flexible Forms and Workflows platform to automate grant applications and new government service desks to handle all manners of citizen needs with new or modified community services.
- What about Utility Billing for key community services? Is there Service Enablement, Utility Work Orders, Penalties, Shutoffs, Meter Reader Interfaces, Cash Receipting, and an easy Online Payment Portal for our residents? Absolutely! We’ll even handle multiple utilities like Water and Sewer for a single government entity, and we’ve been proven with communities with more than 180,000 citizens.
- Is there a payroll management system so we can pay our hard-working government workforce? Track time and attendance and ensure correct benefit deductions? What about an employee portal? Yes, we have a robust government Payroll offering that does all of this, and keeps up to pace with the auto-generation of all the mandated and ever-changing state and federal forms and filings!
- Does it include government budget development, capital project management, and workforce planning? What about on-going performance management, community engagement processes, and government transparency? Well, now you’re speaking our language. Our Government Budgeting and Planning Suite, and Reporting and Transparency Platform round out this impressive cloud-native Government ERP!
Trust and Security
The OpenGov ERP Cloud uses a coherent and unified modern cloud architecture, built from the ground-up on a foundation of Trust and Security. Many of the traditional IT tasks associated with care and feeding of these systems are simply eliminated as built-in functions of the OpenGov ERP Cloud. As just one example, we’ve delivered better than 99.9% uptime for the past 12 months. At OpenGov, we treat the security and reliability of our cloud platform, and that of the data it holds, with the utmost importance. Earning the trust of our customers is our number one priority.
The Modern ERP for Modern Government
The OpenGov ERP Cloud is cloud-native, built, and operated like no other government ERP software. Along with Security and Trust, we’ve focused on three key DNA-style differentiators when setting up our R&D organization and as we’ve built our product suite:
- Usability and Delight - We follow a key set of design core principles, we highly value our design and research teams, and we aim to increase task completion rates across dozens of government processes.
- Continuous Delivery — As our Budgeting customers have already seen, OpenGov automatically updates every two weeks, ensuring that all customers are on the same and latest version. As just one example, in the past 18 months, we’ve delivered Workforce Planning, Capital Planning, Online Budget Books, along with hundreds of usability improvements instantly to all of our customers. Automated testing throughout and continuous code releases deliver quality, customer responsiveness, and easy configurability for governments.
OpenGov’s Software-as-a-Service model delivers a much lower total cost of ownership than traditional on-prem software that places a costly burden on each customer to maintain the hardware and require very expensive updates (or be orphaned on very aged software products).
- A “Data-First” ERP Suite - All existing government ERPs were built in an era where key workflows were automated first, and only later were analytical capabilities added. Reporting for the ERP was typically provided by a third party technology tool, sometimes as an afterthought. At OpenGov we’ve built our entire government cloud around a foundational data and analytics layer. It delivers high usability, tremendous insights, and sets our governments up for success for years and decades to come.
In the past, hundreds of OpenGov customers used our robust financial analytics to extend the life of their on-prem ERPs. We believe that many of them will now choose OpenGov to truly “future-proof” their operations.
The Key Foundational Difference: Collaborative and Communicative
There is something very unique about our suite-of-suites that makes this new platform truly transformative to governments and government workers -- the OpenGov ERP Cloud allows public sector workflows and processes to be much more collaborative, communicative and data-driven.
“When commercializing disruptive technologies, they founded or developed new markets that valued the attributes of the disruptive products, rather than search for a technological breakthrough so that the disruptive product could compete as a sustaining technology in mainstream markets.”
― Clayton M. Christensen, The Innovator's Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book that Will Change the Way You Do Business
Government work requires a high frequency of cross-departmental communications, such as the Budget Office or Finance Department working with the Fire and Police Department, or a County aligning strategic goals, budgets, and reporting within a City. How about having multiple departments and government agencies collaborating together on large vertical construction projects, while centrally providing all the requisite permit collaboration with developers to drive economic development in a community?
These are just a few examples of governments’ many collaboration challenges. Now consider all of the required levels of communication and collaboration to engage with the community and the constituents of our governments. Traditional ERPs resoundingly fail to deliver on both the internal and external collaboration front with outdated features, siloed data, and little support for analysis and decision making.
I believe that easy collaboration and communication is the key foundational capability that we’ve built into the OpenGov ERP Cloud, in addition to all of the products that we’ve been delivering since our founding. Today this capability is the connecting thread of all product suites within our ERP Cloud.
With smooth collaboration, data sharing options, and high configurability throughout their ERP, Governments simply run better!
The OpenGov ERP Cloud delivers on its promise in spades and is the most collaborative, communicative, and easiest to use modern ERP for governments. It was specifically built with the processes of government workers in mind. We are certain that in time it will fulfill our founding mission of Powering More Effective and Accountable Government.
The OpenGov ERP Cloud has come together through phenomenal efforts by the entire R&D organization and our mission-driven R&D leaders - Deepak Alur, Ashwani Wason, Caitlin Steel, Richard Baker, Brady Kimball, Divya Sarasan, Wilhelm Thomas, Chris Barber, Steve Franklin, Wei Huang, Gianluca Biccari, Kent Hudson, Alex Pajusi, Andrew Reder, Leena Joshi, Bassil Silver, Jeremiah Hall, Todd Fast, and Pushkala Pattabhiraman. It takes a village to do right by governments!
About the Author...
Ammiel Kamon is OpenGov’s Chief Technology Officer. He has helped transform a few software markets in his career as product leader in enterprise and SaaS software. As an early employee at Netscape, he helped Marc Andreessen and a crazy band of rebels change the world and usher in the internet revolution. They built and popularized the first commercial browsers, servers, and web-based business applications, impacting billions of people. Ammiel firmly believes that it is time for governments to fully join the modern era.