August 30, 2017 – OpenGov
The budget document is the single most important representation of an agency’s work and priorities. The final budget document and the information it contains serve the following critical functions:
- Operations; and
- Strategic Communications.
That is a good deal for any one document to do at once, and those that do them well are the highest quality. Yesterday’s OpenGov webinar, The Last Mile: Publishing the Budget Book with OpenGov, demonstrated how to effectively use technology to create a beautiful end product while also streamlining the publishing process.
The Challenges of the Last Mile
Both policy and process challenges often make developing and publishing a budget difficult and time-consuming.
Adam Stone, OpenGov Solutions Engineer Manager and former Greenwood, Indiana Controller, touched on the common hurdles agencies face when developing budgets each year. These challenges include policy as well as process issues, such as:
- Economic uncertainty;
- Changing revenues and costs;
- Difficulty engaging citizens;
- Difficulty tracking revisions and accessing real-time information; and
- Reducing errors.
In particular, he pointed out that late-in-the-game changes can disrupt staff efficiency, resulting in time-consuming manual work. “A last-minute change from Council – even a mere $100 removed from office supplies – could impact 20 schedules,” he said. At Greenwood, Stone’s team relied heavily on Word and Excel files to prepare the budget book, which left data scattered in multiple files with multiple owners. It was difficult to implement late-stage changes and produce a cohesive-looking document.
When work is fragmented, siloed, manual, and time-consuming, there are fewer resources available to address higher-level strategic priorities. These efficiency blockers are what make the last mile of budget production so tough.
A Better Way
When organizations combine best practices with technology, the result is an outstanding external document and a valuable internal operations guide. Technology facilitates this outcome by:
- Streamlining the process;
- Facilitating collaboration; and
- Creating a single, definitive source of accurate and real-time information.
OpenGov and Workiva have partnered to deliver OpenGov Budget Book™ powered by Wdesk, which integrates with OpenGov Budget Builder™ to facilitate faster and easier budget creation and publication. Publishing the budget document in OpenGov helps organizations achieve the following:
- Effective Collaboration. A common context empowers stakeholders and reduces the confusion of back-and-forth e-mail threads with multiple Excel spreadsheets.
- Time Reallocated to Strategic Priorities. Automatic updates free up staff time to look at the document as a whole.
- Narrative Control. The platform provides the opportunity to create a budget summary or short citizen guide, and to modernize or refresh the narrative context.
- One Single Source of Budget Truth. The web-based, secure platform provides version control and an audit trail.
- Sustainable, Repeatable Process. Preserve and disseminate institutional knowledge with ease.
- One Integrated Solution. Leverage existing financial information for additional operational performance and transparency goals.
The Wdesk Platform
Michael Darby, a Workiva Solution Engineer, discussed how the Wdesk’s software makes public sector budgeting more efficient, especially when used with OpenGov Budget Builder. The platform combines documents, data, and communication into one collaborative environment. It also links data to make updates easy and automatic.
Darby’s demonstration highlighted four main benefits of the platform:
- Linking. The majority of webinar participants identified “easier updating” as the one thing that would most improve their budget process. Linking data throughout and across documents creates one single source of budget truth and provides an automatic update functionality. Once teams plan the budget in OpenGov Budget Builder, the Wdesk platform syncs the data from that central source, ensuring accuracy through automatic updates.
- Collaboration. An intuitive navigation panel outlines the budget’s various sections to eliminate tedious scrolling. Managers can grant permission to access, view, or edit different sections, and the system automatically adjusts so that everyone is operating from the most current version, even as people are concurrently working. Comments can be directive, sending action-item e-mails to staff for follow-up.
- Audit Trail and Review. A robust audit trail shows every change, including who made an update, what it was, and when it occurred. Blackline reports compare changes between two different points in time and can be shared electronically.
- Ease of Use. All tables are embedded spreadsheets; adding a row is as simple as a right click. There are no manual formula adjustments, and, with any change, all links, formatting, and tables are updated with the click of a button. Budget work is not locked in the hands of a few financial users; anyone can be trained in under an hour to work within the platform.
Going the last mile – creating the actual budget book – is more effective and efficient when technology is leveraged to streamline the process, empower collaboration, and create a single source of real-time information.
Watch the free webinar, The Last Mile: Publishing the Budget Book with OpenGov, today for a meaningful discussion and demonstration of how to create an effective end product while simultaneously saving staff time and eliminating the last-mile hurdles.