Case Study

Eau Claire, Wisconsin Bridges Financial Systems with OpenGov

POPULATION: 65,880 | AGENCY TYPE: City | ANNUAL BUDGET: $49.5 Million

A map of Eau Claire, Wisconsin’s bike trails sends a loud message: the city’s 28.94 miles of recreational trails, four miles of mountain trails, and bike-accessible roads and bridges connect the entire city. This isn’t an accident. Eau Claire views biking as a unique way to “link parks and open spaces with neighborhood communities.”

A city linked by trails and bike-friendly amenities ensures people can soak in the fresh air, commute to work and recreational areas with ease, and most important, maximize health and well-being. Bike path networks help bring citizens together by bridging the city’s disparate parts.

The city’s government sought similar connectivity for its management reporting.

City’s Management Reports Delayed by Inaccessible Data

Eau Claire’s staff struggled with how best to connect several different, largely inaccessible financial systems to make their management reporting processes more efficient. For example, the city housed payroll data in a separate module from its main General Ledger system. Human Resources staff manually loaded payroll summaries into this main system. Managers were unable to track who expensed what, who worked in which roles, or other key personnel insights without making ad hoc request to Human Resources.

Eau Claire had other reporting issues as well. Department heads found it difficult to access information stored in accounting systems, and it took too long to answer unexpected questions on the fly during management or Council meetings because report graphs were static and non-interactive.

The City’s Finance Director, Jay Winzenz, had a background suited to solving the problem. With a Master’s degree in Public Administration and a broad management background in a city manager’s office, Winzenz knew what financial officers and other managers needed to do their jobs effectively.

Eau Claire used OpenGov to provide greater internal and external access to its financial transaction data, saving the City time and staff resources previously spent responding to ad hoc information requests.

Searching for the Right Solution

In Winzenz’s search for a reporting solution, he had the option of transitioning the standalone payroll system into his General Ledger system’s module. This option, however, was expensive and would not make it any easier for department heads and executives to access the financial information they needed. “Our financial system can run powerful reports,” Winzenz said, “but managers and other casual users of the financial information don’t always know which buttons to check.”

Instead, Winzenz turned to the OpenGov Smart Government Cloud™. OpenGov’s operational intelligence solution provided access to information across multiple financial systems, eliminating the expense and time involved in merging systems. It would no longer matter which system stored which information – OpenGov’s user-friendly interface provided managers and staff with easy access to the detailed payroll and other information they needed to manage their budgets.

For Eau Claire, implementing OpenGov easy, resulting in immediate benefits to all stakeholders. “OpenGov gave managers, elected officials, and citizens one place to go for key information without having to manually integrate legacy financial systems,” Winzenz said.

Having on-demand access to their department’s relevant personnel data in the OpenGov platform made it easy for department managers to monitor resource allocation.

Connecting Management to Key Financial Information

After adopting OpenGov, Eau Claire’s team uploaded expenditure and payroll information into the platform weekly. This empowered department heads to access detailed payroll and expenditure information on their own. “The Fire Chief can click a couple buttons to compare expenditures over the past several years, examine year-to-date trends, and track payroll information,” Winzenz noted.

OpenGov’s easy-to-use interface solved Eau Claire’s payroll challenges, enabling managers to track expenses related to their department budgets and identify anomalies sooner. “Departments now have an interactive, visual tool to examine trends and defend budget requests,” Winzenz said.

Presenting the Capital Improvement Plan to Council

Infrastructure spending was a hot issue in Eau Claire. Citizens and council members prioritized maintaining existing infrastructure over building new projects, as evidenced in the Annual Streets Maintenance Program included in the City’s recent five-year capital improvement plan (CIP).

Winzenz successfully used the OpenGov platform to present the capital improvement plan to council. Interactive charts illustrated how the plan allocated nearly eighty percent of General Fund expenses for maintenance versus new projects – visual proof that the plan adhered to council’s objectives.

Winzenz used OpenGov’s Saved Views, bookmarked report views, to walk council members through projects, showing in real-time how projects balanced across funds. When they asked questions Winzenz had not anticipated, he was able to answer them on the spot instead of having to re-query his financial system and manually generate graphs.

Strengthening Engagement with Financial Transparency

With OpenGov, Eau Claire shared its Current Year, Annual, Checkbook, and CIP reports with the public so they could better understand they City’s finances and operations. Proactively providing on-demand access to those financials reduced calls from the media asking for expenditure information, enabling accurate reporting and saving valuable staff time. Winzenz recalled an instance in which a local reporter was able to pull snow removal expense information from OpenGov instead of calling the City’s staff. It also affirmed Eau Claire’s commitment to financial transparency.

Joining the OpenGov Network

“I am impressed by how OpenGov’s developers incorporate customer feedback into future product enhancements,” Winzenz noted. “It’s great to see how the product is built to meet government’s unique needs.” Eau Claire has joined a large and growing public sector agencies leveraging the Smart Government Cloud to streamline its internal reporting process, facilitate more informed decision-making among internal stakeholders, and engage the public.

Eau Claire’s team successfully used OpenGov to present its Capital Improvement Plan to council members, enabling them to answer questions on the fly.

Customer Results

  • Expanded Access to Financial Data.

    OpenGov’s easy-to-use interface provided managers and staff with on-demand access to the detailed payroll and other information they needed to manage their budgets and run accurate reports.

  • Reduced Inbound Information Requests and Saved Time.

    Public information from journalists declined after Eau Claire proactively made financial information publicly available on OpenGov.

  • Improved Council Presentations. 

    Saved Views and interactive visualizations enabled city staff to illustrate their adherence to council priorities and to answer council questions in real-time.

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