In the 1950s, several jurisdictions united to establish the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, or NOVA Parks, with a mission to protect and enrich Northern Virginia’s natural landscapes from deforestation and urbanization. Today, NOVA Parks has preserved over 12,000 acres of Virginian countryside, including 50 miles of waterfront, while providing over two million citizens with recreational facilities and activities like golf courses, camping grounds, and waterparks.
Driven by data, Budget Administrator Kim McClesky is always looking for strategic revenue drivers and trends. “You have to be innovative. You have to be on your game. You have to come up with new features and ways of raising revenue to make it work,” says Kim.
“There wasn’t a day that went by where I didn’t say ‘How would we be doing this if we didn’t have OpenGov?’”
Pull Reports in Minutes
Quarterly Presentations to Board -> Monthly Emails
Paperless Budget Meetings
As an OpenGov customer for more than 7 years, Kim uses OpenGov Budgeting and Planning and the Reporting and Transparency Platform to optimize the budget for each of NOVA Park’s seasonal attractions and strategically spread revenue throughout the fiscal year.
- Pull Reports in Minutes
- Quarterly Presentations to Board -> Monthly Emails
- Paperless Budget Meetings
Data that Drives Budget Decisions
Back in 2015, Kim was determined to revolutionize how the NOVA Parks team utilized data. Working in Excel, Kim and her team found it both challenging and time-consuming to derive meaningful data from flat files. This goal of more easily drilling down data and identifying trends that influence the budget ultimately led to NOVA Parks’ partnership with OpenGov that same year.
Fast-forward to 2022, Kim reviews reports and dashboards within OpenGov every single day. As the Budget Administrator at a special agency, it is crucial for Kim to be able to segregate data by activity, ie. look at net income data from different golf courses to compare revenue drivers. This once challenging metric to find in a static system like Excel is now made easy with OpenGov’s customizable and automated reporting features.
“It was like the blinders were taken off. We can now slice and dice data like we have never imagined,” said Kim of OpenGov Reporting and Transparency.
It is also vital that the NOVA Parks budget team can pull data quickly as attractions are seasonal. Luckily, reports that used to take Kim a full week of work to pull from Excel, now only take 30 minutes. The team was especially grateful for this time savings in the heat of the pandemic, when reports were necessary to influence immediate and unprecedented changes to the budget.
“There wasn’t a day that went by where I didn’t say ‘Oh my gosh how would we be doing this if we didn’t have OpenGov?’” Kim said.
The team also uses OpenGov Stories to improve internal transparency between NOVA Park Staff and the Board. Prior to OpenGov, NOVA Park Staff presented to the board on a quarterly basis. Pulling data, not to mention crafting presentations in order to make the data meaningful, was extremely time-consuming. “It was copying and pasting, copying and pasting,” said Kim, “You would spend all your time formatting it, and now [with OpenGov Stories] we have more time to analyze it.”
Executive Director Paul Gilbert, now sends out a monthly Story to the Board and to employees. This consistent transparency has increased collaboration and communication between NOVA Park Staff and the Board, Kim says. It also diminished the need for quarterly presentations relieving many NOVA Park staff members of hours of tedious work. Kim is also proud of the feedback she has received from using Stories vs. creating presentations: Board members remarked that it is now much easier to understand monthly trends when it is presented in a visual and digestible format.
Ditching Paper and Driving Change
After years of paper-based processes, it can be difficult for tech leaders like Kim to get their colleagues in tune with a paperless budget process. So, to ease the transition, the team provided trainings to new users and pre-populated worksheets with account codes.
“The most surprising thing to me was how easily staff picked up on it,” said Kim.
Kim was amazed at how quickly her colleagues put down their binders and picked up their laptops. “Even staff that only use the system once a year never seem to have trouble when they have to get on [OpenGov] again the following year,” said Kim.
By 2019 (one year after go-live on OpenGov Budgeting & Planning),it would be rare to see a piece of paper at a budget meeting, says Kim. With maneuverable data at each of their fingertips, the NOVA Parks team could instantly change the budget and automatically see the effect in surrounding reports. It was an “eye-opening moment” for all of NOVA Parks to make a budget change and see the effect in real time.
A New Way to Workforce Plan
For Kim, one of the most important modules in OpenGov Budgeting & Planning was Workforce Planning. As a special agency, workforce planning can be difficult as many employees are seasonal or part-time, leading to a variety of different cost elements. Again, the ease of OpenGov alleviated many of the stressors and errors the team faced when dealing with a dynamic workforce in a flat-file.
“[The workforce tool] was even better than we expected it to be. It is a lot more nimble,” says Kim.
The NOVA Parks budget team looks forward to further improving data analysis capabilities and providing real-time information to staff. “With the recent adoption of a new 5-year Strategic Plan, there will be a focus on strengthening the linkages between the Budget and Strategic Plan to ensure that together these initiatives play an integral role in shaping the future of NOVA Parks,” says Kim.
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