Category Archives: Product

3 Ways OpenGov Maps Helps You Manage Your Government

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Every day, your agency strives to ensure it serves the entire community. This often requires analyzing geographic information, using maps, to better allocate resources and track results. However, many legacy technologies are purpose-built for GIS teams, making it difficult for managers to view and create maps on the fly.

We built OpenGov Maps from the ground up to provide self-service analysis to everyone in your agency. Simply upload your location based data into OpenGov, and in a matter of seconds, you can explore this information using a variety of dynamic map visualizations. Here are three ways we think OpenGov Maps can help your agency:

Uncover Economic Development and Growth Opportunities

  • Analyze sales tax revenues using OpenGov’s dynamic heat maps.
  • Quickly discover areas of growth or stagnation to better plan economic development campaigns and resource allocations.

OpenGov’s Finance Expert and Sausalito, California’s former Finance Director Charlie Francis explains how “a key priority in government is to balance service delivery against revenues across residential, commercial, and industrial parcels. Visualizing this data in a heat map reveals areas that may require economic vitalization, enabling officials to optimize for future service delivery.”

Manage Grants and Ensure Compliance With Geographic Requirements

Many grants stipulate that grant funds should be allocated across projects and programs across the jurisdiction’s physical boundaries. OpenGov Maps enables you to demonstrate the even distribution of these funds, and communicate your initiatives to council, constituents, grantors, and staff.

Communicate Your Capital Project Priorities

  • Better communicate the status and magnitude of ongoing and proposed capital improvement projects.
  • Empower your citizens to see which projects are in a specific district or neighborhood.
  • Foster collaboration among businesses, constituents, and other stakeholders to better inform on the city’s priorities.

Conclusion

Maps is a powerful new feature of OpenGov Intelligence, OpenGov’s easy-to-use, self-service management reporting and analytics platform. Maps helps you better communicate about your capital projects, gain insights into your building permits, visualize trends in public safety, or analyze any other location-based data.

Introducing the Easiest Way to Build Your Budget

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We’re excited to introduce OpenGov Budget Builder, the definitive tool for smart, streamlined budgeting. Budget Builder ensures a collaborative, coordinated budget process by offering a central place for your departments to submit proposals, budget teams to review submissions, and managers to present the budget to elected officials. Budget leaders nationwide are already using Budget Builder to deliver results for their agencies. These early users, like Budget Director Connie Maxwell of Burnet, Texas, have cut the time they spend working on the budget by over 50%. And they’ve reduced much of the clerical work required in the process—allowing them to focus on strategy!

In her own words, “Budget season has always been an ordeal—I worked late every night, plus through weekends. OpenGov has changed this entire process, giving me back my life and opening up enough time for me to focus on other priorities for the city. Gone are the days of digging around in spreadsheets and enduring lengthy proposal submission cycles. OpenGov has streamlined much of the clerical work involved in budgeting, and I could not be more grateful.”

If you’d like to see how you can be more strategic and learn how Budget Builder can help you in your budget process now, then I’d welcome the opportunity to show you. You’ll see how budget teams at cities like Burnet, Texas and Greenwood, Indiana have already saved countless hours during their recent budget cycles.

With Budget Builder, we set out to build something from the ground up that would transform how governments budget. Now you can:

  • Collaborate across your organization: Instead of sending dozens of spreadsheets back and forth by email, your departmental budget teams can submit proposals and supporting documents into a central online system. Your budget managers and analysts can then approve, comment on, or reject proposals. Managing the entire budget process on a secure, multi-user system reduces errors and enables all team members and stakeholders to stay synced.
  • Save time and focus on strategy: By eliminating the need to constantly reconcile dozens of spreadsheets in Excel, scour printed documents, and comb through email chains, Budget Builder lets your budget team and analysts spend their time focused on strategy and crafting a budget that delivers the best services to citizens.
  • Leverage integrated management reporting, open data, and transparency: Budget teams can create interactive Budget Milestone Reports to update elected officials and other stakeholders across the organization. After elected officials adopt a budget, your agency can report on performance against the budget, manage budget amendments, and share results with citizens.

The addition of Budget Builder rounds out our Smart Government platform—the world’s first integrated cloud solution for budgeting, reporting, and open data. From planning, to operating, to communicating with elected officials and citizens, OpenGov enables you to make data-driven decisions and improve outcomes.

Want to take a look? Or even see your data in OpenGov Budget Builder? Request a personalized demonstration and we’ll be delighted to speak with you.

Building the Connected Government: OpenGov Acquires Ontodia

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We are excited to announce that OpenGov has acquired Ontodia, the leader in Open Data and performance management solutions using CKAN, the premier open-source data platform for government. This acquisition accelerates OpenGov’s vision of ushering in the era of connected government.

OpenGov Meets Ontodia: The Next Generation of Open Data

Governments have recently recognized that Open Data initiatives drive public engagement and better decision-making. Governments can now release richer data at little cost through open source solutions like CKAN, powered by declining storage costs and the rise of cloud computing from the likes of Amazon and IBM. We believe these advancements, coupled with OpenGov’s unique understanding of government financials, usher in the next generation of Open Data.

This is where Ontodia comes in. Its values and mission align with OpenGov’s. Ontodia strives to link Open Data across departments, agencies, and organizations worldwide to drive better transparency and performance. Our union brings two key Open Data capabilities to OpenGov.

First, Ontodia, and now OpenGov, manages CKAN installations for several of America’s largest cities. CKAN  powers the world’s largest data portals such as Data.gov and Data.gov.uk, and now governments of all sizes can benefit from enterprise-ready CKAN.

Enterprise-ready CKAN combines the benefits of a standards-based, open-source solution with the confidence of a fully managed implementation, extended with value-added modules that put data to work. Governments can now quickly and easily leverage the best open source solution for their Open Data efforts.

Second, Ontodia adds CivicDashboards to the OpenGov platform. CivicDashboards augments OpenGov’s real-time, multi-fund government financial data with the world’s largest repository of preloaded maps and longitudinal data from high-value sources such as the U.S. Census, Department of Labor Statistics, and the FBI. And, it provides a framework that enables development of sophisticated, customized operational dashboards for staff, managers, elected officials, and citizens with data from CKAN and other Open Data sources.

Adding CKAN and CivicDashboards to the OpenGov platform provides immediate value for governments looking to leverage financial and performance insights to inform their decisions, fulfill transparency and Open Data initiatives, and ultimately improve public services. We’re excited to get to work delivering these benefits to current and future customers.

Building the Connected Government Together

These efforts are just the beginning. We’re enabling the connected government, where governments wield cloud and data analytics technologies to create digital connections – within organizations, between governments, to infrastructure, and with the public. New insights and collaboration from these connections improve services and citizens’ quality of life.

Imagine the possibilities. State and local agencies will easily budget for shared infrastructure projects on a common platform, automatically integrating into each government’s capital budget. Governments will seamlessly share information on criminal movement across regions to coordinate public safety and education programs, tracking results with compelling dashboards and maps. Driverless cars will tap into real-time traffic and infrastructure data to plot efficient routes and reduce congestion. Citizens will learn about their governments as easily as they post to Facebook. These benefits will be so powerful that it will be irresponsible for governments not to connect.

This acquisition accelerates the launch of the connected government era. Over the coming years, we will continue to develop solutions based on the newest technologies and grounded in the wisdom of the thousands of government leaders in the OpenGov Network. We will keep working tirelessly to give our customers the tools they need to connect and thrive. Our governments need and deserve the best technology, and it is our civic duty to empower them.

Both of our companies have worked hard to achieve similar visions since our respective foundings, and this union marks the next step in a shared mission to transform the world’s most important industry.

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Saved Views for Checkbook and Nonfinancial Reports

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Hundreds of governments bookmark views in their OpenGov general ledger reports to answer key questions with the click of a mouse. And starting today, users can also save views in all OpenGov reports, which give easy and instant access to checkbook data, vendor transactions, and non-financial performance data like building permits and police runs.

Quickly get the answers you need

Saved Views answer frequently asked questions from department heads, staff, and citizens. Instead of manually filtering and pivoting data every time you need an answer, simply click a Saved View and instantaneously get the insights you need.

Prepare for meetings with staff and elected officials

Anticipate questions before meetings or presentations and create Saved Views to answer them. For example, if you are a City Manager preparing to meet with a Council member, use Saved Views to walk through building permit trends, vendor expenditures by capital project, or police runs by day of the week. Simply click on the view during the meeting to pull up the answer in real-time, and drill down if she needs more information. And if you receive a question you didn’t anticipate, quickly filter the report in OpenGov and save the view on the spot for future use.

Engage the public

Saved Views allow governments to direct citizens to answers to commonly asked questions. For example, bookmark views on Police Runs that automatically point citizens to the breakdown of incident type over time. Or show businesses how building permit trends and types have changed over time.

Ready to try Saved Views on more reports?

Are you an existing customer? Log-in to get started and read our easy how-to guide on the Resource Center article on Saved Views. Questions? Contact your Customer Success Manager.

New to OpenGov? Simply complete a Demo Request and we’ll walk you through what OpenGov can do for your government or agency.

It just got easier to create and share reports with OpenGov

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Top-notch reporting drives success. OpenGov users around the country use our financial and performance reporting tools to gain new insights, share them around the organization and inform the public. We are thrilled to announce two new product features that make it easier for you to create and personalize reports in OpenGov.

Eliminate “trial and error” with new OpenGov Reporting Templates

Report templates give you a starting point to create compelling reports and visualizations to help you run your government. Simply follow the template’s step-by-step instructions to build your own version. We started with the three templates below. And we’ve got several more on the way.

  • Checkbook Reporting: Dive into your transactions with checkbook reporting. View and analyze your vendor payments, invoices and other information from your ledgers and checkbooks at the transaction-level. Governments around America share checkbook reports through Open Data initiatives, and our template shows you step by step how you can too.
  • Water Consumption: Customers like Northglenn, CO build water consumption reports that break down water consumption by season, use, and other metrics. See how much water is spent in apartments or businesses. Use the template to build a water consumption report for your organization.
  • Police Runs: Use OpenGov’s Police Runs template to easily build reports that show police activity. The report depicts runs by region, by crime type, etc. with interactive visualizations. Answer hot-button questions about police performance with the click of a button.

Create personalized reports for your management team with the click of a button

Our new Report Cloning feature lets you instantly create and personalize unique reports for managers and staff across the organization. Start with a base report, then make as many customized copies as you need with the click of a button. For example, you can create personalized reports for your departments.

Department heads need tailored expenditure reports. There’s no reason for the Library Director and the Police Chief to need a monthly report that highlights the same information. But your City Manager needs a broader perspective. Now, with OpenGov, you can satisfy everyone’s reporting needs.

Putting it all together

OpenGov allows you to create a living, breathing repository of reports that helps you and your colleagues run more efficiently and make better data-driven decisions. And helps you tell your story to the public. With these new features you can create new reports faster, and  ensure they are in the hands (and mobile devices) of all the people that need them!

Ready to take your reporting to the next level?

Are you an existing customer? Log-in to get started. Questions? Contact your Account Manager.

New to OpenGov? Simply complete a Demo Request and we’ll walk you through what OpenGov can do for your government or agency.

Jason Carian is a Product Manager at OpenGov. You can contact him at jcarian@opengov.com

Benchmarking Police Costs: Then and Now

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Kids from coast to coast dream of serving as Police Officers. Police cars at carnivals and fairs attract throngs of children. And this Halloween weekend, thousands of kids will don a police badge, ready to save their neighborhoods while filling their bellies with candy in the process. You might even see some of them at your door if you open your home for trick-or-treating.

Children, like their parents, know policing is one of the most important services a government provides to its citizens. Every year, governments spend considerable time during the budget process deciding how much to allocate to the Police Department. Benchmarking drives this process, allowing cities to compare their police costs to other jurisdictions.

Let’s say a city wants to benchmark its police costs per capita against neighboring governments. These benchmarks will inform current budget deliberations. In the past, this process was tough and fraught with uncertainty. Kind of like walking through a Haunted House, albeit far less fun.

Benchmarking in the Past

A public administrator seeking to benchmark police costs per capita might perform the following steps:

Step 1 – Gather the CAFR: Public administrators must compile each target government’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). CAFRs are audited documents that explain a government’s financial performance. These documents are typically in PDF form, and must be individually downloaded or opened from each jurisdiction’s website.

Step 2 – Enter data into a spreadsheet: If five cities are selected for benchmarking, then staff must comb five CAFRs and manually enter police costs into a spreadsheet. Some cities may lump police under Public Safety in their CAFR, so a public administrator may have to pick up the phone and call a neighboring jurisdiction to learn more.

Step 3 – Interpret the information: All the CAFRs may report police costs, but these are still not exact “apples to apples” benchmarks. These comparisons do not account for differences in both service offerings and in how cities organize their Charts of Accounts. For example, some Police Departments may include auxiliary services like animal control in their budgets while other cities may classify this under a different department such as Public Works. Also, some Police Departments may offer services that others do not. Cities may even hire consultants to sort this out.

Public administrators often try to control for different service offerings when they determine whom to benchmark with, but it’s unlikely that any two cities will have identical services. And this does not even account for the differences in Charts of Accounts. Both of these setbacks restrict the number of cities that can be selected for benchmarking because service offerings must be similar at the outset and Charts of Accounts should not be too disparate.

Step 4 – Add in census information: Finally, police costs must be normalized per capita. CAFRs have a statistics section with population data. Pull population data from the CAFR, then manually divide the aggregate costs by the population. For every city.  

Step 5 – Prepare a graph or table: Manually create a graphic in a spreadsheet application then paste it into a report.   

Benchmarking in the Present. With OpenGov.

Using OpenGov, staff can benchmark in seconds or minutes and ensure the benchmark is consistent across Charts of Accounts. It’s a lot less scary than walking through a Haunted House. Benchmark police costs per capita by performing the following steps:

Step 1 – Select the Police: Click the relevant Department to filter your benchmark. OpenGov automatically compiles the data, removing the need to manually input CAFR information into a spreadsheet.

Step 2- Ensure Charts of Accounts are consistent: Click each city to select/deselect parts of the Chart of Accounts. OpenGov is powered by technology that equalizes benchmarks across Charts of Accounts, but it’s important to double check and correct OpenGov if necessary. The system gets smarter over time.

Step 3- Scale the data: With the click of a button, normalize the benchmark. OpenGov is preloaded with census data you can use to automatically scale your benchmark.

Done.

Interested in learning more about how technologies like OpenGov will transform government comparisons? Download our white paper: Three Ways Government Comparisons Will Change in the Connected Era.

Exploring OpenGov Reporting 5 of 5: Transactions

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Governments transact with hundreds of vendors. Executives need to track these payments to manage costs, compare vendors, and track department expenditures. OpenGov’s transaction-level reporting capabilities can help managers monitor transactions.

Many OpenGov customers analyze their transactions in tabular reports and visualizations. Users track transactions by department and assess expenditures by vendor. Additionally, OpenGov empowers administrators to quickly pivot between different views of transactional data. For example, by clicking a button, users can pivot between transactions by fund and transactions by department. Both the tabular and visual reports automatically update to display a chosen view of the data. This rapid pivoting feature saves time for public administrators trying to obtain a holistic view of their transactions.

The image below shows a tabular report broken down by account number. OpenGov makes it easy to keep this information current and pivot between views. Reports such as these can also be shared with relevant stakeholders with the click of a button. These reports are synced, so you do not have to re-share them if the data change.

Join OpenGov on October 7th at 1:30 EST/10:30 PST to learn how to use transaction-level reporting and see other features of OpenGov Intelligence!

Exploring OpenGov Reporting 4 of 5: Employee Compensation

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OpenGov’s tabular reporting capabilities allow users to visualize Employee Compensation data — delivering important insights into your payroll information. By uploading actual pay registers to internal OpenGov reports, cities such as McKinney, TX, Sausalito, CA and Red River, NM visualize multiple dimensions of their payroll, such as Pay Codes (Normal Pay, FLSA Overtime, FMLA Leave, Sick Leave Paid, Special Pay, etc.), Employer Paid Benefits, and Deductions. OpenGov’s enables public administrators to visualize individual pay history over multiple years to learn who in the organization is paid the most, discover year-over-year (YoY) payroll trends across Departments, and use OpenGov to determine where overtime dollars are spent.

Many OpenGov users view their employee compensation by department. The image below shows the breakdown for one of our customers:

Users can explore the data in a wide range of ways. For example, the customer depicted above spends the most on police. Clicking on the police department displays information on the allocation of police payroll costs amongst different payment types:

OpenGov’s reporting tools also break down pay by position within departments. This image shows police payments by position for the same customer:

Join OpenGov on October 7th at 1:30 EST/10:30 PST to learn how to visualize employee compensation and see other features of OpenGov Intelligence!

Ohio’s Local Governments Open Checkbooks to Citizens

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First state-wide effort to bring open finances to every local governing entity kicks off

OpenGov was founded on a simple premise: that technology can transform the way governments do business. Since our founding in 2012, we have worked toward this goal by building a cloud-based platform that makes data easy to manage for government officials and administrators and easy to understand for citizens. The OpenGov platform makes governments more efficient, and it enables citizens to be better informed.

But technology alone is not enough to fulfill our mission – our country needs government leaders who embrace technology and believe that budget transparency matters. We need leaders who are committed to giving citizens real insight into how their tax dollars are being spent and unafraid of embracing innovation.

Over the past few years, we’ve met and worked with leaders like this in cities of all sizes across the U.S. Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel is the first state government leader to launch a financial transparency effort on this scale. In April, he made an unprecedented statewide commitment to financial transparency – to bring checkbook-level spending detail to all 3,962 local government entities in the state through OhioCheckbook.com, powered by OpenGov.

Since that announcement, OpenGov has been working with local governments across Ohio to transform their financial data – often confined in static spreadsheets – into an intuitive, interactive platform. Today, 114 Ohio governments have joined the OhioCheckbook.com platform including 40 cities and villages, 32 townships, 8 counties, 32 school districts and 2 special districts. In total, these governments have put more than 6 million individual checkbook entries online representing $14.2 billion in spending. Hundreds more government entities will join them in the coming months.

With a few clicks, users can answer questions such as “how much money has the government spent in total on street lights?” or “which departments spent the most money last month?” With this initiative, Ohio is truly setting the gold standard for transparency in government spending, making millions of local government checkbook entries available to citizens in an easy-to-use digital format.

With OpenGov Checkbook technology, citizens and administrators alike can search millions of individual checkbook entries in a fast, digital format. Here are just a few of the features:

  • Faster search. Users can search by a specific department, date, vendor, or use the Google-style search bar, which will return any value in the report that matches the entered text. Keywords may be searched by simply clicking on the term – one of the most popular ways to explore the data.
  • Clear data visualization for better insights. Interactive data visualizations make it easier to analyze historical trends and compare spending across vendors and departments. For example, users can quickly explore what a department spends on a particular vendor year over year, and then drill into a specific vendor and see the actual expenses.
  • More ways to share. The share menu enables users to share their filter selection by email or on social media. The data may also be downloaded for further analysis.
  • Visualize each expense as a “check”. Individual expenses can be visualized as they would in a printed check format. Pull up the check representation by simply clicking a row and selecting ‘View Check Details’.

Internally, the OpenGov platform helps administrators manage their operations. By moving government financial data into a searchable online platform, public administrators can better analyze historical trends, manage current year operations, and plan for the future. Like Treasurer Mandel, local government leaders across the country are recognizing these benefits and joining the movement for greater financial transparency and efficiency.

OpenGov is proud to share in this vision.  Already working with more than 500 governments nationwide – including cities like Miami, Minneapolis, and Pittsburgh – we are excited and honored to further expand our platform in the state of Ohio.


How to navigate Checkbook

Exploring OpenGov Reporting 3 of 5: Capital Projects

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Capital projects are major investments in long-lived infrastructure. Project managers, typically civil engineers, oversee projects and ensure construction aligns with contract specifications and budgets. Funding often comes from complex combinations of reserves, revenue sharing, fees and grants. Project managers produce reports for management, grantors, Council and other interested parties, authorize progress payments to vendors, and commission own-force labor.

OpenGov helps project managers oversee their capital projects. It stores and reports on the specific funding, payroll, and vendor accounts for each project. Reporting also links to your transactions, allowing you to see specific vendor transactions for each project. Users can share automatically-updating reports with relevant stakeholders — ensuring everyone is on the same page for complicated projects.

OpenGov reporting can include budget information for the current and any number of future years in addition to actual revenues and expenses. When planners forecast large projects for completion in stages over several years, the ability to visualize the entire project on one screen supports complex resource allocation and management processes.

For example, San Diego employees use OpenGov to visualize capital projects through different views. The image below depicts San Diego’s water distribution infrastructure improvement projects. Each element of the pie chart corresponds to a specific project approved in the 2015-2016 Capital Budget.