Local government services play a role in so much of our everyday lives that they become invisible. How often do you think about the water you fill your coffeemaker with each morning, the street you drive your children to public school on or what happens after you drag the trash bin to the curb? They’re all services that hum along — until something goes wrong and residents get loud.
Avoid problems by ensuring that you’re providing what residents need. “What people are expecting is personalized, online, digital services for those things that can be digitized,” said Charlie Francis, Senior Consultant at Questica, which provides multi-user budgeting, performance measures, transparency and data visualization software for governments.
To achieve that, local governments must move away from budgeting for services in silos and come together to create a digital twin of the organization, Francis said.
“We can use this digital twin to test changes of services or put scenarios in place such as ‘if we implement this change or if this environmental factor comes along or if we change these processes, how will that affect our ability to raise taxes or raise revenues, to use revenues and address all the problems of the future?’” he said.
Say Goodbye to Spreadsheets
Traditional approaches to budgeting include incremental increases and accounting for line items. What’s missing is a way to understand whether a service can be delivered more effectively or efficiently. That’s because most government finance offices have historically relied on spreadsheets, which are great for calculating budgets, but don’t allow for modeling.
Spreadsheets are based on formulas that finance staff must repeatedly audit and test to stay up to date. What’s more, spreadsheets hinder sharing of institutional knowledge. For instance, when a 30-year veteran of a California finance department retired, employees they were stuck with spreadsheets filled with formulas no one could understand, Francis said.
Rules-based software avoids these problems. “By using algorithms, AI and rules-based software rather than formulas and spreadsheets, we’ll be able to provide a government that is digital and effectively delivering personalized and individualized services to its customers,” Francis said.
The software also serves as a platform for collaboration. This creates a “culture that says you must collaborate not because you have to, but because you want to, because you want to deliver services to citizens that citizens want,” Francis said.
How Questica Helps
In addition to offering cloud-based budgeting software, Questica has partnered with Balancing Act, a budget simulation tool that allows the public to say how they would allocate and prioritize budget dollars. That’s important to show constituents you are working to meet their expectations.
“The budget is not just a document saying, ‘Here’s how much money we’re going to spend.’ It’s a policy guide. It’s a level of service guide. It’s an operations guide, and it’s a communications tool,” Francis said. “It’s a way to tell the public, ‘We heard what you said.’”
This article appears in our guide, “Agency of the Future: How New Possibilities are Emerging in the Present.” To read more about how agencies are anticipating future needs, download it here.