Most budget departments that inquire about our operating budgetsoftware use the same software to perform their budgeting that they use at home to perform other tasks. In many cases, jurisdictions are required to use outdated versions of software that is more limited in terms of functionality then the software they use at home. Many budget departments are required to use Microsoft Office products that are vastly inadequate for the tasks they are performing and spread data over many disparate sources. Having to keep track of data in many different locations causes jurisdictions to rely on very labor-intensive budgeting processes. I have personally heard of scenarios where entire jobs are devoted to keeping track of numbering systems among multiple spreadsheets – a job which could be done by a database for much lower cost and with greater integrity.
Critical tasks such as focusing efforts on budget policy, research and analysis are left aside because users have no choice but to perform menial tasks. Easily available technology that should be optimizing methods of operations are not utilized, often to the detriment of the users who create the budget. In this situation, software often becomes an electronic book-keeping system that provides little benefit over tracking data on paper and performing analysis with a calculator – it requires the user to do all the tedious work rather than enabling the user to focus on more important responsibilities.
Often transitioning to a new method of operation is seen as a burden: training, the initial cost, moving data to a new format, adjusting to a new way of things . The short term detriment of transitioning is seen as outweighing the long-term benefits of streamlining operations and providing a higher return for the time/resources spent. Especially with ensuing budget cuts across the nation, it seems an arduous task to request dollars to streamline existing budgeting operations. However, if departments continue to do nothing the problem will just become worse. The public sector will continue to become more and more out of touch with technological tools that could benefit government employees and taxpayers. As time progresses, budgeting departments will not be able to meet best practices that are reliant upon use of the latest technology. If nothing is done then labor-intensive budgeting practices will continue.
In my experience, I have found the resistance to change is not the choice of the budgeting department. Budgeting department are fully aware of their lack of resources and ability to keep up to best practices with outdated software, however they have trouble doing anything about it. This problem calls for a new way of prioritizing initiatives as this is not a problem that the budgeting department can fix by itself. If your department wants new software, do not go to Purchasing first, go to your IT department. Often outdated software is a problem across every department. The key is to get your IT department involved in a jurisdiction-wide upgrading initiative. Get your IT manager to push more web-enabled software across the board, it does not have to be budgeting software. Once the ball is rolling towards improving your technological infrastructure it will be much easier to justify spending for improving software systems.