Written by Nina Vetter, Strategic Planning Administrator for the City of Colorado Springs Budget Office
In December of 2015, the City of Colorado Springs Budget Office realized that we had a number of time-consuming reconciliation and duplicate data entry in the last budget process and wanted to see if there was a way to address those issues.
Therefore, the City of Colorado Springs Budget Office completed a process improvement workshop to map the current budget process, identify areas for improvement, and determine next steps in pursuing experiments to improve the process. The budget process focused on the budget number entry process – beginning with the budget office determining what data should be required and ending with preliminary budget data for all departments.
After mapping the process, the budget team went through the “5 Whys,” the “If-Then” exercise to identify potential experiments, and then the impact/effort matrix to layout each experiment. The highest ranking experiment was “Use SharePoint for excel spreadsheets”, essentially using one shared location for budget documents rather than routing documents via email, which had previously led to version control issues and therefore substantial rework. The primary goals were to improve data accuracy, simplify the workload for Budget Office staff, allowing staff more time to assist budget process participants, and eliminate version control issues.
The City’s Budget Office then reached out to the SharePoint specialist in IT to discuss the idea, and learned that there was a more efficient mechanism for the budget number entry process than simply putting an excel spreadsheet on SharePoint.
After establishing a project charter (a statement of objectives in a project), the SharePoint specialist recommended building the workbooks in a SharePoint list, that could be restricted to the assigned personnel, accessed at any time, and that could easily be exported into a traditional excel worksheet, if needed.
The Budget Office worked with the SharePoint specialist to layout the information needed from each department in one location, including personnel information, unfunded budget needs, strategic plan initiatives and line-item expense and revenue entries. With one shared, collaborative space for both the Budget Office and departments, the amount of rework, copying and pasting into various excel workbooks, and running and manipulating reports was significantly minimized.
Additionally, using Cartegraph (an asset management system) for Capital Improvement Projects (“CIP”) created further efficiency with CIP data.
The new process improved our accuracy, reliability, access to accurate real-time information, and eliminated the version control issue. In previous years, the budget team was comprised of four full-time employees, with three analysts working on department budgets. The budget analysts averaged approximately 65 hours or $2,000 in weekend work hours doing rework, manipulating data, and reformatting and sorting data. For the 2017 Budget, the budget team was comprised of four full-time employees, with only two analysts working on department budgets, and one analyst who worked solely on strategic plan, special projects and performance measures. Due to the process improvement, the weekend work hours were not needed and the one analyst was able to dedicate her entire time to strategic alignment and performance measurement.
The efficiency gained from this process improvement experiment generated $85,000 in savings (a full-time position and rework time) to the City of Colorado Springs and allowed the Budget Office to expand its focus on strategic alignment and performance measurement. Furthermore, this process improvement exceeded the original expectations and stated goals of improving accuracy and eliminating version control issues.
Your organization’s challenges may look similar or totally different than the Colorado Springs budget team, but using basic lean tools to assess how your processes are working could help reduce inefficiencies and cost for you too.