3 Ways to Empower Your Operations
September 23, 2021 by
Financial leaders play a critical role in connecting government purpose with outcomes and advancing community values like trust, transparency, and connection. And, as policies and business strategies evolve, the demand for financial functions to seamlessly integrate with the rest of government business increases to ensure impactful decision-making.
But what can financial officers do to keep up with the demand?
To find out, Tyler Technologies hosted a panel hearing directly from financial leaders with decades of public sector experience. The panel – moderated by Heyward Harvin, director of strategic partnerships at the National League of Cities – covered a variety of topics, including managing and tracking budgets in a consolidated place, generating accurate reports with balance updates in real-time, increasing revenue efficiency, and ensuring financial transparency with a fully integrated solution.
Noel Graczyk, administrative services director at the city of Chaska, Minnesota, and Charlie Proulx, innovation officer at the city of Port St. Lucie, Florida, were our guests, providing useful perspectives to anyone tasked with a financial management role in the public sector. Both Munis® clients agreed that financial officers in the public sector must focus on three things in order to be successful:
- Make end-users leaders and advocates
- Address change management with a positive attitude
- Prioritize clear communication and transparency
Make End-Users Leaders and Advocates
One of the key goals for the city of Chaska was to fully incorporate its enterprise resource planning (ERP) software solution across the organization and to optimize its use now and into the future. Working across departments to integrate systems and automate manual processes elevated the finance department to a leadership role.
Said Graczyk, “We had to really think about how we could address the needs of other end-users across the city. What do we need for financial reporting? What will others need as the city continues to grow and evolve?”
The city used its ERP solution to improve technology access to end-users and residents. It was able to collect the information it needed to become an advocate of the ERP solution across the organization, putting the financial management team in the position to lead the charge.
“It was very important to us to empower our end-users during the implementation of our ERP solution and also by positioning them as leaders in the organization,” said Graczyk. “Not only did we want our end-users to know the technology inside and out, but we wanted to empower them to be a go-to resource for others to trust. Through that trust, we can accomplish more.”
Address Change Management With a Positive Attitude
According to Proulx, support from leadership is one of the most important ways to garner end-user acceptance of any new project. In the city of Port St. Lucie, for example, Proulx evangelized the use of project ledger to streamline processes, centralize functions, eliminate data entry, and remove siloes. However, until department leaders got involved there was no real accountability across the city’s end-users to adopt the new process.
“Change management is hard because people are generally set in their ways,” said Proulx. “They typically don’t get involved in new initiatives unless they are made mandatory.”
Both panelists encourage financial officers to collaborate with their networks to find the most effective ways to use technology. Simply asking others how they accomplish certain tasks – cutting AP checks, purchasing, bids, etc. – can help you to think about your own organization’s processes more critically.
Proulx said, “We’ve been with Tyler since 1995. If we learn that another company is doing something in an interesting or effective way, we’ll steal that process in a heartbeat! Chances are, our Tyler ERP team can make it happen.”
Prioritize Clear Communication and Transparency
Providing transparency to residents and employees was a common theme throughout the panel discussion. According to Proulx, it was taking around 45 days for the city of Port St. Lucie’s utility customers to get necessary refunds – prompting hundreds of inquiries via telephone. The city was able to cut the timeline for refunds down to seven days by expanding its online services and providing more transparency to residents.
Proulx shared, “The faster we can get information out to our residents, the faster we can get information back from them – and the more effectively we can make decisions.”
Graczyk, who worked with the city of Chaska to set up Resident Access, an easy-to-use online experience for the community to access services and pay bills, agreed. Chaska allows residents to set up online accounts to track utilities, including amount billed, amount due, and payment information. Graczyk said, “Transparency allows the city to better serve residents. They no longer have to wait for someone to provide them with information – it is at their fingertips.”
Employees also crave transparency. Proulx admitted, “People become frustrated when they don’t understand what’s going on or what they’re being tasked to do. Communication is key. Our goal is to provide people with the support they need to succeed.”
As a Planned Annual Continuing Education (PACE) client, the city of Port St. Lucie is able to maximize its Tyler software through education and adoption of enhancements, delivered as part of regularly scheduled releases. According to Proulx, “It has been a tremendous help to have hours allocated and assessments available. This means we can acquire new modules and train end-users on how to use them.” This year, the city implemented p-cards, Vendor Access, Employee Access enhancements, and more.
“Our technology investments are only useful if we can provide our end-users with an understanding of how everything connects,” said Proulx.
Overall, financial officers have a tremendous opportunity to connect government purpose with outcomes. And our panelists agree, the best way to start is by making end-users advocates, being open to change, and prioritizing transparency.