Success Through Open Book Management
September 10, 2020 by
Like many counties, Greene County in Springfield, Missouri, was using a stand-alone legacy financial system that was more than 25 years old. All operational functions were administered independently with no shared data or information. In general, without integrated administrative and business management systems, silos impede efficiency and solution-bearing connections. Bottlenecks, miscommunications, operational delays, security vulnerabilities, and decisions based on anecdote, not fact, are common hurdles counties with legacy systems face.
In Greene County, inefficiencies became apparent with financial statements compiled by hand. Because revenue and expenditures were captured separately, without a trial balance report, manual financial reporting was the norm. The county sought a foundational system for all financial applications; one that would bring together accounts payable, budgeting, code enforcement, contract management, fixed assets, general ledger, human resources, payroll, permits and inspections, and project accounting, among others.
Open Book Management
A new, integrated financial software system eliminated silos by giving all county employees access to financial data in what leaders called, “Open Book Management.” Not only does OBM provide easy access to up-to-date financial data for all stakeholders, it enables data analysis for improved insight and more accurate future projections. “Trusting our projections provides us with an opportunity to influence the outcome,” noted Cindy Stein, County Auditor.
Equally beneficial was enhanced financial literacy among all staff. “Once employees understand the finances, the budget, and the financial impact, they become part of the solution,” said Stein. Employees that once only saw department-level financial information, if any, can now view and make sense of the county’s budget as a whole. This increased insight and awareness has led to county-wide planning sessions in which employees from all departments and at all levels provide recommendations.
Better forecasting in Greene County led to better budgeting. Accurate projections allow decision-makers to react to situations in a timelier manner, something that has already improved the county’s cash flow. Because everyone in the organization understands the county’s financial position through the new system's comprehensive financial models, more informed decisions have improved the cash position from below $4 million to more than $13 million.
This improvement has led to increased employee salaries, replacement of essential equipment, and a ratings increase from Moody’s Financial Services. The county also completed necessary building maintenance that had been put on the back burner.
The financial software integrates with an online transparency portal, providing updated financial information to internal and external users. Anyone can see accurate county finances, extending the staff’s financial literacy to the public.
The forward-thinking focus on integrated systems and the real returns on investment for the county and community earned Greene County a 2020 Tyler Excellence Award.