The Town of Natick wanted to make their budgeting process more transparent, collaborative, efficient, and accurate.
The budgeting process is one of the most important tasks that Natick faces annually. Prioritizing what gets distributed where affects everyone within the community, so it’s especially important to keep the process open and collaborative.
Sean O’Brien, special assistant to the finance director, plays a key role in producing and monitoring the annual budget, coordinating with internal department heads to capture everyone’s input and kick out the numbers they need in a timely manner.
Prior to purchasing ClearGov, O’Brien spent a ton of time chasing stakeholders and manually reconciling data from multiple spreadsheets to roll up the budget. The process was cumbersome and inefficient. Plus, trying to decipher as many as four versions of the same spreadsheet at once only increased the potential for error.
Also, he’d have to print out packets for every budget meeting (for every member of the team) so they could review budget highlights and changes together. Naturally, capturing everything on paper and making sure everyone was working off the same version was often a challenge.
Today, Natick officials use ClearGov Operational Budgeting to collaborate on the annual budget in real time. In addition to promoting internal transparency between department heads and administrators, ClearGov has eliminated the version control headaches O’Brien struggled with in the past.
Using ClearGov has also led to “more productive and efficient public hearings” as well. Budget meetings used to involve thumbing through paper printouts and jockeying to get everyone — both literally and figuratively — on the same page. Now the administrative team simply connects a laptop to a large TV monitor and goes through the budget, line item by line item, so everyone in attendance can easily see changes as they’re made.
O’Brien explains, “Our team is now able to append notes, attachments, and comments to specific line items directly in the budget, collaborating in real time and reducing the amount of materials we need to print for meetings.”
This ability to annotate significant budget changes and attach relevant support documents to each line item has been a game changer. “In the past, changes and new initiatives were captured as footnotes in a presentation. Now, all the info we need is on one line and we can easily open it up for review in our hearings.”