The County of Shelby is the largest County in the State of Tennessee. They needed a budgeting solution that was easy-to-use and more flexible than their existing system.
Questica Budget Capital and Operating
Questica Budget provides Shelby County with a simplified, user-friendly and fast method of budget preparation.
- Flexible Reporting Capabilities
- Quick Turnaround on Budget Book Preparation
- User Friendly
- Supporting Documentation
- Data Integrity
- Multi-source Report Data
- Narrowed responsibility
- Service Level Measurement
Shelby County’s budget process starts in late fall, and culminates with Commission approval in June.
The County had been using the same budget process for many years and users were quite comfortable with it. However, it brought many challenges, including extensive data entry, ensuring accuracy of that data, a report system that was inflexible and complex, and difficulty in combing data with narrative text for program budgets.
A variety of Microsoft formats were used during all stages of budget preparation, including Microsoft’s Access, Excel, Publisher and Word.
The database system was a critical component of the budgeting process. However, given its complexity and inflexibility, not many resources were familiar enough with it to make changes to the existing format. It was difficult to manipulate data to build scenarios or change modifiers, which resulted in a heavy reliance on a couple of resources with in-depth knowledge of the system.
Reporting proved to be another challenge. Navigating the many existing queries and reports could be a source of confusion to users, while creating new reports presented issues in terms of time and design skills.
One of the biggest challenges in preparing the budget document is consolidating all information in as efficient a method as possible. A program budget is required for every single budget unit, including financial data and narrative text. Since no suitable product was available in their current library, Shelby County created the necessary documents by using a merge process in Word; however, this was a very cumbersome procedure that was not conducive to frequent changes.
Due to County protocol, the Finance Department was required to prepare the budget book twice —once in preparation for presentation to the County Commission and again once the final budget had been approved. This required a tight turnaround and was a significant drain on resources.
A new budgeting solution had been on the County’s mind for some time, but due to budget limitations, they weren’t sourcing anything.
Based on a recommendation by MS Govern, they agreed to a demonstration of the Questica Budget Suite and were pleased to learn that Questica Budget could resolve many of their budgeting challenges, plus it would integrate easily with their financial system and other software.
The implementation at Shelby County was managed in several stages to accommodate their day-to-day operations. The first phase involved setting up the database and preparing the Budget Book and provided several immediate benefits. Phase Two provided the County further benefits such as greater controls over position based budgeting, multi-year budgeting, modeling scenarios for different expenditure levels, and security controls over budgets through all stages of the budget.
Flexible reporting capabilities
Questica Budget provides robust report capabilities, enabling the County the flexibility they require. The structure of the 80-plus standard reports and custom reports the County has had developed, are such that a report can be run in a variety of configurations – by Fund, by Division, by Department, etc., in summary or detail mode. By providing this flexibility, a variety of people can now be involved in the preparation and running of reports for the budget books.
Quick turnaround on Budget Book preparation
Questica Budget simplifies the process of preparing budget books. Now, not only can more people be involved in the process, but the time required to change reports is reduced significantly. This frees up the Finance department to focus on other job duties such as reviewing the financial data rather than producing it.
Questica Budget is designed to mimic the structure of many familiar software applications. It is intuitive and makes the time required to understand and use the system much shorter. This reduces the dependency on a few key personnel and decentralizes the budget process. Feedback from the staff at Shelby indicated that the new system was very user-friendly, and an improvement over the previous complicated paper process.
Decentralization is a definite advantage to the Questica Budget system. Shelby’s users appreciate having independent access to their data and reports throughout the process and the ability to add notes/vendor names, etc. to their budgets. Department heads are now aware of their budgets, including changes, and real-time actuals. The County plans to use a “zero-based” approach next year for certain accounts, something that was not feasible in the past.
Our budgeting solution provides the ability to attach supporting documentation and notes, providing historical data required to make business decisions, thus enabling department staff to understand why certain decisions have been made, by whom, and when. This removes the laborious task of searching back through paper documents and emails to find the details they need.
Questica Budget establishes a very structured approach to budget entry and tracking. Users can not inadvertently “flip a switch” and make an unknown mistake, as they were able to do in the previous system. This allows users to have greater confidence in the data, and by extension, in the reports they run.
Multi-source report data
Questica Budget reports are designed to combine data from various sources. Program Budgets can be run for every single budget unit, combined on one page, capturing financial data along with associated narrative text such as service level measurement, scenario, historical and current budget information.
Having defined roles and responsibilities helps the County maintain accountability. The process of promoting and locking budgets as they progress up the approval chain, ensures control is maintained, and only designated people can make changes to the data. It is clear at each stage what the responsibilities of every individual are.
Service level measurement
Performance Measurement capabilities provide the County with a way to track and forecast an unlimited number of services per costing center. They can see and compare four years of data (current year plus previous three years), with an estimated and actual amount for each year. Full security controls ensure the integrity of the data. In addition, service level measurements are rolled forward to the next budget year, eliminating the need for data re-entry.
“The customer service provided by the Questica staff has been excellent – always very professional and pro-active in adapting their product to our needs.” – Wanda Richards, Budget Controller, Shelby County
Thanks to more efficient budgeting, Shelby County is brilliant.