Case Study: Sound Transit
Sound Transit in Seattle, WA has daily ridership of over 100,000 on its fleet of buses and on its commuter rail and light rail service. It is the Regional Transit Authority in Washington State’s Central Puget Sound and serves the urban areas of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.
JD Edwards E1
Sound Transit was looking for a solution that would provide connectivity and visibility along with saving time and money.
Questica Budget Capital and Operating
Sound Transit implemented Questica Budget during their budget process and saw immediate benefits in several areas resulting in at least three months of time saved.
- Integration & Collaboration
- Easier to Manage
- Data Integrity
- Report Flexibility
- Roll Forward Budget Year
Sound Transit begins work on their budgets in April and May, submitting them in June and July. Review meetings are held throughout the summer with a final proposal presented to the Board in September. Revisions to the proposed budget are submitted in late October and the final budget plus revisions is adopted by the board in December. The budget goes live in January.
Sound Transit develops their budget in three distinct segments: Administrative divisions, Transit Service divisions and Capital Projects divisions. Added to this, the Capital Projects divisions submit multi-year budgets for each project. In addition to the annual budget process, project budgets are approved in parts as projects reach one of three different milestones. Each milestone requires a separate budget amendment that needs to be approved by the Board. This leads to a constant stream of budget amendments to manage throughout the year.
Each segment of the agency had their own methods and tools for preparing their budgets including spreadsheets, Access databases and custom tools. This disconnected approach came with a number of inherent challenges and meant that budget preparation and analysis was difficult. Consolidating the budget for the Budget Book required a lot of time consuming re-entry of data into a database to produce reports. This also opened the door to clerical errors.
There was no integration with the agency’s financial system, so an IT resource was required to import actual spending into an Access database to begin the budget process each year. With no way to integrate amendments into the budget, “trueing-up” the budget at the beginning of the next budget cycle was extremely difficult.
Sound Transit had a Crystal Reports resource on staff to prepare reports as required. This was costly and left them vulnerable if that resource was no longer available.
Sound Transit’s staffing has increased by fifty percent over the last few years, and all salary and benefits planning was still being handled manually, in spreadsheets. Accounting for all the elements and factors that contribute to salary and benefits was extremely time consuming and subject to errors. Without a proper application, the position and employee information in the ERP system could not be leveraged.
Sound Transit knew they needed a single system that would provide connectivity and visibility along with saving them time and money. Additionally, they needed a way to roll forward their budget into subsequent years rather than having to recreate the budget each time.
Sound Transit issued an RFP and received responses from 15 organizations. They reviewed the options and liked Questica Budget because it was simple with a process similar to their own budget development process.
Sound Transit implemented Questica Budget during their budget process and saw immediate benefits in several areas resulting in at least three months of time saved. As they continue to refine their process to take advantage of the new system they anticipate further significant improvements and savings.
Integration and collaboration
Questica Budget ensures “one source of truth” with all budgets originating in the one system. Divisions use the same budget system and process, providing a collaborative environment for budgeting and decision-making.
Our system integrated with Sound Transit’s E1 financial system and automatically updates actuals and changes to the custom chart of accounts nightly, so staff can be confident that the account data they are seeing each day is current. Managers can follow the status of their budget as they advance through the various stages of review and approval. Budget changes are made directly into the system, ensuring the impact is understood immediately.
Advanced searches are simple with all the data in one database and have eliminated the need to slice through massive quantities of data to find what the organization is looking for. This has saved Sound Transit approximately one month of work. In addition, not having to re-key the summary data from spreadsheets into a database has saved the Budget Analysts approximately one month of work.
Easier to manage
Questica Budget’s automatic and on-demand update of actuals means no more running crystal reports to determine current year spending. Since everyone is using the same system, knowledge transfer is simple. Questica Budget’s intuitive, yet sophisticated system reduced the learning curve. Users could use the tool with just 90-minutes of hands-on training.
Our budgeting solution eliminates the need to re-enter budget data multiple times, an exercise which inevitably results in human error and broken data links.
Sound Transit no longer needs to rely on a single person to provide reports. Questica Budget’s large selection of ready-made reports and custom reports that Questica created for Sound Transit means that users can easily produce the reports they require.
Roll forward budget year
Questica Budget’s roll-forward budget year feature will improve the process drastically, saving time and frustration. Users simply roll it forward, and make any necessary adjustments, and the budget path, links, and business rules are already established.
Sound Transit used the Allocations module with this past budget cycle. The module allows divisions performing the work to include costs in their own budget and then transfer the charges to the divisions the work is being managed for. Changes made to the original division budget after the initial transfer trigger a recalculation based on the established percentage. Questica Budget also offers the flexibility to freeze the allocation so recalculations don’t occur.
Once allocations are set up, they can be rolled forward to subsequent years, and recalculated if required. This exercise alone will save a great deal of time in coming years.
Thanks to more efficient budgeting, Sound Transit is brilliant.