New local government charge: Do Less with Less


The downturn in the economy beginning in 2008 and continuing even to now has put tremendous pressure on local governments to do “less with less”. In the past when economic downturns caused service level cut backs the cry was to do “more with less”. The idea was to identify ways to provide the same services in a more efficient manner. The paradigm shift now calls for local governments to identify those services and programs that are not effective, eliminate those and provide effective services and programs more efficiently.

Local governments need to be able to evaluate the cost and effectiveness of the services and programs offered to citizens. That type of evaluation requires local governments to establish Key Performance Indicators which define success for each program or service, understand the costs associated with each KPI, use this information to determine current program success and predict future performance. This requires the integration of program, participant, revenue and expenditure, and other related data from outside sources and probably relevant data from sources unknown at the time. All of these data elements will need to be tracked over time. It also requires understanding the relationship among the various data sources and the ability to predict future outcomes from those relationships.

This is a daunting task, but one which is absolutely necessary if local governments are to survive financially and maintain their credibility with the public. How can this be accomplished?

First, it requires the will to look at the world of service delivery in a different manner; a paradigm shift to do “less with less”.

Second, it requires the commitment to focus on organizational performance and make difficult decisions.

Third, it requires a commitment to acquiring and using technology to integrate large amounts of data from different systems, clean that data and intelligently report on it so decision makers fully understand the present performance. The correct technology takes the next step and uses all relevant data to predict future performance to optimize the use of limited available resources.

Through these efforts, a “less with less” approach can actually lead to more and better services for citizens.


About Author

Bill Coleman

Advisory Industry Consultant

Bill Coleman works with SAS local government customers across the US to understand best practices and solutions. Coleman applies his more than 30 years of experience as a senior leader in city and local government to guide SAS product and marketing management. From 1994 to 2008, he served as Town Manager of Cary, NC, the seventh-largest municipality in the state with a population exceeding 130,000. Coleman was responsible for planning, organizing and directing municipal operations, which included more than 1,000 employees and 11 departments providing a full range of municipal services. Under his leadership, Cary was the first municipality in North Carolina to work on performance enhancement system. The system was designed to help the town maintain its high quality of life by improving resource allocation and operational efficiencies throughout town government, beginning with the areas of public safety and development services.

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