BI software may be most painful local government purchase


Over my 32 year career in local government as a city and county manager I was faced with many difficult decisions during budget deliberations. Setting tax and utility rates, adding head count, determining compensation and benefits, calculating the appropriate mix of debt and cash for funding  capital projects…these were all certainly challenging. However, one of the most complex and costly decisions always involved purchasing reporting or business intelligence software.

Software purchasing can be complex and costly for three reasons.

First, each operating department wants its own software, whether it’s Police, Public Works, Fire, Planning, Engineering, Utilities, Parks and Recreation, Social Services,

Second, the upfront purchase cost of all software can be expensive, and when one adds the cost of training and maintenance on multiple software packages the costs can become astronomical over time.

Third, few of the various software packages are built to integrate data from other software.

It is immensely time consuming and costly to properly evaluate 10-15 different types of software. Once software is purchased it is even more costly to pay the annual maintenance costs on multiple packages and train IT staff to operate and maintain all of those different software packages. Organizational software costs quickly get out of control.

One way to manage these costs and improve the management of the data accumulating throughout complex organizations such as cities and counties is to move to one platform for business intelligence and reporting software.

Most specialized functions will always have to maintain their own functional systems (ie, Finance and Accounting, Public Safety CAD and RMS systems, Land Management Systems, etc). The key is to be able to create usable reports from all of the data available, and integrate data from all of the various systems. This offers a clear picture of overall operations in a single BI and reporting system.

An organization not only lowers costs by purchasing one piece of software, but only has to train staff on one software solution and maintain one solution. An added benefit is access to integrated data from all systems so one can see the long term impact of land management decisions on finance, utilities or open space, the impact of engineering decisions on traffic congestion, and the impact of utility planning decisions and land development decisions on utility rates, and many others.

A data integration, business intelligence and analytics platform can save cities and counties a lot of money over time, as well as dramatically improve their access to data that is critical to effective and efficient operation.


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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