Top takeaways from the 2016 NASACT conference

nasact event recap

On Aug. 13, the National Association of State Auditor, Comptrollers, and Treasurers (NASACT) kicked off its annual conference in Indianapolis. We were fortunate enough to attend this year and to learn what the country’s financial and budgetary leaders are focused on for 2016.

While there were many important discussions, below are the top 10 takeaways for attendees.

  1. With 2016 being an election year, there's a lot of uncertainty circulating around economics and the greater political landscape—and in turn, legislative action. When the economy is up in the air, it can affect investment behavior and in turn, result in unclear budget planning and funded projects.

  2. Issues of social concern have made quite an impact this year, some of which are expected to continue through 2016. Larger concerns raised at the conference include rising opioid abuse in communities across the country, the potential spread of the Zika virus in the south, and any number of natural disasters. As the impact on the community rises, so does the budget apportioned to handle them. Attendees tried to determine the best way to prepare for the unknown effect these may have on future budgets and legislative action.

  3. Some discussions centered around growth—or lack thereof. State and local governments are still in a moderate growth pattern. While recovery from recession seems to have made an upward turn on Wall Street, the same cannot be said for local governments. The trend has been slow and steady, but major growth has yet to surface.

  4. Infrastructure was also on the table. As a result of issues one and three, many states are discussing existing infrastructure maintenance and how to fund large projects. While private-public partnerships are gaining interest, the consensus among attendees seemed to be that municipal bonds will likely still play a critical role for 2016.

  5. Cybersecurity continued to be an area of concern for nearly everyone in attendance, as well as legislators and IT professionals back home. While there were no suprising developments discussed for this area, attendees were concerned with maintenance of homegrown systems, upgrade costs and timelines, and security of new cloud systems.

  6. The need for recruitment continues to grow in departments across the country. Since July 2009, federal and state and local governments have taken the lead compared to private sector industries. In most organizations, staff has been reduced—much of the loss due to an aging workforce and retirement trends. Where the private sector has seen growth and a positive trend in the net change of employees, federal, state, and local governments are the industries where there's a negative trend.

  7. Of course, there were a number financial issues that ran across many of conference sessions. And while those could fill a blog post of their own, we pulled four overarching themes that seemed to run through the course of all issues.

  8. Tackling process change was a concern for labor- and cash-strapped departments. The ability to dismantle large issues into small, achievable projects seems to be a popular course of action. One best practice threaded across discussions—begin by implementing one or a few, lower-cost flexible tools to address a single process. Succeed with one process, and then expand to others.

  9. As budget uncertainties continue, the need for greater efficiency was a pain point for many departments across the country. Many look to technology to help streamline financial processes. There was some consensus that seeking low-cost, cloud-based solutions that require no maintenance or heavy lifting will not only advance your government technologically, but also guarantee a long-term return on investment.

  10. Needless to say, data transparency is here to stay. Younger generations of citizens, employees, and consumers want—and expect—data to be readily available. Transparency of financial data and information can help uncover inefficiencies, both internally and externally, providing opportunities for governments to streamline. The DATA Act and Uniform Grand Guidance were a large part of this discussion. Attendees were curious to determine how grantees will be affected by the DATA Act and what governments can do today to prepare for future regulations.

  11. The latest in GASB standards were highlighted. Top of mind for most attendees were exposure drafts for fiduciary activities and leases. In addition, these hot topics were examined in detail, including how people can provide input:

    • Financial reporting model, currently under reexamination
    • Revenue and expense recognition
    • Note disclosures

  12. How many of these issues fall on the radar in your department?

    As you continue looking at top issues for 2016, be sure to read this new white paper, 5 Trends Creating New Demands on Government Reporting, produced by Governing magazine and sponsored by Workiva.

Mike Sellberg

About the author

Mike Sellberg
Mike Sellberg is Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer at Workiva. He is the former EVP and CTO at iMed Studios and the former Divisional General Manager at Engineering Animation, Inc.