The City of Pittsburgh’s budget team used an inefficient, time-consuming process to produce the city’s annual operating budget. They needed a way to save time, produce better reports, and refocus their work.
The city now leverages Workiva to link data, work collaboratively, and save time producing the municipal budget report.
- Linked data ensures accuracy
- Multiple team members work in the same document at once
- Last-minute changes are fast and easy to implement
- Less need to work late nights and weekends
Like many in government finance, the City of Pittsburgh's budget team was constantly battling time constraints. “We also have to do our everyday jobs while we’re preparing the budget,” says Patrick Cornell, Senior Budget Analyst in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
Pittsburgh’s operating team of five handles the budget as well as special projects focused on tax dollar stewardship, the results of which are reported directly to the mayor. The group once worked with traditional tools to handle government finance functions, but it was a struggle to create a complex municipal budget using a budgeting software program, massive spreadsheets, and manually produced PDFs. Only one person could work on the 400-page document at a time, and making even the smallest change could take hours.
“It was time-consuming and miserable,” Patrick says. “Never again.” Between that cumbersome process and their increasing responsibilities, the team hardly had time to even investigate a better way to work.
That was then. Now, the city is on the cutting edge when it comes to managing daily tasks.
Saying yes to Workiva
The Pittsburgh OMB switched to the government reporting solution from Workiva to produce the city’s 2018 budget. “Workiva allows us to implement budget changes quickly and accurately,” says Kevin Pawlos, Assistant Director, Operating Budget.
Patrick says it was easy to get started, despite the fact it was the first full-fledged reporting solution the team used. Within three months, the team was leveraging the full functionality of the Workiva solution. “It was very inviting,” he says. “It helps that it is very similar to Microsoft® Office.”
The switch was revolutionary. “Before Workiva, we were coming in on nights and weekends to implement last-minute changes," Patrick says. "With Workiva, we rarely need to.”
Their new, streamlined approach starts with the ability to load data right into the Workiva solution, Wdesk. “Our data flows directly from an Excel® export from our budget software into Wdesk Workbook,” Patrick says. Graphs, charts, and text descriptions in the document are linked back to a central database holding the data points. When needed, the team can make changes that cascade through all linked files. He says that linking function is a game-changer, noting that, “It saves so much time.”
“I have greater control over our budget and process now,” Patrick says. The team can divide up a document, and different analysts can work on separate sections simultaneously. The solution automatically manages the versions. “It’s easy to note what people are doing, when, and why,” Patrick says. “I have no concerns with version control.”
Now, when the mayor wants a last-minute change to the budget, it is an easy fix. “Our leadership was in awe at the speed and accuracy of Wdesk,” Patrick says.
“Prior to Workiva, publishing the budget was a major component of our budget process,” Kevin says. “The Workiva solution allows us to focus on content instead of formatting.”
When there are discrepancies, it is also easier to find them. “If something doesn’t add up, it's easy to track the problem back to its root,” Patrick explains. He points to an instance where a city department was missing a large sum from a total. With the transparency of the Workiva connected platform, Patrick traced the problem to an entry error in the workbook and solved the issue in five minutes. “It would have taken us an hour before,” he says.
Workiva is the future of government reporting, according to Patrick. “The Workiva solution is streamlined, logical, and intuitive,“ he says. "I see no benefit in doing things in an antiquated way.”
Patrick anticipates that the city will leverage Workiva for many other projects, including its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), quarterly expenditure reports, and other department documents because, he says, “A collaborative approach is more modern and accessible.”
Why the city chose Workiva:
- Ability to link documents to one constantly changing dataset
- Quick implementation timeline
- Positive customer service experience
- Meeting budget needs at an overall great value
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