The Power of Communicating Programmatically
Local government leaders are not only tasked with the responsibility of making crucial decisions that impact the citizens in the community, but they must also meet resident demands for providing insight into why those decisions were made. The foundational unit of a Priority Based Budget, the Program, captures and communicates data layers in an easy-to-communicate format.
Programs provide not only an easy-to-communicate frame of reference; they are a living and breathing, three-dimensional expression of the cost and impact each service you provide has on your organization and community. Each Program translates the line item budget and strategic plan into a singular point of reference that stands alone and completes the holistic picture of your entire service offering.
The City of Ferndale, MI, through their Priority Based Budgeting initiative, have been focused on communicating programmatically. From a budget perspective, the city states, "Departments provide programs - not line items."
We at ResourceX often refer to the layers of data that can be built upon the foundation of the Program, but it is truly more three-dimensional than it is linear. Programs deliver a snapshot of what it takes today to provide a service, and it provides the vehicle for sharing the future direction of the Program to most positively impact your community. The data integrated into the Program offers so many lenses through which departments, leadership, elected officials and citizens can communicate their needs and wants.
Departments identify and name each program they offer, from delivering on internal needs to keep the organization performance high to delivering the services on which the community has come to rely. The line-item budget is then allocated to each Program to communicate the resources, both human and financial, required to deliver the service identified. Each Program is then evaluated against the strategic plan leadership and elected officials have laid out to best serve the residents and the community. Finally, Insights are developed to map out the best future of each Program both financially and strategically.
Leadership reviews the inventories from within each department and can efficiently and knowledgable identify overlap, inefficiencies and areas in need of attention. The Programs individually provide the puzzle pieces and holistically provide the completed puzzle in an easy to mine picture. Understanding where departments are investing their most important resources, the people who serve your community, and the dollar amounts required to operate each Program is a compelling data set. That Program data can then be directly tied to the achievement of points in the strategic plan empowering the organization at the highest level to drive resources to those Programs that are most positively impacting the community's priorities.
Residents want to know where resources are being applied and to what end. The line-item budget alone is not sufficient for most community members. It doesn't easily translate how dollars and FTE contribute to the areas most important to residents. Through the Program, departments can clearly name the services they are providing, deliver the cost of providing them, and show the alignment to the areas important to the community. It enables informed communication between the organization and the residents it serves.
Elected Officials must make decisions that meet the demands of the organization and the community. The Program provides a language that delivers direct insight into what organization staff and leadership are doing to contribute to the organization's demands and desired outcomes. The accessibility of resource requirements and impact on the achievement of outcomes important to Elected Officials and citizens enables informed data-driven decision making.
To learn more about creating program data for your organization, download the Program Data Worksheet. ResourceX also has an upcoming Workshop Series, ResourceXperience providing a hands-on experience for organizations interested in creating and applying program data to their budget process.