Washington launches online budget system, eliminating thousands of paper binders
Every two years, a stack of about 1,000 binders piles up at the Washington state Office of Financial Management, or OFM. But not this year.
For consideration in the governor’s biennial budget, agencies must submit budget proposals every two years (and some agencies submit proposals every year if amendments are required on off-years). This means each state agency must submit at least six identical paper binders for distribution to the officials who will review the proposals. But on Monday, the OFM announced that after almost two years, work is nearing completion on an online system that will allow most of the materials to be submitted digitally.
“A tree in a rainforest somewhere is going to live to see another day,” said Chris Makiva, the IT portfolio manager with Washington Technology Solutions, the state’s technology agency, also known as WaTech.
The new system is called the Agency Budget System, and in addition to replacing the state government’s decades-old paper-based system, it also accompanies an initiative to centralize how the state stores its information and the processes to collect that data. A single enterprise resource planning solution was deployed to tie OFM’s approximately 45 internal budgeting systems together.
The old system — with its processes and technologies — was “well beyond the end of its life cycle” said Garry Austin, OFM’s business lead on the project. The old budget proposal submittal process used some email, some old online systems, but the bulk of the information came in those binders.
Makiva led a team of developers since starting the project in September 2016, and she told StateScoop that the main thing she learned from this project was that “it takes a village” to complete something like this. Fortunately, there was support from every angle, Makiva said — people wanted those binders gone.
As part of the development process, coders also worked with WaTech’s usability lab, a team that helps keep the project on track and in-line with user needs.
“We went through several iterations of prototypes and concepts to get those in front of users so they understood conceptually what we were proposing and they could provide feedback,” Makiva said. “We could iterate on that before we cut any code and for us that saved a lot of development time in the long run.”
About 100 state employees received training on the new system last week and it will eventually be used by about 500 state employees as part of the budgeting process.
Monday’s announcement marked the public launch of the system, allowing requests and materials to be submitted online. The final piece of the project is scheduled for completion in August, replacing the binder process and preparing agencies to submit their budget proposals in September in preparation for Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget proposal this December.