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Transparent Financial Reporting Coming to Williamson County, Texas

A cloud-based financial system set to launch next month is expected to cut the county's reporting costs by 75 percent.

If there is one thing that Williamson County, Texas, is committed to achieving, it is truth and transparency in its financial reporting.

The county's drive toward transparency has led it to continue a longstanding public-private partnership with Austin, Texas-based Mo'mix Solutions that now aims to capture the county's financial information and organize it in a more intuitive, accessible and secure manner to better inform its numerous organizations and stakeholders.

The Performance Center Business Intelligence system, which will go live September 16, is a low-cost financial reporting center intended to meet the varied needs of Williamson County, one of the fastest growing counties in the nation.

"It all comes back to integrity of information--information needs to be timely and transparent," said David Flores, Williamson County Auditor. "That's the concept that we've taken and that's what's driving us."

Mo'mix Solutions, with the county's help, designed the Performance Center for public-sector organizations like Williamson County that need better access to data stored in enterprise resource planning systems.

But this is far from the county's first foray into transparent reporting. In 1998, the county created its own in-house reporting tool, in an attempt to satisfy the needs of its fast-growing population, and account for the county's fragmented system of decision-making.

Flores said the county needed a system that would bring the county's revenues and expenditures together for everyone to see. The resulting technology was the Financial Center, which provided Oracle reporting on a massive scale to county departments. This meant that every department could view its own financial information and that of all other departments.

With no IT director at the time, Flores headed up the project and Mo'mix Solutions helped with the implementation. According to Erin Latham, President of Mo'mix Solutions, Flores has been a long-time IT innovator who pushed the county toward transparency. "They have always been a proponent of transparency before transparency was even cool," she said.

Also around that same time, working with Mo'mix, the county implemented the Oracle E-Business Suite, beginning a 15-year consulting partnership.

While the Financial Center has made the county's processes more available and transparent, Flores said the county still spends too much time running and disbursing reports and the system is not easy enough to use.

So in 2010, when Mo'mix suggested a collaboration to streamline and improve the county's original product, the county was all in. Given the county's history with transparency reporting and long-standing relationship with Mo'mix, making the upgrade was well-tread territory for the county.  

But there is still much to be improved. While Financial Center makes data viewable through an intranet portal, tethering users to a networked machine, the Performance Center uses cloud-based technology, allowing users to see and interact with the information from anywhere with an Internet connection, said David Dukes, Williamson County Assistant Financial Director.

The county estimates that the Performance Center will reduce its financial reporting costs by 75 percent by saving on distribution costs, such as paper, printing and interdepartmental mail, and generally expediting the financial reporting process.

As for the price tag, Dukes said Williamson County, by volunteering to help Mo'mix Solutions develop the upgrade, does not have any direct costs associated with it. According to Mo'mix, Performance Center comes at a low cost for governments because there is no heavy hardware investment and its cost includes new features as the company enhances the product.

One of the biggest ways Performance Center will help the county save is by giving decision makers access to portable, up-to-date information, Dukes said. "Knowledge is power and what this will allow us to do is to provide the information to department heads and elected officials so they can save money for the taxpayers," he said.

The next step is for Williamson County to give the public this same access to the county's financial information on its website, Dukes said. Although the public can view financial information now, they can't run reports to see, for example, all payments from one vendor over a specific period of time, Dukes said.

Dukes said the county is also planning to develop a budgeting tool within the Performance Center to allow analysis and tracking of those numbers as well.

For the county and for Mo'mix Solutions, the long-term partnership has been a mutual success. To share this, Williamson County nominated Mo'mix Solutions for the Center for Digital Government's Best Fit Integrator Award for Collaboration and Long Term Service in Finance and Administration. In early August, Mo'mix received the award at a ceremony in Jackson Hole, Wy.

Editor’s Note: Government Technology and the Center for Digital Government are owned by the same parent company, e.Republic, Inc.

Noelle Knell is the executive editor for e.Republic, responsible for setting the overall direction for e.Republic’s editorial platforms, including Government Technology, Governing, Industry Insider, Emergency Management and the Center for Digital Education. She has been with e.Republic since 2011, and has decades of writing, editing and leadership experience. A California native, Noelle has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history.