Kim Sitton, Finance Director at the City of Corona, Andre Aberdeen, Account Executive at Questica and Communications Committee Member, James Russell-Field, Communications Committee Chair

The City of Corona implemented a budget software, Questica, to help improve its budget process. Kim Sitton, Finance Director at the City of Corona, answered a few questions about the implementation of Questica in the City. Whether you are looking at implementing a new budget software, transparency software, or even an ERP, Kim’s answers provide some insight and helpful tips for approaching any software implementation.

What caused the organization to search for budget software?

  • The desire to look for budget software was initiated through detailed discussions about our manual budget processes. We realized we had too many different software and we were also encountering version control issues. Our budget team would reach key milestones but have to take time reconciling and correcting variances between the budget team spreadsheets and department spreadsheets.
  • We also needed to review our budget processes with new staff. When we had consistent staffing in departments, it was easier to prepare the budget because the staff was familiar with the process and nuances. However, with some transition and new staff, we needed an easier process to cut down on the time it took to bring new staff up to speed. Putting the budget together was becoming more and more challenging.

Was an internal assessment of systems done prior to searching?

  • We wrote out our goals beforehand. We started out by focusing on the operating and personnel budget and looking for software that provided an interactive process, including workflows. We wanted a workflow to push the budget through the department review levels so all the numbers would be in the system, and we could cut out reconciling “finance” numbers to department numbers.
  • We also needed software that could handle detailed payroll allocations across multiple functions and complicated special pays for our public safety departments. In addition to the operating budget and personnel, we were also looking for enhancements to our capital budget process.

Was a user panel put together to gather information regarding your processes- pros and cons of the existing system(s), department wish lists etc.?

  • We did not get together with other departments as such; however, we kept comments we had received throughout the years from internal and external departments regarding the budget process. We used that historical feedback to shape our wish list and goals.

How did you go about finding vendors, and ultimately choosing a vendor?

  • We had looked at a few products before like Workiva. However, Workiva was primarily a software to build the budget document itself. We had heard of Questica through a customer reference at the City of Riverside. We had Questica come out and do several demos of the software and consult with our IT Department to make sure it was compatible with our current financial system.
  • We went to our City Council and asked for an exception to bid. We were able to piggyback off other agencies who had recently done an RFP for budgeting software.

How did you go about implementing the software?

  • All the budget team and several people from IT were involved to kick off the project. IT had volunteered to be the “guinea pig department” and prepare their budget in Questica first. IT prepared their budget in Questica for FY 2020-21 so they could work through some of the kinks first, while everyone else still prepared their budget in the historical spreadsheets.
  • In January 2021, we held virtual training classes via Microsoft Teams for the FY 2021-22 budget process. We held multiple training sessions to bring users from other departments up to speed. We also recorded the sessions for reference. We were able to have all departments prepare their budgets in Questica for FY 2021-22.
  • One action we found successful was modifying the standard Questica user guides to include information specific to the City of Corona. We found this helpful for other departments to see examples from the software using City data.

How did you handle Change Management within departments?

  • We encountered less resistance to change than anticipated because people were eager to move away from the prior manual processes. The only real issues we encountered were related to the learning curve of new software. Members of our departmental budget team would bring issues to the finance team’s attention, and if we could not fix them, we would check in with Questica for a solution.
  • The workflows were also helpful and set up so the departments would handle data entry, and then supervisor, manager, and department head review.

Is there anything that you would have done differently?

  • I think one thing we would have done differently is to hold the department training earlier than January. This would allow department users time to get more familiar with the system before having to get all the data entered. The City was working on an abbreviated schedule for FY 2021-22, so all users just had to jump right in to meet the budget deadlines.

Were there any complications from COVID-19 when trying to implement the software?

  • Not really. Microsoft Teams was valuable in troubleshooting issues and training. Members of the departments could call someone from the budget team on Microsoft Teams, and then they could screenshare and work through the issue as opposed to getting together in person.

Have you been able to measure the impact (reducing errors, time to consolidate data etc.) on your budgeting process from implementing software? If so, what key metrics are you currently tracking?

  • We have not had as much time to measure efficiency. However, for FY 2021-22 we have already noticed improvements because Questica helped eliminate the version control issue. We have saved a lot of time since we have not had to go back and double or triple-check numbers that may not match up.
  • We also did not see as much time savings in this first year because of the learning curve but expect to see a lot more time saved in future fiscal years. This savings is expected as users will be more familiar with the system. In addition, there is an automatic weekly upload of actual revenue and expenditure data from the accounting system into Questica. This provides users with much of the data needed to prepare their budgets, without having to run multiple reports in the accounting system.
  • I do want to note that Questica drastically improved what the capital improvement plan budget document looked like, even in the first year. It is no longer a high-level summary, but instead, there is a full page for each CIP project with a lot more details, including justification, description, status, and location.

Did you find this article helpful?

We are sorry that this article was not helpful to you

Tell us how we can improve this article:

Kim Sitton, Finance Director for the City of Corona. Kim has worked for the city for over 30 years. During her time with the city, she has worked at multiple levels throughout the organization, spending time in the Parks & Recreation Department and Finance Department. During her free time, Kim enjoys baseball and traveling.

Andre Aberdeen, Account Executive with Questica and Communications Committee member. For over 15 years, he has worked with hundreds of public sector organizations throughout North America, to help streamline their budgeting processes. In his role, André strives to understand the ever-changing needs of municipalities, School Boards, and Healthcare agencies, as they navigate through the budget cycle. The constant engagement with front-line budget staff, has allowed André to tailor solutions that are unique to each client. His ultimate goal is to see finance and budget staff spending more time doing reporting and analysis, rather than clerical tasks many are faced with today.

James Russell-Field, Communications Chair and Director of Administrative Services for the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District. James has served on various committees and roles supporting CSMFO. Prior to the District, he worked with the Department of Interior, City of Thousand Oaks, and City of Benicia. On weekends, you can find James mountain biking through Northern California.