ISSUE 6   |  FALL 2010

The Council on Virginia's Future works in four areas -- strategic vision / roadmap development, assessment, service performance, and productivity improvement -- to enhance the state's effectiveness in making Virginia an even better place to live, work, and raise a family.


Roadmap Development

Council to Study Regionalism Issues  back to top

Small map of Virginia countiesThe Governor’s Commission on Government Reform and Restructuring has asked the Council to determine whether a new approach to state/regional/local relationships can foster:  

  • Increased efficiency by reducing variations in process, purchasing, and operating approaches across localities and by taking advantage of economies of scale where available.
  • Better effectiveness by promoting new approaches, systems, and partnerships to rationalize service delivery and improve important outcomes.
  • Stronger economic competitiveness by facilitating stronger partnerships among localities to enhance the attractiveness of regions to new and expanding businesses.

The first phase of work is scheduled to be completed by the end of April 2011.

Assessment

Customer Service Forum Showcases Strategies  back to top

Virginia Futures Forum logomarkThe Customer Service, Performance, Accountability & Transparency Committee of the Governor's Commission on Government Reform and Restructuring is charged with exploring concrete ways the Commonwealth might improve its services to citizens. Another Futures Forum, Assessing Customer Satisfaction with Virginia Government Services, was developed over the summer to help facilitate that process. Meeting at Capital One's West Creek campus in Richmond, representatives from the public and private sectors addressed best practices for gauging and improving customer satisfaction.

Council Executive Director Jane N. Kusiak kicked off the proceedings by pointing out that the ability to assess citizen satisfaction remains an important issue in further developing a system like Virginia Performs. Yet -- due to the complex relationships of service delivery and accountability among the various levels of government and non-profits, as well as the need to serve both internal and external customers -- getting an accurate reading of that satisfaction at the enterprise level can be challenging.

Still, most state agencies are taking individual steps to assess and improve customer satisfaction.  At least 16 agencies include direct measures of satisfaction on Virginia Performs, and many more include measures of customer service such as transaction times, processing accuracy, etc.

Improving Service from the Inside Out

After Capital One discussed how the use of best practices and new approaches had dramatically improved customer service across their organization, a variety of state agency and local government representatives showcased their own efforts at assessing and improving customer service:

  • Arlington County's Director of Communications / Assistant County Manager, Diana Sun, discussed the benefits of directly measuring customer satisfaction.  Two countywide surveys have been done so far, giving executives and managers invaluable information not just on what is working and where opportunities for improvement lie, but also on just which issues citizens find important for the county to address.
  • The Virginia Retirement System serves about 600,000 individuals through a variety of pension, insurance, and investment programs.  Director Robert Schultze detailed how in the last 5 years the agency has reengineered their Contact Center, improved online self-service, and revamped business processes in efforts to further improve customer satisfaction.
  • Larry Durbin, Assistant Commissioner of Customer Service at the Virginia Department of Taxation (TAX) explained that his agency has also moved many services online and created numerous Web-only features that allow taxpayers quick and direct control over their dealings and communications with the agency. TAX also tracks a number of service quality measures like turnaround times, e-transaction volumes, and system availability.

Emergent Themes

Several themes emerged from the collective weight of the material presented, as well as from forum attendee discussions and questions:

  • Leadership.  Improving customer service requires strong, visible and sustained commitment from executive leadership.  That commitment must also be carried through the entire organization, so that every employee understands and is rewarded for making customer satisfaction "Job Number One."
  • Technology.  Harnassing technology -- particularly online features -- is the biggest recent trend in customer service.  This often necessitates retooling internal business processes.  But offering self-service, automated service, and other conveniences can also benefit an organization's bottom line.
  • Challenges.  Meaningful performance assessment is not always easy.  Metrics need to be structured so that they reveal the key drivers behind customer satisfaction and reinforce the right employee behaviors. At the same time, knowing the customer can be difficult in a scenario as varied as enterprise-level government services.  Correctly identifying and segmenting customers is critical to both accurately measure and to improve customer service outcomes.

For a more complete summary of the Customer Service Forum, as well as access to presenter materials, please see our Futures Forum pages on the Council site.  end of story

Performance

Performance Budgeting Becomes a Reality  back to top

The Commonwealth of Virginia Performance Budgeting (PB) system went live in September 2010. This first phase of the PB system replaces several supporting budget systems, including Probud, which was first deployed in 1980.

Six Modules Now Live

The new budgeting system represents another step forward in the ongoing transformation of the Commonwealth’s performance-based budgeting capabilities. The process began more than five years ago with the integration of planning processes, a new budget structure, and the creation of a comprehensive set of performance metrics. The new system is designed to take these capabilities to the next level.

The modules recently deployed are operating budget, capital budget, budget execution, six-year planning, budget bill narrative, and administration and reporting. The PB system has 500 core users and another 175 users can access reports through the Commonwealth's enterprise business intelligence tool, LogiXML.

Performance-grade tools

Although DPB has had strong, nationally recognized performance budgeting and decision-making structures in place for some time, the core tools underlying them were no longer very efficient. The new PB system not only replaces outdated and vulnerable technology, it significantly enhances the state's analysis and assessment capabilities -- leading to widely improved accountability and transparency.

In preparation for the launch of the PB system, all users were provided Web-based training materials, live webinars, and documentation for each module. Since then, the PB Helpdesk has been assisting users in a timely manner with their access, security, and usability questions. Overall, the PB project office is receiving very favorable feedback on the system from agency users and DPB management.

The Performance Budgeting implementation project is a joint venture between the Department of Planning and Budget and the VITA Enterprise Applications Division.  Agencies across the Commonwealth participated in oversight committees, workgroups, and user acceptance testing.  Phase II of the project has now begun and will include an agency-level spending plan module and a strategic planning module. end of story

Productivity

Productivity Investment Fund logoPIF News  back to top

The Productivity Investment Fund continues to partner with Virginia agencies for innovative solutions that reduce costs and improve service levels. Since inception in 2007, the Fund has invested $4.4 million in 38 projects across 20 agencies representing most Secretariats. These investments will generate a 5-to-1 return for the Commonwealth, helping to eliminate inefficiency, streamline operations, and facilitate value-added public-private partnerships.

Recent news includes:

  • One of Fund’s early investments was in the Business One Stop, an application designed to simplify and accelerate business formation by allowing entrepreneurs to use a single portal to access and fill out a wide variety and registration and licensing forms. Phase II has been approved and will broaden the scope of the system to more easily share information and include more participating agencies.

    The Governor’s Commission on Government Reform and Restructuring recently endorsed continued enhancements to the One Stop and a goal of broadening the portal to include local government requirements. The Governor’s Commission on Economic Development and Job Creation has also strongly endorsed the goal of making business start-ups faster and easier.
  • The Department of Education has implemented the next phase of their “Beyond Textbooks” program. As a result, the backpacks of nearly 300 students in four Virginia school divisions will be lighter this fall as the students exchange their history textbooks for Apple iPads loaded with interactive content, media, and applications aligned to the Commonwealth’s History/Social Science Standards of Learning (SOL). Digital technology holds enormous potential for transforming instruction and for cost savings for Virginia school divisions, which currently spend $70 million a year on textbooks.

For more Fund highlights and program-level details, please visit www.pif.virginia.govend of story