How can a city or town ensure its citizens that this is being done, that local spending is being done responsibly?
For local governments, one of the largest priorities they have year-in and year-out is being good stewards with taxpayer dollars. Indeed, there are other key areas where their focus needs to be sharp, such as providing reliable public safety and public health services, providing accessibility to town services for residents and keeping all town and school departments up and running. But ensuring efficiencies remains at the top—the public’s trust will only grow if residents know that municipalities are accounting for every dollar and spending local resources wisely.
With this in mind, how can a city or town ensure its citizens that this is being done, that local spending is being done responsibly? And perhaps even more important, where can they look to make improvements, and let taxpayers know that they are always striving to do better?
One way that is becoming an increasingly preferred cost-saving system for municipalities is business process outsourcing (BPO), or taking certain government functions and externalizing them with a third party. This is often a solution that brings with it the dual benefit of more savings and better performance, and it is something that should put a smile on the face of any mayor, city manager or other elected or appointed official tasked with making a town run properly.
There are a number of areas, obviously, where BPO is not the optimal solution—public safety, schools, public works, health departments and most customer-facing services require internal experts at the helm. But in back office areas such as bookkeeping, auditing, information technology and human resources, BPO can be an ideal fit. In fact, the case of some larger municipalities across the country, BPO has proven an effective cost-saver in other areas that include call centers, payroll process and certain mailroom functions. It is an innovative approach and one that requires adaptation, but it has been proven to be a successful approach.
In BPO, internal government teams are integrated with external support staff in a way that is seamless and avoids any overlap; everyone is working towards a common goal. It not only improves operations municipality-wide, but can allow existing staff more time to focus on core skills and responsibilities, which can easily lead to a more engaged government workforce.
Think about it. Cities and towns often have extremely large amounts of data and documents which require processing, and those tasks can prove to be highly time-consuming. Rather than place additional burdens on already-overworked staff, or bring on new employees which can bring significant added cost to the city or town, it can make sense to look externally to find ways where these services can be done for less money and with greater efficiency. That’s BPO at its essence—freeing up staff to handle its most critical functions, while putting back office, behind-the-scenes jobs in the hands of professional who are likely better qualified and less costly.
Implementing a BPO system at some level of local government doesn’t have to mean a total upheaval of how the city or town is governed—just the opposite is true. If done strategically, it can prove to be a seamless transition that pleases not only the government employees, but also the taxpayers they serve. And when it comes to running a local government, showing taxpayers that you are managing resources well and saving them money is as good as it gets.