Tuesday, August 16, 2016

ACTION, DATA, EVOLVE! 3 Ground Breaking Moments from the CPBB (Un)Conference

"PBB communities are driving innovation, sharing information, experimenting, advancing lessons learned, and fulfilling the complete mission of PBB to unearth, marshal and re-direct resources towards the betterment of our communities."

Just one week ago, our 5th Annual (un)Conference on Priority Based Budgeting concluded, and to quote one of our attendees who has been to all five “it was easily the most complete Conference, and also the most forward-looking.”

That phrase, “forward-looking,” was the best compliment we could have been paid, and it’s on that theme that I wanted to (not so ironically) look back at three pivotal events that took place at the Conference, and discuss their implications for the PBB movement:

1.     The PBB “Master Plan” has evolved (again!)
2.     Launch of the Institute
3.     PBB 2.0 – Launch of the PBB Community and the power of it’s users

Evolution of the Master Plan: from “implementing PBB” to “using PBB data to make positive change”

In 2008, Jon and I had one simple plan: bail out Jefferson County, Colorado from their multi-million dollar deficit. The roots of PBB came to life to fulfill that mission.

By 2009/2010, ICMA, GFOA, NLC and the Alliance for Innovation urged us to broaden our ability to serve many local governments surviving the Great Recession. The Center for Priority Based Budgeting (CPBB) was created “to produce a replicable and scalable methodology and toolset for all local governments” to use. No joke – the height of our ambition at the time was 10 communities; we believed that if we could equip 10 communities with the tools of PBB, we’d change the world! Well, the world’s axis didn’t shift after those 10, but something else equally important took place: PBB was declared “best practice” by ICMA, urging all local governments to implement. The world didn’t change; but a movement was sparked!

Entering 2016, over 100 communities had implemented PBB. Our mission had evolved to “serving as many organizations as possible, as swiftly as possible and our processes and tools evolved to fulfill that purpose. ResourceX was created to provide an online platform that dramatically reduced the time an organization spent “implementing PBB,” enabling leaders to shift their focus to “using PBB data to make change.” And the dramatically evolved OnlinePBB toolset has made the data immediately actionable – literally pointing leaders directly to their opportunity areas for dramatic resource re-allocation.

As Jamie Rouch from the City of Branson, Missouri put it, the evolution of the PBB Master Plan has necessarily shifted from helping communities “implement PBB, to using PBB data to make change!

What this year’s Conference opened up, and what I’ll detail further in the next two sections, is a new frontier of tools from the Center for Priority Based Budgeting, from ResourceX , from the PBBi (the “Institute”), and from our partner organizations that will complete the vision of a Prioritized World: when every community can unearth, marshal and re-direct all of our community’s resources (our taxes, our people, our public and private institutions) to dramatically improve how we achieve safer communities, healthier people, thriving local economies and the Results that serve the betterment of society.

The launch of the Institute - PBBi: All Roads Lead to Rome

To achieve this mission, it was critical that we open up all possible options for communities to implement PBB, as well as for communities to master their wealth of PBB data to make change.

To this end, we launched the PBBi at the Conference with two stated objectives:
1.)  For 1st year PBB implementers: provide training, coaching, templates and certification for organizations wanting to take control of their own implementation, with assistance along the way
2.)  For experienced PBB users: provide advanced training for communities taking action on their PBB data.

For the 1st year implementers, we realized that for many communities, they desired an opportunity to immerse their leaders and staff in the core principles of PBB, such that they could become masters to lead the process on their own, with coaching and guidance from CPBB.

Opening up Institute offerings that are more “class-room” / “group-learning” style, enables many organizations at once to learn the methodology and become credentialed with the skills required to master the use of the online tools. Fundamentally, this opens up a never-before-possible pathway for many more organizations to implement.

This is key to the overall vision – again, back in 2009 we had 10 communities launch the movement… now, over 120 are actively reshaping their communities with PBB. With PBBi, we can effectively serve many more, and on their own terms. In the build-out of ancient Rome, all of it’s people across all of it’s geography were led to the central enlightening hub of civilization (it’s “city center”) by it’s ingenious design of a road system where it was said that “all road lead to Rome.” No matter what road is appropriate for your organization (group-learning / classroom style, self-led implementation, or facilitated consulting), all roads lead to your PBB success.

For experienced PBB users, the evolution that must take place is the shift from “identifying opportunity areas” to actually taking action, creating implementation plans, and executing change. During the Conference, Eric Keck, City of Englewood’s City Manager (and the first city manager to implement PBB in two different cities) gave a riveting presentation on the merger of his Fire Department with the City of Denver’s. It was clear that a public-public partnership opportunity existed and would create dramatic efficiency; however, envisioning an implementation plan to address labor issues, public perception, and actually realizing the savings born from the partnership was key to execution.

This is illustrative of the type of training and focus that communities can get from the PBBi – advanced instruction and pin-pointed guidance on executing change. In short, PBBi will train you how to act on your PBB opportunity areas.

PBB 2.0the launch of the PBB User Group Community, the HUB, and peering into the future

The Conference also saw the launch of a distinct “Track 2” for the advancement of Priority Based Budgeting. This track was built specifically for users of OnlinePBB, and coalesced around three key themes: ACTION, DATA, EVOLVE.


Action in OnlinePBB centers on the following:
1.)  Minimizing time spent on “implementing PBB” in order to maximize opportunity to devote time to “using PBB data to make positive change”
2.)  Putting you, the users in control of your PBB experience
3.)  Making your PBB data actionable

The mark of success at the Conference was the amount of time devoted to discussion of how communities are taking action and driving change. And the user group delved deep into the reporting capabilities in OnlinePBB including the 5 Policy Questions, Program Cost Analyzer, and the RAD 2.0 – each designed to produce actionable reports customized for each department to review the programs that represent clear opportunity for resource reallocation.


Consider the following explanation of how the digitalization of information is a catalyst for innovation. It comes from Peter Diamandis, in his book BOLD:

      “With digitalization, the pace of information exchange increases, causing acceleration in the pace of innovation.
      This type of exchange was slow in the early days of our species, when all we had as a means of transmission was storytelling around the campfire. It picked up with the invention of writing and, later, of the printing press and the photocopier, then exploded with the digital representation, storage, and exchange of ideas that computers enabled.
      Anything that can be digitized can spread at the speed of light (or at least the speed of the Internet). This spreading has followed a consistent pattern of exponential growth.”

The launch of the PBB Community website, “the HUB” can be thought of as a virtual campfire for sharing PBB lessons learned and experiences, or as Mike Seman put it: “it’s the PBB 2.0 User Group 24 hours a day, 365 days out of the year.” 


Here was an awesome moment: on the third day of the Conference, towards the end when attendees were in information overload, and some had flights to catch, an audience member took advantage of the open Q&A to ask “what are your plans for integrating Fiscal Health forecasting analysis into PBB.”

Not only was it a great question (and you’ll have to “stay tuned” for the answer, coming up in our Technology Road Map), but it was even more important that the question was even asked. The PBB Community has come to expect and even anticipate the evolution of PBB. And it’s completely exhilarating to see not only the tools of OnlinePBB evolve, but more importantly the instincts and ambitions of PBB implementers evolve!

To that end, the integration of Capital Improvement Planning, rate studies, workforce analysis
(workforce development and succession planning), public private partnerships, “Managed Competition”, Internal Service Funds, target budgeting, budget reporting and linking performance metrics (“priority measures”) to programs were among the Hot Topics discussed

Clearly, the show-stopper unveiling was OpenPBBdata – reframing the conversation of “open data” and fiscal transparency, withing the context of Priority Based Budgeting. Strathcona County, Alberta is leading the charge on Open Data and championing innovation on this front.

So, in short, in case you missed it (or want to relive it!), the “forward looking take-aways” from this year’s unConference:
·      PBB implementers have ushered in an evolution to the PBB mission, from “implementing PBB” to “using PBB data to make positive change.”
·      The final barriers to joining the PBB movement are being removed, with the launch of PBBi (the “Insititute”) which offers an on-boarding track to train first time implementers, and an advanced track leading implementers to envision and execute real, sweeping, positive change.
·      PBB 2.0 communities are driving innovation, sharing information, experimenting, advancing lessons learned, and fulfilling the complete mission of PBB to unearth, marshal and re-direct resources towards the betterment of our communities.

For those who missed the Conference, and are interested in OnlinePBB, the Institute, or joining the PBB movement, email efabian@pbbcenter.org to schedule a webinar for your organization.

Keep an eye on the CPBB blog for further updates. Sign-up for our social media pages so you stay connected with TEAM CPBB!

If you're thinking of jumping into the world of Fiscal Health and Wellness through Priority Based Budgeting we would certainly like to be part of your efforts! Contact us to schedule a free webinar and identify the best CPBB service option(s) to meet your organization's particular needs.


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