Results of Schedule A Enhancements

This is a repost of an article from the January 2, 2014 City & Town.

Results of Schedule A Enhancements
David L. Davies – Information Technology Director

About a year ago, a survey on Schedule A submissions on DLS Gateway generated strong opinions on two issues:

1.) Re-formatting Part 3 to make it easier to enter online, i.e. make it like the Excel-based Auto Schedule A. Fifty percent of respondents said entering Part 3 online was either relatively or very difficult.

2.) For communities that find it valuable to organize their data in the Excel-based Auto Schedule A, allow upload from that Excel file without having to re-enter data online. Sixty-four percent of respondents reported using some or the entire Excel program in preparing Schedule A submissions.

The DLS Response:

1.) Reprogram the online forms for Parts 2 through 6 to duplicate the format of the Excel-based program;

2.) Partner with the Community Software Consortium (CSC) to provide a no-cost bridge program available to any community to securely copy the data from the Excel-based Auto Schedule A to DLS Gateway.

This article is about the latter response. I alerted accountant/auditors to the coming bridge program in a June email. DLS speakers have mentioned it at conferences and DLS included details about it in the Excel program instructions. Testing and refinement continued in the early fall. Without further advertising, some fifty cities and towns to date (12/20/2013) have downloaded the program from the CSC website (http://csc-cloud.us/cloud/schedule-a/).

Forty-one communities subsequently submitted their Schedule A’s. Comparing the bridge program download dates from the CSC and the Schedule A submission dates on DLS Gateway, the data suggest the bridge program has greatly sped up and simplified submission. The median elapsed time between download and submission is two days. Over one-third of communities downloaded the bridge and submitted their Excel-based data the same day. Previously, many communities would use Excel to organize their data and then would have to reenter it online. Communities of all sizes and locations used the bridge program from small western towns to large eastern cities.

DLS was able to directly and immediately address its stakeholders’ concerns because of the flexibility and mission of the Community Software Consortium. The CSC is made up of and governed by Massachusetts municipalities who pay dues to underwrite technology solutions for members. In this instance, the CSC felt an investment that would quickly benefit all cities and towns, regardless of membership status, would help raise the organization’s profile among local officials and demonstrate the kind of creative low-cost solutions it can provide.

We have had some feedback on the bridge program. One local official took the time to write, “I just uploaded my Schedule A spreadsheet into the Gateway using your new Upload Option and I just wanted to say LOVE IT! Thank you for doing that. You just saved me hours of tedious work!”

If your experience is worth a comment, please let us know by emailing daviesd@dor.state.ma.us. This innovation happened because we asked and you responded.

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