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Budgeting $1.2 Billion with Confidence Backed by IBM Cognos TM1

Hillsborough County Public Schools


Background

Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS) is the eighth-largest school district in the nation, with over 180,000 students and 30,000 teachers. HCPS administration, located in downtown Tampa, is a pioneer in the use of technology in school districts to streamline operations, maximize efficiency, and improve the quality of education provided to its students. HCPS knows that making fact-based decisions and having the ability to measure performance accurately will boost teacher effectiveness and student achievement. That’s why the HCPS turned to Convergence Consulting Group, an industry expert and trusted Business Intelligence partner, for a well-designed solution.

Challenge

Each year, HCPS administration negotiates salaries, raises, and benefits with labor unions representing the districts 30,000+ employees in its various employee groups. These negotiations inform the bulk of the district’s $1.2 billion annual budget, and thus making accurate estimates of impact is critical. In order to budget effectively, HCPS needed to be able to forecast the costs associated with any cost changes. HCPS did not have a system or process in place for this estimation process, instead relying on the institutional knowledge of one subject-matter expert (SME) armed with an Excel spreadsheet to define hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer spending. This SME’s imminent retirement emphasized the need to create a technological solution to empower the district into the future.

Solution

Leveraging HCPS’s existing IBM stack, CCG led an implementation of IBM Cognos TM1 to serve as the district’s budget forecasting tool. The creation of the TM1 Headcount Planning system allowed this forecast process to become automated, repeatable, transparent, auditable, and available to a wider user base. HCPS is no longer dependent on a single subject matter expert using Excel to provide salary forecasts for use in negotiations.

This TM1 solution has enabled the district to

  • Turn around on-demand forecasts faster
  • Enable a wider user base with forecasting capabilities & involvement
  • Have a greater degree of confidence in projected budget numbers
  • Utilize existing Cognos BI reporting framework for additional workforce reporting

This tool was first tested in a small focus groups to gather feedback and make modifications before distributing it district-wide. Following a successful beta launch, the tool was distributed to Area District Leaders and Principals throughout Hillsborough County. This solution has seen great success connecting Principals and Area District Leaders with new candidates and building a foundation of strong leaders through advanced analytics.

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