PMO Creates More Predictable Outcomes

Dan Pennell, leader of Avenu’s Program Management Office (PMO), describes how the function is particularly important for local governments and why they should insist that partners have it in their organizations.

What makes a PMO essential for jurisdictions?

I’ve seen a wide range of statistics on how often projects fail, either because they were delayed, over budget or did not deliver expected business value. The Project Management Institute claims that IT project failure rate is 14 percent, and The Standish Group says it’s higher at 31 percent, and others say it’s still higher. Regardless, whether it’s for IT or a large infrastructure project, not meeting deliverables is primarily a function of not setting and managing expectations appropriately.

To avoid this, jurisdictions need a PMO as a bulwark against losing trust from the electorate. It ensures alignment with standardization and the economies of repetition, so it supports elected officials who need a positive message of accountability. It also helps career professionals who need to justify what they are spending, which also gives them credibility for handling future projects.

Where does a PMO fit in the organizational structure?

A PMO is a service, so its functions and impact need to be throughout an entire jurisdiction. Through its standardization efforts a PMO enables the field to meet project milestones with processes, best practices and logistical support. It also informs management with actionable information about performance metrics for delivery and finance, so they can make decisions about funding and resource allocation.

What does a PMO look like at the ground level?

For our government clients it means we look at everything that affects their project with us. We review the organization, resource types, methodologies, policies and processes so that we know we can meet deadlines. We are especially mindful of constraints and make sure we have enough project managers available to reach milestones. Everyone involved in the PMO shares best practices and provides a level of skill redundancy so there is continuity and minimal failure potential if someone leaves, for example. We do this for software development and implementation, and we do it for projects that have a services component.

Your background is with the federal government. What are the similarities to state and local?

One likeness is that a good PMO is a resource that helps clients determine how to proceed, set and achieve deliverables and minimize risk. The federal space is very disciplined with standards and frameworks. There also is generally good interaction between the government’s contracting officers and project managers, and the project managers with the vendors. It’s a vital structure because changes always occur so the team needs to work together to modify contract language, move budgets around and generally agree on what must occur. It’s a good model for state and local government to follow.

Another similarity is that software development is often not in the job description of the government employees we deal with. They have other primary responsibilities, so we need to help them understand the need, the changing environment, vulnerabilities that can sink a project, and the schedule with its cost implications.

Avenu Insights & Analytics Vice Chairwoman Named a Top 100 Influencer

Sharon Matthews To Be Honored by Silicon Valley Business Journal on May 16

CENTREVILLE, VIRGINIA, April 24, 2019 – Sharon Matthews, vice chairwoman of Avenu Insights & Analytics (Avenu), has been selected as one of 100 Women of Influence by the Silicon Valley Business Journal. The publication will honor the awardees at a May 16 ceremony in San Jose, California.

The publication chose the individuals for their contributions of time and expertise in improving businesses and the community. Matthews’s active involvement in multiple organizations led to her selection in the distinctive group that represents well-known brands such as Apple, Facebook, Cisco Systems, LinkedIn and Juniper Networks.

“Just as there is always a need for continuous improvement in a business, in a community, there are also always opportunities to become an influencer and help others move forward,” says Matthews. “I’ve been fortunate to do that and it’s a great honor to have been recognized.”

In addition to serving as Avenu’s vice chairwoman, Matthews is an operating partner of Mill Point Capital, Chair of City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley, that helps students stay in school to succeed, and a board member of Road Scholar that provides educational travel programs for older adults.

“It’s not a surprise that Sharon would be noticed for her service, but it certainly is a delight,” says Paul Colangelo, CEO of Avenu. “I know firsthand how she brings her service mindset to our company and ultimately to our state and local government customers.”

About Avenu Insights & Analytics

Avenu Insights & Analytics has a long history of helping state and local governments boost revenue, optimize operations, and deepen community trust. Avenu’s revenue enhancement and administration solutions enable jurisdictions to provide truly digital government that meets expectations of citizens, employees and elected officials. Avenu is a portfolio company of Mill Point Capital.

Operating Local Government at the Speed of GIS

Amy Walters is a senior product manager in the Finance & Tax group of Avenu Insights & Analytics. For much of her career she has worked to deliver products leveraging GIS technology. Here she explains the relevance of this to Avenu and its importance and value to customers.

How is GIS data uniquely suited to government?

State and local government operations are often tied to some location – buildings, schools, roads, parks and other infrastructure. Leveraging this data within a Geographic Information System (GIS) is an efficient way to manage day to day tasks, help deliver the services expected, and make better decisions. Users can visualize trends related to payment histories and valuations of residential or commercial buildings within neighborhoods. At the most basic level, a government needs information about a business location in order to issue a license and collect its fee. There are many examples of how using GIS for economic development, infrastructure, planning and other routine functions within a jurisdiction improves efficiency and outcomes.

What’s the status of GIS among governments?

Most governments are making use of GIS in some capacity. I’ve seen research showing that at least 80 percent of data in state and local government has a spatial component.  At Avenu we are helping agencies leverage their geospatial data to help with their workflow and more efficiently support day to day operations.

How significant is the technical barrier?

Not significant at all, really. Governments already have lot of the base data and the majority of them already have some GIS in place. GIS classes are offered starting in high school now, and we are seeing business intelligence and data analytics as hot trends. In parallel we are going to continue to see how geography and GIS are critical components of business intelligence. We all rely on apps like Google Maps to get us to where we need to be daily. It should be just as easy for our customers to leverage our solutions to make it easier to do their jobs.

How is Avenu enabling greater GIS adoption?

Avenu has a partnership with Esri and most of our customers are already Esri users.  Across our business we are working to geo-enable our revenue enhancement and administrative solutions. This will allow our government customers to increase the efficiency of many of their operations and help drive decisions. It is one thing to be able to see property boundaries and property values on a map, and we want it to add value to day-to-day activities. Avenu will help jurisdictions and constituents leverage our revenue and administrative data with geospatial data to better understand things like what is driving the tax rate and how property values compare to your neighbor’s or your neighboring jurisdiction.

What are the benefits to residents?

The beauty of GIS is how it can tell a story and help us see how multiple layers connect all in the context of where you are or an area that you are interested in. With this, governments offer more engagement to citizens and more access to services and data. Residents can call or log on to a government system to report accidents or crimes with pinpoint accuracy and get accurate response times. They can see future development proposals, identify parcel boundaries, track permits, and review tax maps clearly and in context to their neighborhood, school, or workplace. It also allows greater efficiency and engagement at the state and local jurisdiction level.

Municipalities Can’t Tax Internet Providers, Except When They Can

Mention the word “landline” to modern consumers, and you’ll likely get the same quizzical look as if you’d said “rotary phone.” As consumers shift almost uniformly to mobile phones and larger organizations rely on cable connections instead of DSL for their office “landlines,” the local income associated with telecom franchise fees has nosedived. Adding to the complexity of the revenue issue is the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) of 1998, which prohibits taxing internet usage – so, even though telecommunications companies are utilizing locally-owned phone lines to provide broadband internet access to residents, localities can no longer tax the services being provided like they used to.

However, creative minds have been working to find ways that accommodate the various federal statutes while still increasing revenue for local governments. In recent months, cities have started to pass legislation allowing localities to tax internet providers directly for using city right–of-ways (ROWs). It’s a highly technical loophole, but with broadband being at the forefront of the next major tax revolution, its one that your municipality may want to consider – and soon.

Read the full story by Avenu’s Jonathan Gerth at Efficient Gov.

Jonathan Gerth, Esq., is vice president of compliance auditing for Avenu Insights & Analytics. Contact him at Jonathan.Gerth@avenuinsights.com.

Governments in Alabama and Georgia Sign Up for Revenue Enhancement with Avenu

Local governments increasingly seek private-sector solutions when it comes to administering revenue programs, as the Avenu client roster shows.

Elmore County in Alabama has agreed to use Avenu for processing revenue for sales and use taxes, while in Georgia, Floyd County has engaged Avenu to audit its hotels and increase compliance with the requirements of the county ordinance. Avenu also will support Georgia’s City of South Fulton with compliance audits of its business license and alcohol taxes.

As pressure builds for jurisdictions to fund services without raising taxes, programs like these help by increasing the amount of taxes already owed and ensuring the fairness of the tax system.

The U.S. Supreme Court and Online Sales Tax: What the Wayfair Decision Means as of Today

On June 21, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that internet retailers can be required to collect online sales tax, even in states where they have no physical presence. The landmark decision, South Dakota vs. Wayfair, Inc., reverses a 1992 ruling and can result in a greater revenue source for state and local governments. As explained in this free Avenu webinar held right after the ruling, there are still uncertainties that need to be worked out. Below are highlights from the presentation that inform local government leadership about online sales tax, its revenue potential and what must or may happen before those funds are realized.

It’s been estimated that state and local governments lose nearly $13 billion per year.

Consumers are increasingly choosing the convenience and savings of online shopping. However, if those purchases were made at brick and mortar stores, the sales tax revenue that governments would collect amounts to as much as $13 billion according to the federal General Accountability Office. Having an online sales tax will allow states, cities and counties to collect this money. All governments struggle with pension, operational and other costs, and raising taxes is not an easy option. This makes online sales tax a sound choice under the right circumstances; retroactive tax collection is not permitted.

The ruling includes protections for small online businesses.

The court specified that its ruling was applicable to businesses with more than $100,000 in sales or more than 200 unique transactions per year. This may provide some relief to small, independent online retailers that will have a more difficult time adjusting to a new tax code.

Congressional Action/Implementation Moratorium.

Some stakeholders are advocating for Congress to create a six-month moratorium on sales tax collection to help businesses comply with different state statutes. Therefore, a like outcome is that some states will need to modify their current legislation to comply with the decision. If states enact laws perceived as limiting interstate commerce, then there is a strong chance that Congress will draft a federal standard. There is no timeline for this to happen.

Implementation and Timing.

Several states are issuing guidelines and implementing these new rules, so this will take time. It is still possible that there will be appeals in the lower courts for specific areas of compliance. Localities need to stay vigilant and proactive to ensure they are receiving the revenue they are entitled to.

To hear more about Avenu’s take on the case and how it might affect your area, download and watch the webinar for free here or view it on YouTube.

 

Avenu Attends AMROA’s Summer Conference

Avenu’s friends in the South may have spotted the Avenu booth at the 50th annual Alabama Municipal Revenue Officers Association (AMROA) Summer Conference at The Westin, Birmingham this week. A dedicated partner to revenue administrators around the country, Avenu is thrilled to be a Silver Sponsor of the event and support the professionals who help ensure their municipalities are fiscally secure.

Avenu Business Development Executive Yolanda Watkins Bailey was on site throughout the event, answering questions, introducing Avenu’s tools and services, and listening to agencies needs and concerns when it comes to their financial matters.

“I love getting to meet Alabama’s municipal finance officers face to face and learning what helps them succeed. Avenu has such great resources available and I very much enjoy when we can show that to a local audience.”

If you missed Yolanda this week, feel free to reach out to her with any questions about Avenu or its services at ywatkins@avenuinsights.com.

US Conference of Mayors Touts Avenu’s Revenue Recovery Program

What are cities doing to remain livable? See the United States Conference of Mayors Business Council Best Practice Report for innovation at work. Avenu is honored to be included on page 10 for its hotel revenue recovery program in El Paso, Texas. Download report here.

 

Avenu to attend MASC Annual Meeting

Adam Rubin

South Carolina’s city managers will be on the lookout for Avenu Insights & Analytics at the Municipal Association of South Carolina Annual Meeting. Taking place July 18-22 at the Marriott Hotel, Hilton Head Island, the MASC is a place for local government leaders to network, learn, and share their own insights on how to best manage the state’s municipalities. An avid supporter of local agencies, Avenu remains committed to helping South Carolina’s cities maximize their revenue and run more efficiently, and will be on site throughout the week. Look for Avenu Business Development Executive Adam Rubin at sessions – he will be ready to answer your questions regarding:

  • Sales and use tax
  • Franchise fees
  • Property tax
  • Hotel and short-term rental taxes

For any questions or to get in touch with Adam at the conference, reach out to him at adam.rubin@avenuinsights.com.

Clearview: Download the webinar and try it for free!

Download our recent webinar by Avenu Senior Vice President Doug Jensen and Product Developer Eric Myers on how Avenu’s Clearview software can help you recognize and anticipate changes in your jurisdiction’s revenue. Doug highlights all that Clearview can do for your agency, and Eric goes over features such as graphic displays, overlays and real-time data. With this you can easily show your council, mayor and citizens why revenue changes occur and how they affect overall economic performance.

This free presentation will also provide you with an overview of how Clearview can:

  • Provide a cash distribution summary
  • Compare performance to other cities
  • Identify cash anomalies and provide cash distribution summaries
  • Highlight taxpayer producers (top and bottom performers)
  • Identify monthly cash changes and taxpayers driving change
  • Reconcile actuals to advances
  • Export data and visualizations

View the webinar for free on YouTube, and if you want to try Clearview Avenu is offering a free 30-day trial. Email webinars@avenueinsights.com to sign up.