Consulting Services

GFOA’s Research and Consulting Center (RCC) is nationally recognized for its comprehensive analytical and advisory services, as well as for research on issues specific to state and local governments’ financial, human resource, procurement, payroll and operational management. Since beginning operations in 1977, the RCC has assisted hundreds of cities, counties, public utilities; and other forms of government to create best practice solutions to meet their unique challenges.  

Together with its practitioner-focused, highly skilled staff and unparalleled access to the profession of public management, GFOA leverages its member network, ongoing research initiatives and lessons learned from our past consulting engagements to each new project. As a not-for-profit membership association, our mission-driven orientation means that we place your government's success above all else.

Process Improvement and ERP Advisory Services

Approximately 20 years ago, GFOA began consulting for enterprise resource planning (ERP) system assessments, procurement, contract negotiation, and implementation advisory services. Our approach to ERP projects focuses on business process improvement, effective governance, and building organizational readiness.

ERP system implementations offer much promise for improving business processes, empowering employees with tools to become more effective, and ultimately transforming the entire organization. With improvements in technology and market trends favoring “cloud technologies,” this shift not only includes business process, but also risk management, organizational roles, and governance. However, implementation of these systems is a complex effort and many organizations struggle to realize many of the promised benefits.

GFOA’s approach to ERP procurement projects is to combine the necessary tasks of the procurement cycle with a focus on organizational readiness and business process improvement. GFOA has worked to evolve its approach based on lessons learned from hundreds of other local government clients to address the primary risks of ERP projects, including:

  • Effective project governance and decision making
  • Project staffing
  • Avoiding temptation to re-create the old system
  • Change management 
  • Scope realization

GFOA’s approach focuses on business process analysis and improvement prior to an ERP implementation. Many organizations make the mistake by not taking full advantage of the ERP planning and procurement process. Developing an RFP or selecting a new system is the easy part. Making key decisions on defining goals, working to define an achievable scope, properly planning to ensure sufficient resources to carry out the project, and preparing a vision of what you want the future state to look like are critical to a successful ERP project. 

Risk-Based Reserve Analysis

GFOA's Research and Consulting Center begin working with local governments in the area of risk-based reserve analysis in 2008, building from our consulting experience in long-term financial planning and policies. Using a customized approach based on a government's risk factors, GFOA works with local governments to determine the appropriate level of reserves for their circumstances and to identify policies to strengthen their overall reserve strategy.

Budget Process Improvement

GFOA conducts regular research into budgeting best practices and leverages that knowledge to help governments both assess the current budget process and provide recommendations for improvement. GFOA has been heavily involved with numerous projects and initiatives that are relied upon by public sector practitioners across the United States and Canada for best practice guidance. In 1998, GFOA led efforts with seven other professional associations to develop the National Advisory Council on State and Local Government Budgeting (NACSLB). In addition, GFOA recently led efforts of the National Performance Management Advisory Commission that produced a report identifying common principles of performance management which included recommendations for how to apply it to budgeting.

GFOA also provides implementation assistance with budgeting for outcomes (BFO). BFO is a performance budgeting process that is based on identifying priorities, articulating the results that citizens want government to provide, and then developing and funding strategies to provide those results. Proposed strategies are prioritized and ranked within each major high level priority. Proposals are also then funded according to their ranking until funding is exhausted. Over the past 10 years, many governments have turned to BFO as a way of closing large budget deficits and creating sustainable budgets that position the government to deliver demanded and expected services. GFOA services to assist governments with BFO include planning, training, coaching, meeting facilitation, and other advisory services.

Performance Management

Performance management in the public sector is an ongoing, systematic approach to improving results through evidence-based decision making, continuous organizational learning, and a focus on accountability for performance. Typically to be effective, performance management must be integrated into all aspects of an organization's management and policy-making processes.

Our approach to performance management is based on our ongoing research efforts to identify best practices and learn from past experiences in the public sector to develop a system that provides relevant data to decision makers to be effective. When this occurs, performance management is a powerful tool to help the organization meet established targets, become more responsible to changing conditions and priorities, and communicate more effectively to be more transparent and accountable. GFOA consulting services for performance management include:

  • Overall system planning
  • Goal definition
  • Measure development
  • Training
  • Long-Term Financial Planning

Faced with downward pressures on tax revenues, increasing expenditures, shifting demographics, as well as a host of other complex challenges, local government needs a new approach to planning. The traditional focus of governmental planning, the annual budget, is ill suited to address such challenges due to its inherent tactical and short-term nature. This makes long-term financial planning an indispensable complement to traditional budgeting and an invaluable piece of a government's overall planning framework. It provides a long-term and comprehensive financial perspective that is not available through other governmental planning processes.

Organizational Assessment

Local governments across the country want their accounting function to meet user needs, provide the support necessary to achieve strategic goals, and assure taxpayers that appropriate financial stewardship is being exercised. Assessment criteria used by the GFOA are based on best practices in local government financial management. In addition to these criteria, GFOA also reviews a "checklist" of factors related to staffing, technology, and the business processes used in that department.