City of Birmingham Performance Assessment

The City of Birmingham is a municipal corporation in the state of Alabama.  Birmingham is the largest of 58 cities in the state boasting a population currently estimated at 212,237, and a metro population of 1,136,650. With 99 historic neighborhoods, Birmingham serves as a diverse community of advanced medical research and new technology innovation.  The City has a mayor/council form of government with a general fund annual budget of approximately $436 million dollars. Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin’s priorities consist of revitalizing the City’s neighborhoods, making the City safer, improving education, improving transportation infrastructure and making the City more inclusive for all. To determine specific initiatives to implement his priorities, Mayor Woodfin approved a financial and operations Performance Assessment to evaluate the City’s opportunities to uncover cost savings, increase revenues and optimize department efficiencies.

The Challenge

According to the Mayor, “Putting People First” is not just a slogan, it is the City’s strategy. In order to focus on this major theme, all 28 departments and divisions within City Hall needed to become aligned to this central purpose.

Within the first 100 days in office, Mayor Woodfin determined that a Performance Assessment of the City’s financials and operations was needed to assist his administration in determining the most efficient path to take in developing and executing a comprehensive plan to transform City Hall into a transparent, accountable and effective government.  The following objectives for the Performance Assessment were established:

  • Obtain a better understanding of the City’s current functions and services
  • Increase overall transparency and accountability within the City’s departments
  • Identify and assess opportunities to improve operational efficiency, streamline organizational structures and reduce costs without sacrificing essential services
  • Assess the long-term financial sustainability of the City
  • Assess the strength of the respective internal control environments to safeguard taxpayer funds

The scope of the Performance Assessment included 9 key departments: Community Development, Finance, Human Resources, IMS, Law, Municipal Court, Police, Public Works and Planning, Engineering and Permits.

The Requirements

The foundation for the Performance Assessment’s guiding principles and business drivers were identified by the City’s Executive Leadership Team. These factors were used to inform how the City would make decisions, prioritize initiatives and implement the desired future state. Output from the Performance Assessment would be categorized and mapped to each key business driver to recognize the effectiveness of the recommended improvements and align strategic plans. The Executive Leadership Team provided the following key business drivers for the Performance Assessment:

  • Generate cost savings
  • Achieve operational efficiency and/or effectiveness
  • Improve customer service
  • Promote transparency and accountability
  • Enable right sizing
  • Reduce risk or risk exposure

The Solution

Crowe Horwath and PGV Advisors were selected to conduct the Performance Assessment.  Both companies have expert advisory teams adept at developing customized approaches to help government agencies evaluate compliance, manage financing, expand funding sources, uncover cost saving opportunities and discover new revenue potential.

iSeek Solutions (iSeek), a local, Birmingham-based consulting firm was selected to provide project management oversight, serve as advocates for the City and a liaison between the City stakeholders and the vendors. iSeek was uniquely qualified for this role as they were personally familiar with the challenges faced by the City and its citizens, along with the major’s vision for the City. In this role, iSeek ensured the timely and successful execution of key activities outlined in the 3rd party vendor agreement, as well as activities detailed in the project management plan. The role of the iSeek City Project Manager included:

  1. Liaison between the Department Heads and 3rd party vendors.
  2. Contribute in the development of 3rd party vendor’s project scope, project plan and project communication plan.
  3. Collaborate with the Executive Leadership Team and 3rd party vendors on assessment readiness and preparation activities (i.e. communications to each department in-scope).
  4. Coordinate department representative interviews to gather needed information.
  5. Gather, package and deliver information and documentation required for assessment.
  6. Facilitate discussions, communications and meetings needed to obtain any ad-hoc or unplanned information, documentation or materials needed for the assessment.
  7. Onsite facilitator of assessment needs for remote 3rd party vendors.
  8. Conduct weekly meetings (or as needed) with 3rd party vendors to determine needs, resolve issues, obtain status on deliverables and forecast upcoming activities.
  9. Conduct weekly meetings (or as needed) with Executive Leadership Team to communicate assessment needs, provide status and address issues.
  10. Monitor and control the execution of engagement activities and ensure adherence to providing deliverables according to agreed upon timeline.

The Results

The Final Performance Assessment Report included 33 recommendations targeting cost savings, new revenue opportunities and operational efficiencies across 9 departments.  Each recommendation was descriptive and contained a detailed analysis explaining its alignment with the 6 key business drivers and priorities underscored by the Mayor and Executive Leadership Team. Along with each recommendation, a heat map and priority ranking were created to correlate each strategic initiative with proposed timing.  Among the notable recommendations, $204MM in addressable spend was identified as viable for opportunities to reduce costs and generate revenues amounting to an estimated 8%-14% in unexpected savings to the City of Birmingham.  Several large expense areas accounted for the proposed savings including utilities, professional fees, employee benefits and insurance rates.

Our Mayor expects our leadership team to address immediate concerns of citizens and other stakeholders while also addressing deeper, systemic issues at the same time.  It is a major challenge. So, when the Mayor asked me to lead his effort to identify cost savings and organizational efficiencies, I immediately turned to iSeek Solutions to serve as thought-partners and hands-on leaders to ensure we fully engaged our vendors, staff, and other stakeholders throughout our Performance Assessment.  iSeek co-owned the heavy thinking and communication required to keep our Mayor and Executive Leadership Team attuned to the brightest opportunities and possible pitfalls uncovered throughout the project.  iSeek brought a lot of experience and wisdom to the process and it was clear that their ultimate commitment was for the success of the engagement and our administration.

– Ed Fields, Senior Advisor & Chief Strategist, City of Birmingham

“With the performance assessment, we peeled back the layers and asked, are we the most efficient & effective in how services are delivered?”

– Mayor Randall Woodfin, City of Birmingham

See the full video of what Mayor Woodfin had to say about the City of Birmingham’s performance assessment experience BY CLICKING HERE.

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Municipal Government

Date published

November 10, 2022