Managing budgets within local governments in the United States is no easy task. There are so many municipalities to consider and inter-workings within one organization to another to consider alongside regulations and constraints. ClearGov is a company that aims to transform traditional paper budget plans into the digital world.
ClearGov is doing this using CKEditor 4 and thus making many local municipalities’ operations much easier. ClearGov has five main products under its belt and heavily uses CKEditor 4 in two of them - Digital Budget Book and Transparency - while putting a strong emphasis on its reliance on the Spreadsheets and Accessibility features. The Digital Budget Book, for instance, allows finance departments or local governments using Cleargov’s software to turn PDF files into websites while being able to easily share and update these plans.
Challenge: Taking the complexities of a budgeting plan to the cloud
The company focuses on local governments and small municipalities and not on the state or federal level of governance. Its customers include those within finance departments or working with local municipality finances.
ClearGov needed to find a way for local U.S.-based governments to communicate with their constituents in a transparent way for each phase of a budget plan. It also aimed to do it in a modern, digital and web-based fashion in order to free these municipalities from having to store long paper trails of documents or email PDF files back and forth with their constituents.
“We launched the Digital Budget Book with CKEditor,” ClearGov CEO and founder Chris Bullock said. “Text editor was a critical component [of the Digital Budget Book] and we used it from the beginning to launch the various products (the company currently has five products). We didn’t want it to be too simple of an editor. We wanted it to be a fully-functioning rich text editor.”
Accessibility is a big deal for the company and it wanted to find an editor with this feature implemented as it would make things much easier for clients down the line. There are often requirements from local government websites to be ADA-compliant and accessible.
Another issue ClearGov wanted to solve was to integrate a rich text editor into its own ecosystem of software or CMS and have it flexible enough so that users can cut and paste content from traditional solutions like Microsoft Word into it. Much of the time the company found that formatting issues arose when using run-of-the-mill editors for this task.
Solution: A flexible rich text editor with an accessibility feature and good formatting
Besides the traditional way of using pen and paper and cabinets to store documents, the market within this realm has been dominated mostly by Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and Microsoft Word, according to Bullock.
“Every year a budget book has to be created that takes tons of hours to do this,” he said. “We use the cloud for our solution unlike others to create budget books.”
However, these solutions are separate products (from ClearGov’s offerings) and could not be integrated within ClearGov’s CMS system. However, CKEditor 4 was able to overcome this restriction and be integrated into any of its solutions with a rich text editor and spreadsheet documentation software that is highly customizable and tailored for specific needs.
CKEditor 4 allowed ClearGov to also solve the accessibility issue with an Accessibility Checker available as a premium plugin that the company was able to leverage for its products. On top of that, it allowed users to cut and paste content from other standalone text editors like Microsoft Word into its CMS.
ClearGov used CKEditor 4 from the outset. What brought the ClearGov team to the decision of picking this editor over others was not just one feature, or task, it could solve, but a culmination of factors.
“We were impressed by the client list or other companies using the editor; we were also impressed by the breadth of the features [it offers]; and we were impressed with the community behind it,” Bullock emphasized.
Result: 1000s of hours saved by finance departments in creating budget plans
With the power of the cloud, ClearGov’s ideas, and CKEditor 4, government’s across the U.S. have a much easier time creating budgeting plans across various municipalities, Besides just the creation and sharing processes, they are also easier to store, update, and modify down the line with ever greater flexibility, which is due to the digital nature of ClearGov’s offerings. Websites are created by clients that can easily be shared with constituents and in an open and transparent manner. The software also allows for anyone to print documents from the websites directly onto paper while overcoming formatting issues that sometimes plague web printing.
PDF files that were created before ClearGov’s solution were hundreds of pages long for budget books. The scrolling aspect itself is not always easy to navigate and finding the right information within a PDF file someone may be searching for can be time consuming. ClearGov made it interactive and web-based and much more digestible on a mobile device.
“We’ve got hundreds of local governments now building and publishing their budget books utilizing CKEditor,” Bullock emphasized. “So I think the tangible result is that millions of citizens have better access to their governments’ finances in a more digestible format.”
Local governments, as a whole, benefit [from ClearGov’s solutions and CKEditor] by having a digital way to show budget books. Citizens benefit by being able to easily discern the content and see various interactive charts that they can garner data from, while having transparent budget books available at their fingertips. Various financial departments within local governments also benefit due to it saving them time in creating such budget books and financial reports.
Cleargov basically allows websites to be created as budget books, instead of long PDF files to weed through. This saves financial departments time and money in the long run for local governments within the U.S.
“The finance departments buy our software,” Bullock said. “This saves them thousands and thousands of hours of trying to build all of this by hand in Microsoft Word and having to keep the numbers updated. This automates all of that. We help governments run more efficiently and effectively.”
ClearGov’s software has automated much of the traditional government functionality of being able to show data and financial reports. It made presenting this data more efficient and in an interactive – as well as a digestible format for mobile users that was not possible the traditional way.