Performance Improvement Projects

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Last Updated: April 22, 2014

The Performance Improvement Division acts as internal consultants for the City by providing process improvement training and expertise to departments, and managing projects that identify opportunities and eliminate waste. The Division also manages the City's performance reporting program and serves as a technical and analytical resource to departments for performance measurement, strategy planning and benchmarking. The primary goal of the Division is to plant the seeds for continuous improvement throughout the City through training, project facilitation, and civic engagement.

Here are a few of the Division's latest accomplishments:

Lean Six Sigma Training
Since the Lean Six Sigma training program’s implementation last February, the Division has trained over 700 employees (as of April 2014) through Yellow Belt-level certification (4-hour course) and 27 through Green Belt (4-days).

  • Selected Green Belt Project Results
    • Courts- Reengineered the Deferred Payment program in municipal courts encouraging a higher down-payment, which increased compliance and netted an additional $1,000,000 in incremental revenue per year.
    • ARA- Used Lean Six Sigma design techniques to reorganize the taxi cab permitting process bringing down the cycle time from a month to 5 days on average.
    • Finance- Closed over 100 legacy grants valued at over $173M and created a future-state process to close grants upon completion resulting in more accurate financials.

Learn more about our Lean Six Sigma Training program by visiting our LSS training page.

Accounts Receivable and Collections
Conducted a citywide review to determine the current state of AR and Collections, assess six third-party collection vendors, and develop long-term strategies to improve collection processes. The team worked with departments and vendors to test new collection strategies and implemented process improvements reducing cycle time for customers and increasing collections for the City and vendors. The City directly realized $8.5 million in incremental revenue over 16 months.

Vendor Management
Developed a vendor management program and vendor scorecards to better manage and collaborate with revenue collection vendors. Through these efforts, the City’s first master agreement between multiple collection vendors was created to allow for the City to engage multiple collection agencies on individual revenue streams for increased competition and collection opportunities. The team also assisted on the EMS collections efforts that showed the previous vendor was underperforming on collections and putting the City as risk.

Red Light Cameras
Immediately after the settlement that allowed the City to continue collecting outstanding red light camera fines, the division served as support to interface with ATS to ensure an appropriate listing of accounts was provided and that daily updates for collections could be reconciled by the City. The team also assisted with data cleansing and initial mailings to increase collections and created a reporting environment for red light camera collections that is still used today. Initial collections began 2-3 months earlier than it would have taken through HITS, and incurred no IT costs.

SAP Accounts Receivable and Sales & Distribution Modules
The Division offered resources, project management, and testing in conjunction with ERP for the implementation of the SAP Accounts Receivable and Sales & Distribution Modules. Modules now support billing for two revenue streams and collections of approximately $35K/month without any additional staff or consulting expense, and the solution is scalable to include more revenue streams as needed.

Hackathons, TechStreet, and Civic Engagement
The Division organized the first City of Houston Hackathon in Spring 2013 and released over 200 datasets to the public. Since then, the team co-organized the 311 Data Challenge Hackathon, co-organized TechStreet Houston, and drafted the initial proposed Open Data Administrative Procedure. These efforts have provided an additional channel of communication with the community, increased transparency, and sped the pace of technical innovation in the City. The City has launched two Hackathon projects (Budget Bootcamp and the 311 Performance Dashboards), is working on launching a third (the revamp of the citywide fee schedule), and has set a foundation to financially support civic innovation through a non-profit, Open Houston.

Strategic Planning and Performance Measures
The Division assisted with the deployment and roll-out of the Mayor’s Five Pillars to the departments to begin the process of creating and measuring stronger performance measures for the FY14 Budget. The team has since revised the Monthly Financial Report, deployed Performance Insight, and is working to deploy SAP Strategy Management to allow for the creation of unified departmental, internal and external dashboards for performance management. Use of performance measures will allow the Division to undertake Performance Improvement Engagements (PIE’s) with departments to proactively engage in continuous improvement throughout the city.

Accounts Receivable Data Warehouse
The Accounts Receivable Data Warehouse project will provide decision makers with a greater level of detail concerning billing, payment, and accounts receivable of taxes and fees owed to the City than ever before. The Division is working to aggregate financial data from across the City in order to create comprehensive reports to assist decision makers in the management of the City’s, and its vendors’, collections efforts.

Houston Permitting Center
Identified areas of revenue leakage within permitting, thereby presenting opportunities for process improvement and departmental interaction to detect and close procedural gaps, raise community awareness and collect delinquent funds. Improvements undertaken include:

  • Overall 39% decrease in the cycle time for the Mylar walkthrough process, a time savings to customers of 50 minutes on average.
  • Eliminated the process for requiring a signed affidavit for most business permits improving customer satisfaction and reducing cycle time.
  • Created quick reference guides for frequently requested service types to eliminate customer confusion and speed up the process.
  • Increased new and renewal fire alarm permit volume by 49% through tougher compliance and improved mailing and invoicing process. Reduced processing time by 86%.
  • Reduced overall cycle time for ARA commercial permitting by half while simultaneously increasing permit volume by identifying non-compliant businesses.

Additional Performance Improvements

  • Frank Bracco created a 311 Performance Dashboard in his volunteer time to satisfy Council’s budget request to provide a tool for analyzing 311 data. Estimated savings = $10,000 withdrawn budget amendment
  • Automated Fleet’s internal control process for NAPA invoices resulting in the reassignment of 3 FTEs to other functions. Estimated savings = $195,000 per annum foregoing additional FTEs.
  • Improved Fleet’s outside services accounts payable performance reducing requisition time from 110 days on average to less than 3 days, improving customer relations and internal controls, and resulting in the reassignment of 4 FTEs. Estimated savings = $260,000
  • Standardized inventory of Fire Heavy Duty mechanics service trucks resulting in $30,000 of parts credits from NAPA.
  • Worked with Mayor’s Correspondence Office and 311 systems group to redesign the Lagan report for MYR-type Service Requests. Estimated time savings = 0.5 days per month from automating the report.
  • Performed a data analysis for Houston Police Department on the wreckers program
  • Assisted the Office of Business Opportunity with a Performance Management Review which covered 3 divisions and suggested over 150 performance and policy improvements. Projected cost avoidance of 3 FTEs equating to $230,000 per annum.
  • Quickly fulfilled several data requests from Legal and Finance for granular data on property taxes during the legislative session, city budget amendment, ad valorem collection RFP periods thanks to data gathered for the data warehouse.
  • Assisted Finance Treasury with the initial sales tax analysis for the
  • Assisted in testing and deployment of various SharePoint sites and modules.
  • Identified budget-neutral opportunities for improvement in the Department of Neighborhoods Inspection Public Services Division that would increase capacity, resolve case backlog and reduce cycle time.
  • Facilitating the Procure-to-Pay Project with McKinsey & Company.