Data and AI offer improved financial management for local authorities
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IKVS is a software solution developed by Axians that enables local authorities to compare their performance with that of similar organisations in order to make informed decisions. It is used by more than 800 local authorities in Germany and Switzerland.
It all began in 2005 in North Rhine-Westphalia. This German state had decided to change its regulatory framework, introducing a new accounting system and strongly encouraging data-based management of local authorities. Other regions of Germany would follow suit over the next few years.
At that point, Axians, the VINCI Energies ICT brand, formed partnerships with eight pilot towns in North Rhine-Westphalia to launch a project to optimise data management, based primarily on an inter-authority benchmarking system. Four years later in 2009, IKVS (Interkommunales Vergleichssystem – inter-authority comparison system) arrived.
This software solution makes it possible to perform comparative analyses between towns; to compile annual and monthly budgets and reports; to create interactive visual representations for presenting the data to town councils, employees and residents; and to facilitate decentralised budget planning.
“AI is a game-changer for the budget management process”
“On this last point,” explains Thilo Schappert, Business Unit Manager of Axians IKVS, “Our solution offers the ability to create a budget separately from the authority’s ERP [Enterprise Resource Planning] system, which unlike many current systems, does not restrict them to an unstructured Excel-based tool with limited sharing options. Things do not always go as planned for in the initial budget. It must therefore be possible to integrate any changes into a dynamic and interactive process with month-by-month data. Our web-based software displays data in real time.”
Carbon footprint display
In addition to automatically generated reports and interactive public budget presentations, IKVS can also create a budget report structured according to the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs), and an environmental report detailing the amount of energy consumed per sector (administration, transport, sports, etc.) and the amount produced by the town from different sources (solar, biogas, fossil, etc.).
Thilo Schappert continues, “The town of Hüttenberg [north of Frankfurt], which has 10,000 residents and has been our customer since 2014, is the first to use our dashboard to record its direct and indirect CO2 emissions and publish them online in an interactive way.”
New AI-based version
Now used by almost 800 town councils in Germany and Switzerland, from the very smallest towns to major cities such as Munich and Hamburg, the IKVS solution is moving into top gear. Axians included it in the 2022 promotion for Leonard AI, which helps VINCI Group entities to design and develop artificial intelligence projects.
“AI is a game-changer for the budget management process,” says Thilo Schappert. In this area, his team intends to make use of the complementarity between different data types: budgetary, accounting, statistical (population, schools, etc.).
“When our project with Leonard AI is complete, we will roll out the new version of our solution in mid-2023 to make it available before the next round of local authority budget planning. With this AI-based software, we are ahead of the curve in offering our customers a simple solution for creating model budgets based on different scenarios.”
The ambition remains the same: to speed up reporting tasks, simplify management of the financial system and facilitate more transparent communication with residents.