Magazine article Government Finance Review

A Software Survey and Shareware Library for Oregon Finance Officers

Magazine article Government Finance Review

A Software Survey and Shareware Library for Oregon Finance Officers

Article excerpt

The Data Processing (DP) Committee of the Oregon Municipal Finance Officers Association (OMFOA) has been a support-oriented group since it was formed in 1991. The committee was established to develop and provide technical support to the association through various activities, including training and maintaining a database of software and hardware users.

Forming the DP Committee

The OMFOA board of directors asked a few interested association members to form the DP committee; those members selected others based upon specific needs of the group. The State of Oregon has a diversity of government types and sizes, and the committee membership was to reflect that diversity. Members were not selected based upon vast amounts of computer knowledge but on their interest in participating, their experience in finance and their geographic location within the state. Another goal was to include as many new OMFOA members as possible to promote commitment and enthusiasm for the DP committee, to foster direct participation in the state association and to begin developing the individual's networking with long-term members.

Survey of Software Use

The first project for the DP committee was to establish what data processing training was needed by OMFOA members; what software and hardware they were using; and who would like to be a contact person for data processing questions, act as a "big brother/sister" for a less computer-experienced association member, help with training or be on the DP committee. This information would be complied into a listing that would be distributed to all OMFOA members.

To collect this information, the committee initially attempted a survey in July 1991, using a lengthy questionnaire which was distributed to all association members as part of the general newsletter. Only about 10 percent of the participating agencies responded and the answers were varied and generalized. The multitude of questions asked and the general responses received unfortunately did not lend themselves to a workable analysis of the data. Having learned from this, the DP committee circulated a second survey with a more narrow focus. To increase the number of responses, the committee offered prizes to be awarded through a drawing from completed survey forms at the OMFOA's annual conference. The prizes, donated by a national software vendor, ranged in value from $50 to $600.

The survey questionnaire, shown in Exhibit 1, had been simplified to gather TABULAR DATA OMITTED only basic information about software applications and equipment. Respondents could easily check off which applications their agency used and enter the product name in the space provided. Three final questions prompted for brand names of the mainframe, PC operating system and network file server, if applicable. To eliminate any possibility of the committee or the OMFOA being faulted for making or distributing negative representations about a software or vendor, the questionnaire did not ask for evaluations of products.

Survey Results. The new survey questionnaire elicited more than twice the number of responses than the first attempt. The 80 responses provided information that was complete and easy to analyze and present. Several members of the DP committee processed the information in a spreadsheet application; printing was done on a personal computer laser printer. The listing then was shared with all committee members, who participated in the analysis.

A few adjustments were required to present the data in a workable format. For example, some of the larger government agencies had more than one person responding to the survey. For simplification of input and presentation, the person with the most information on the form would be listed as the contact, assuming that this person could answer most of the inquiries and pass the inquiring party on to others if needed. The committee wanted the listing to fit on an 8 1/2-by-11 inch sheet of paper without eliminating information or using a copier for reduction. …

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