Astute Spruce

Whangarei Falls, Whangarei, New Zealand | Photo: Tim Swaan

Budget Allocation Application - Rapid Prototype

Client: New Zealand Department of Conservation
Jul 18, 2019Nov 30, 2019
Design | Front-end Development | Data Processing

Improving Government Budgets & Outcomes

Let's face it, a budgeting cycle for a large government agency is normally associated with countless spreadsheets and endless meetings. It is often a slow, bureaucratic, and hard-to-visualize process. It does not necessarily optimize for effective, measurable outcomes, nor does it promote collaboration between different groups within a department to achieve better buy-in and integrated problem-solving.

The New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) is actively trying to improve this budgeting process in order to make better decisions that will impact natural, social, and historical resources in New Zealand for decades to come. The DOC is currently in the middle of a 10-year master budgeting process, which involves figuring out how to allocate limited funds toward:

  • preserving rare and sensitive species
  • restoring and protecting ecosystems
  • reducing the impacts of invasive species
  • building effective regional partnerships
  • increasing visitor engagment with historical, cultural, and natural resources

In particular, the department is experimenting with two approaches that may dramatically improve this process:

  1. decision theater meetings, where stakeholders and decision-makers from multiple areas within the department collaborate to make tradeoffs between their goals and the available resources.

  2. budget allocation & visualization tools, which enable stakeholders to quickly visualize the impact of budget decisions on department goals, and likewise, the potential cost to reach different targets.

Together, these will likely create a more collaborative budgeting process, which will increase the department's ability to optimize the allocation of limited budget resources toward achieving department goals.

Hooker Valley Track , New Zealand
Hooker Valley Track, New Zealand | Photo by Roell de Ram on Unsplash

A Rapid Prototype to Visualize Budgets and Outcomes

In partnership with KDV Decision Analysis, LLC, we created a rapid prototype application to help the DOC interactively adjust target outcome levels and budgets.

Based on draft budgets and target outcomes from DOC, this application allows DOC decision-makers and their support staff to easily adjust target outcome levels for a variety of department goals. The application shows updated budget information in realtime, making it very easy to visualize the impact of different allocation levels.

This application also includes a multi-screen version, which shows different aspects of the budget and target outcomes across a several physical screens in a meeting room. This allows multiple staff to easily visualise budget impacts to their area of responsibility, and more readily engage with data-driven decisions during collaborative meetings to determine how funding should be allocated to better reach DOC's goals.

This prototype is actively being used to evaluate and improve the budget allocation process.

Over the mid and long term, this application (once more fully developed) will:

  • empower decision-makers and their support staff to leverage available information on the impacts and outcomes of different budget allocations across the department
  • increase budget allocation transparency during the decision-making process
  • better optimize he assignment of resources to meet the larger objectives of the department.

We hope that by using this pilot application, the department will more fully appreciate the benefits of the resource allocation process and leverage those benefits to make more informed and durable budgetary decisions. In turn, DOC hopes this will lead to increased conservation successes and greater engagement between New Zealanders, foreign tourists, and partners around New Zealand’s rich natural heritage and cultural resources.

Kea, New Zealand
Kea, New Zealand | Photo by Tomas Sobek on Unsplash

This application is internal to DOC and is not publicly accessible. Please contact us for more information.

Technologies used:
  • Javascript, GatsbyJS, React
  • Python, Pandas

Get in touch:

Astute Spruce, LLC
Brendan C. Ward
Owner | Lead software engineer
Phone: 541-250-9544
Oregon, USA