Prosper, Texas drives innovation and sound governance with strategy execution
A short distance north of Dallas, officials in the fast-growing Town of Prosper, Texas, are working hard to ensure that nothing about Prosper is a misnomer.
“We’re experiencing huge growth right now, which is exciting to see,” says Robyn Battle, the Executive Director of Community Services at Prosper. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s really fun to see the town develop. With that comes challenges, though – we have a lot of projects running and a lot of infrastructure and efforts that accompany rapid growth. We need new roads and new water lines, new parks, fire stations and other facilities.
Maintaining the fabric of what makes Prosper special during this period of expansion is really important to both Robyn and the rest of the employees at the town.
“I think what’s unique about Prosper is the residents’ view of the town,” she says. “People move here because they want the small-town feel. They want to know their neighbors. They want to be connected within the community, and I think that is something that we at the town do really well – building relationships with different segments of the community to make sure that we’re all in this together and that people feel connected to their local government.”
Robyn and her team have been using Envisio to help them manage their growth while ensuring they maintain communications and build trust with their residents.
Let’s take a look at how they’re doing it.
Strategic planning is an annual affair with some outside help
The population of Prosper has almost tripled in the past decade, and even before onboarding Envisio, the town had been progressive in their use of strategic planning to best manage this growth.
“Ever since I joined the town, and even before that, the council has always held an annual strategic planning process,” says Robyn. “They bring in a facilitator, and have a day-long process where we talk about what we’ve accomplished in the past year. After that, we then set some goals and some objectives for the coming year or, in some instances, the next five years. After that, the town manager uses that work plan to get all of those objectives done in the designated time period. Then, the next year, we come back and do the same thing, and refine those goals and objectives.”
Prosper structures their strategic plan around five key pillars that drive everything they strive to achieve on an annual basis.
“We have five high-level goals,” says Robyn, “and then all of our action items are built off of those goals. They cover things like quality infrastructure and high-quality residential development, business attraction, and business investment. Our downtown is a big deal. The Council is really focused on our downtown area, revitalizing it, redeveloping it…and providing exceptional service to the residents in Prosper. That’s something that permeates throughout the whole organization–no matter what we do, we provide exceptional service to our residents and then everything – all of the action items and the deliverables – are tied to these goals.”
“We’ve used several different facilitators along the way. All of them have had a different style and a different process. We have found that the council responds well when we change up the facilitator every once in a while. We like to keep it fresh. And then two years ago, our facilitator introduced me to Envisio. I went and watched a demonstration at another city, and I really liked the way that Envisio captured all of the objectives that the city was trying to accomplish along with timelines and status updates—all of those really valuable metrics. It mirrored the process that we were already undertaking.”
Battling a spreadsheet makes managing a plan cumbersome
Prior to using Envisio, Robyn and her team had been managing their goals and associated strategic activities in a spreadsheet—a task they found inefficient, time-consuming, and difficult to facilitate.
“We had a spreadsheet and we used the colors red, yellow and green to show whether a project or action was late or at risk, on track or complete. So I thought, “Well, okay. We’re already doing this on a spreadsheet and it’s a pain because you have to put the document out there and have all of the directors manually enter their updates. It was just very cumbersome, and it made aligning things and maintaining an update schedule difficult.”
Using a spreadsheet to track their strategic plan had other drawbacks as well, Robyn says–namely, it made it difficult to measure progress on larger initiatives that had many phases, steps, and actions items. Onboarding Envisio, which her and her team did over a year ago, has helped immensely in this arena.
“As far as tracking the status of projects, especially those that are kind of long term, it was like, well, how do you do that?” she says. “Sure, it’s on track, but for a complex project that has multiple steps or components, we didn’t really have an effective way to capture projects like that. Envisio solved a lot of those problems, because not only do you now have the action items that tie to the strategic plan, but you have the individual milestones as well. All the different steps that have to happen in that action item for it to be completed on time are represented, and all of those have timelines.”
Envisio, which Robyn and her team settled on after a thorough procurement process, was an easy software to roll out, she says. The platform has been a driving force in streamlining their strategic initiatives and for ushering in a new culture of accountability and transparency at Prosper.
“We’re very, very happy with Envisio,” she says. “I think it works really well. Everyone’s on board with the process, and Envisio walks you through the updates. It has definitely caused our staff to be a little more accountable on their work plans, because we do our updates monthly. At first, it was a little bit difficult getting the staff on board. They were like, “What is this? What are you making me do?” But, as with any new process, you just have to manage that change, explain why it’s important, and explain how it’s not only going to benefit the town, but it’s going to benefit them. Now our updates run with very few problems. And it’s a lot easier than the spreadsheet!”
Increased transparency, both internal and external, is possible through reporting
Robyn and her team have found that increased transparency and accountability has paid dividends with both the town council and the residents of Prosper. Using the platform’s public dashboard feature, and publishing regular updates to it, has put the impressive work the town is doing front and center for key stakeholders–both internal and external.
“Well, that’s just it,” Robyn says. “Prior to Envisio, it wasn’t that we didn’t share the strategic plan, but it wasn’t out front like it is now. With the public dashboard, it’s so easy to just put that on the website and show it to the public. And it’s so easy to read! Before the dashboard, we had the strategic plan available, but there wasn’t a whole lot of interest from the public and there wasn’t a lot of buzz about the strategic plan. After all, who wants to read a 50-page document about our strategic plan? That’s just not very interesting.”