The answers to the important questions of budget allocation and performance monitoring in local governments are here, but they are hidden in the unruly thicket of data that grows ever larger by the moment.

Too many trees too close together can obscure the view of the forest.

But there are new tools on hand to help government officials cut through the confusion. Cloud-based software company OpenGov has released Performance Measures, a set of software tools that can help make local governments more effective and accountable.

From OpenGov:

…many state and local governments are experiencing declining revenues and are re-evaluating how they allocate their budgets across programs. Numerous finance directors, management analysts, department heads, and city and county administrators have told us they want to track their performance to determine which programs are working and deserve more funding. But existing performance-tracking tools (like Excel spreadsheets) must be manually updated, which is a cumbersome, time-consuming, and error-prone process. In fact, many governments told us it takes them between two days and two weeks to collect data from departments, convert all the data to the same format, and report on it.

OpenGov Performance Measures overcomes these challenges. It’s part of our OpenGov Smart Government Cloud, so it taps into a government’s financial and operational data and automatically updates the metrics it’s tracking. Our operational performance solution is fully integrated with our budgeting and planning solutions so governments can use their current and historical performance to inform future strategic plans and budgets. Governments can customize the metrics they track in Performance Measures, create alerts to notify them when goals are reached, and provision access to a person, department, or the entire organization. And governments can compare their performance to the more than 1,600 other governments on the OpenGov network.

Wired says that the Performance Measures toolset could not have come at a better time for local governments. OpenGov CEO Zac Bookman point out that public distrust in government is reaching new highs and that many people believe that government has not been effective especially at the federal level. This puts the onus upon state and local governments to hold officials accountable.

Wired reports:

OpenGov’s budgeting tool essentially took the thousands of rows of Excel sheets many cities use to track spending, and produced easy-to-read charts so that any citizen or government worker could see, for instance, how much of the police department’s salary budget was being spent on overtime pay. Performance Measures does much the same thing for data beyond the budget. It allows cities to upload all of their data, for instance, on the time it takes to answer 311 service requests or the number of potholes that have been filled.

The tool is intended less for public consumption than for the busy decision-makers inside these local governments. “We kept hearing over and over that the higher up you get in government, the less time you have to dive into the details,” says Jonathan Brandon, OpenGov’s product marketing manager who helped develop Performance Measures.

Other performance measurement tools have hit the market before. Among these tools are those offered by OpenGov competitor Socrata. Open Gov’s Jonathan Brandon says that that that it is ease of setup and ease of use that sets his company’s product apart.