SaaS Discovery Helps City of Aurora Improve Taxpayer Value

Cory Wheeler

Back to Blog

Founded in 1891, the City of Aurora, Colorado, was once a small frontier town primarily home to ranchers and farmers.

Spurred by the growth of neighboring Denver and the development of industries such as aerospace, defense, and health care, more than 374,000 people now call Aurora home.

A Thriving City, Increased Need for Accountability

With any municipality, managing finances, purchasing, and services amongst multiple teams and departments is a challenge. And the greater the size and the faster the growth, the greater the challenge.

Aurora, in particular, prides itself on transparency and accountability to its taxpayers. For example, all city expenditures are available to be viewed on its website so taxpayers can see exactly where their tax dollars go.

It’s in this spirit of transparency that Aurora recently undertook a broad effort to examine procurement processes and overall financial record-keeping. The goal: Drive maximum value for taxpayers from all municipal spending. This effort spanned the nearly two dozen city departments, including its IT team.

Aurora’s IT department challenged itself to discover any and all software-as-a-service subscriptions (SaaS) active within the municipality’s teams and organize them into a single system of record to enable improved strategic and financial decision-making.

“In any resource-constrained environment, you have to ensure financial accountability and value for every purchase,” says Aurora’s Chief Information Officer Aleta Jeffress.

Transparency Defined

By partnering with Zylo and applying its SaaS discovery engine, Aurora’s IT team unlocked a new transparent view of the SaaS tools in use throughout the city’s offices.

According to Zylo customer data, many organizations underestimate the number of SaaS applications by two to three times, which creates obvious difficulties for promoting transparency and accountability.

As a result of the discovery process, Aurora’s IT team identified approximately 200 unique cloud-based applications in 20 city departments. When combined, these applications represented spending of more than $4 million each year.

While this spending represented only a portion of the more than $600 million in total the city spends in a typical year on everything from new construction to water rights to payroll, Jeffress says accountability drives the decision-making for every transaction, no matter how large or small.

“For spending in smaller government organizations, accountability becomes increasingly important. You must ensure you communicate where the money is going and what it’s being spent on,” she says.

In several instances, Jeffress and her team were able to recommend that teams or offices consolidate SaaS applications with redundant functions. The discovery process also helped drive awareness around the value of a centralized SaaS sourcing process for applications deployed to multiple teams or departments.

“We’re now seeing all [SaaS] purchases and being able to talk to the employees about them. Step one is always awareness, and then you have to educate your users about the process, Jeffress says.

“Now, if we find disparate things or if somebody comes to the table and says I want to buy a hundred software licenses for my team, we have a process to evaluate that.”

SaaS Discovery Establishes Foundation for Collaboration

The process of discovering and accounting for all the municipality’s SaaS purchases yielded another important benefit: The opportunity to collaborate across teams and standardize spending definitions.

One of the difficulties in analyzing spending data across large organizations is the lack of standard definitions for subscription-based software. According to Zylo data, more than 50 percent of SaaS spend occurs outside known software expense types.

For example, with the help of Zylo’s discovery engine and system of record, Jeffress and the IT team found that a SaaS application employed by its public libraries to monitor resource check-outs was labeled under a “dues and subscriptions” expense type rather than “software.”

While clearly unintentional, expense anomalies like these underscore why it can be difficult to manage SaaS tools at scale without the explicit use of a SaaS management platform that promotes transparency and collaboration.

With the ability to comb through every financial transaction associated with SaaS applications line by line, Aurora’s IT team and the departments it supports now have to ability to identify, understand, and manage their technology resources more effectively, thus safeguarding value for taxpayers.

The Future of SaaS for Aurora

By using Zylo as a system of record to track all SaaS tools currently in use and going forward, Aurora’s IT team also began the process of eliminating unneeded tools, consolidating redundant applications, and tracking purchases more accurately. These efforts have led to more efficient and effective spending of taxpayer resources and improved value.

“At this point, I don’t think anybody would debate the value of Zylo,” Jeffress says.

About the Author

Cory Wheeler

Cory Wheeler is the VP of Services and Customer Success at Zylo, where he helps tech-forward companies understand, manage and optimize their cloud-based infrastructure via the Zylo platform. Prior to Zylo, Cory spent 15 years in Finance and Procurement, managing categories and sourcing teams at Arthur Andersen, BearingPoint and both Takeda and Astellas Pharmaceuticals. Cory then built the Procurement organization at ExactTarget in 2012, and managed the integration of the new Marketing Cloud Procurement organization into Salesforce.com in 2015. He and his family reside in Indianapolis, IN, where they can be found cheering for the Purdue Boilermakers and Chicago Cubs.