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City of Decatur, Georgia Harnessed SharePoint to Improve Its Budgeting Process

Industry: Municipality
Industry: Municipality
Location: Decatur, GA
Location: Decatur, GA
Population: 24,500
Population: 24,500

Municipal budgeting takes up a lot of time. Many departments and individuals must work together to create this very important annual deliverable. Part of that challenge includes collaboration.

A budget is compiled from many different documents and sources of information. When municipal staff relies on email or a collaboration-unfriendly document management system, it becomes difficult to keep track of changes. Who made the last edit? What if two people want to edit the document at the same time? Which file is the most recently updated one?

The City of Decatur, Georgia, faced these challenges as they entered their budgeting process. Instead of accepting the status quo, they looked to their IT partner, VC3, for input about a better document collaboration solution.

The Problem

The City of Decatur knew that better document collaboration would simplify its budgeting process. Some existing problems with their document management solution included:

  • Lack of an ability for multiple users to work together on budget documents: The city’s previous document management system did not allow for such collaboration. If someone wanted to make changes to a document, they would have to wait until the current user had completed their updates and closed the document, which wasted valuable time.
  • Lack of flexible remote document access: Employees could only access and edit files through their city-assigned desktops at the office. In an era when so many people work from home or while traveling, this restricted access to documents became impractical and impeded productivity.
  • High, unpredictable server costs: The city wanted to reduce server costs, as the costs associated with supporting and managing its current server were unpredictable. These unpredictable costs resulted in an added layer of budgeting difficulties.

Finding the Solution

VC3 analyzed the city’s document management solution, SharePoint 2013. While this version offered some collaboration functionality, it was limited—lacking modern integration with other Microsoft products such as Word and robust co-authoring capabilities (including a lack of co-authoring with important applications used in budgeting such as Excel).

Upgrading their server from SharePoint 2013 to the newest version required significant expense. However, the city had recently migrated their email to Microsoft Office 365, which included licensing for the most current version of SharePoint—including a cloud-based SharePoint Online site. Despite already paying for the cloud version of SharePoint, the city was not using it.

As a result, the opportunity became obvious to create an improved document collaboration site while decommissioning their current server to reduce costs. After a careful review of the city’s challenges and goals, a SharePoint Partnership Plan became the ideal solution. VC3 helped the city find a balance between reducing costs while adding services and functionality.

The SharePoint Partnership Plan provided:

  • Predictable, fixed costs: Without any needed server management and maintenance, the city’s document management costs became predictable. And because licensing costs for the cloud-based SharePoint Online site were already included in Microsoft Office 365, the city ended up reducing its overall costs by eliminating their server. Within the fixed cost, the SharePoint Partnership plan also includes unlimited support.
  • Ability to access files remotely: Because this new version of SharePoint was accessible through the cloud, employees have the ability to access budget files from any device, at any time, through an internet connection. If an employee works from home or travels, then they can access files and work with their team remotely.
  • Co-authoring functionality: Instead of struggling with limited or no co-authoring functionality, city employees could now collaborate on Microsoft Office documents in real time. No more waiting for someone to finish editing a document until they could work on it. Employees could now work on documents together at the same time—which is especially helpful during budget meetings or when multiple people work on different pieces of large documents. This improved the overall budgeting process and made it much more efficient.

There were no added costs in rolling out the new version of SharePoint to the employees because it was included in the city’s existing Microsoft Office 365 license.

Cognito Forms – An Added Bonus

The SharePoint Partnership Plan included a complimentary enterprise subscription to Cognito Forms, a web-based form-building application. With Cognito Forms, previously time-consuming and cumbersome paper forms were replaced with digital forms. These new digital forms can then be accessed from the city’s SharePoint site.

For example, the first paper form that the city created as a digital form was their check request form, used by almost every department in the city. This digital form not only streamlined the check request process but also drove immediate adoption of the new SharePoint site.

The SharePoint Partnership Plan’s complimentary enterprise subscription to Cognito Forms has saved the city $3,500 throughout the life of the plan.


The city experienced many positive results from the SharePoint Partnership Plan.

  • Reduced costs: The city was able to reduce the maintenance costs associated with managing an on-premise server. Because the new SharePoint site was cloud-based, the city no longer required an on-premise server that needed maintenance and updating.
  • Improved document organization to help employees easily find information: The site became a valuable tool with improved resources to find documents, search for policies, and answer questions. In addition to the budgeting collaboration gained with the new site, the overall document organization on the site improved. City employees had an easier time finding documents because the site offers a clear, defined information structure.
  • Automated processes that eliminated manual tasks: For example, one popular section on SharePoint, the employee directory, no longer required manual updates. Previously, an employee needed to update employee information in multiple places. Now, the employee directory updates automatically once the information is entered into the city’s database.

About The City of Decatur 

Decatur is a city in Georgia, northeast of Atlanta. In the Old Courthouse, the DeKalb History Center’s museum traces local history through furniture and Civil War artifacts. Outside is a sculpture of Thomas Jefferson. Woodlands Garden offers tree-lined trails and native plants. To the northwest, Emory University’s Michael C. Carlos Museum houses ancient art and artifacts from Egypt, Greece, Rome and Asia.


City of Decatur, Georgia

The site became a valuable tool with improved resources to find documents, search for policies, and answer questions. In addition to the budgeting collaboration gained with the new site, the overall document organization on the site improved. City employees had an easier time finding documents because the site offers a clear, defined information structure.

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