City of Zaanstad Saves €2.3 Million over Four Years by Replacing Legacy System with Betty Blocks

The city of Zaanstad in the Netherlands is the kind of leader that stands out among municipalities: they’re innovators who aren’t afraid to try new solutions. This spirit allows them to get ahead, saving 2.3 million euros over four years by building their own custom software: something virtually unheard of in the government sector.

Not moving forward

IT pros in the government sector know that software projects in their industry are notoriously prone to failure. You’ve probably heard horror stories about governments trying to develop projects themselves, only to end up in a bigger mess than they started- and billions of dollars in the hole. “Governments aren’t used to making their own software,” says Tom Uleman, City of Zaanstad Senior Information Manager. As a result, common practice is to look for a standardized SaaS package that will, best case scenario, fit only 70-80% of their needs.


Zaanstad had a familiar problem with their legacy GWS system. They’d been using it for 25 years, but it was preventing the organization from moving forward because it could only support inefficient processes. Any time Zaanstad wanted to make a change, for example, all 300 municipalities on the system needed to agree.

Tom Uleman, City of Zaanstad Senior Information Manager

With the Betty Blocks applications at the core of their youth care administration, the Zaanstad city council saves €620,000 annually – and they've emerged as a leader among municipalities.

Taking control of their software

Tom knew the city needed to take control of their software. “We know what functionality is really needed. We didn’t want someone else to run away with unnecessary features that would complicate things.” When the municipality needed a new system for their youth care services, Tom saw an opportunity. “We had a vision on how youth services should be handled in the region but no available software could support this vision. The application didn’t exist yet.”


So Zaanstad created it themselves, with development partner Ilionx. They had a first version of the application in just 10 days. Once live, the application increased administrative efficiency for youth care programs by 40%. And where the GWS system required 10 backend developers to operate, Zaanstad now only needs 4 to maintain.

Innovating by doing

The initial youth care application was so successful that the city of Zaanstad has replaced more modules of their legacy system with a total of 7 Betty Blocks applications in 3 years. Today, the change has them rethinking how they approach their IT projects entirely, and enables them to keep innovation at the forefront. “It’s about doing and experimenting,” says Tom.

“Now after seeing the success of our 7 Betty Blocks applications, we think this is quite a good way to replace more of our legacy systems. And we have more freedom to innovate by being able to develop new concepts and applications ourselves.”

Looking to the future

Zaanstad has plans to continue to make Betty Blocks applications a bigger part of their core application landscape. This year they will transfer more social services applications to Betty Blocks, and make their applications available to other municipalities to facilitate cooperation.

With the Betty Blocks applications at the core of their youth care administration, the Zaanstad city council saves €620,000 annually. What’s more, they have emerged as a leader among municipalities in IT innovation.

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