By: Dr Jonathan Reichental
Let me be honest: Running a small handful of technology-related city projects does not make a smart city. That’s just a handful of technology projects.
The work to create a smarter community will likely be a multi-year effort with clear, bold, and ambitious goals. A meaningful shift must take place in terms of how services are delivered and operations are conducted.
Quality of life should be measurably improved and experienced. This kind of game-changing work requires a vision — preferably, one articulated by way of a vision statement that includes a short description of what the organisation wants to become.
The vision, which is a signpost of where the enterprise is headed, guides all stakeholders in their decision-making and their actions.
A smart city vision should be aligned with the city’s broader strategy and approved by the community. In fact, determining a vision for your smart city work is an important way to engage constituents.
Don’t stop at the vision, either: It’s the starting point that gets converted to goals, objectives, and then projects.
Deep engagement with city staff and community members helps to ensure that the right priorities are identified and there’s agreement on the work to be done. Bring lots of data to these decision-making activities.
A great vision is a great start to your smart city work. Without this vision, you have no signpost. Later, you may find that this lack is a guarantee of facing programme challenges further down the road.
Make the creation of a smart city vision one of the first things your team does.
Moving forward with inadequate governance is another related pitfall to avoid.
For many people, the term governance may not be familiar, but the purpose is typically well understood. Simply defined, governance involves the structures put in place by organisations and teams to achieve measurable results toward achieving their goals.
These goals can include the strategy of an entire organisation, a project, or a programme. The structures of governance can include these tasks:
- Identifying leadership and staffing positions
- Defining reporting relationships to be put in place
- Determining how decisions on funding are made
- Choosing how issues are escalated
- Selecting which processes are adopted
To launch a smart city programme without agreement on a rigorous governance structure (also called a framework) is a recipe for possible failure.
I acknowledge that the skills in putting together a governance framework may not be present in many cities. This is why I encourage you to explore assistance from an external party.
Good governance can produce good results. It’s worth the time and expense needed to produce an agreeable approach.
You’ll know whether your city has good governance in place if qualities such as clear accountability, process documentation and transparency, specific role definitions, reporting structures, goals, objectives, programme and project alignment with strategy, and metrics are all defined and agreed on. Consider these and more as the pillars of governance success.
Dr Jonathan Reichental is a multiple-award-winning technology and business leader whose career has spanned both the private and public sectors. He’s been a senior software engineering manager, a director of technology innovation, and has served as Chief Information Officer at both O’Reilly Media and the City of Palo Alto, California. He also creates online education for LinkedIn Learning. Jonathan can be reached on Twitter: @reichental
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