Chris Chiancone, CIO, City of Plano
City of Plano is one of the most desirable cities to live & work-in, the community, which is the fourth largest city in the Metroplex, consistently receives national acclaim. The city’s high quality of life is reflected in its nationally recognized schools, awardwinning parks and sustainability initiatives.
Technology and its services have been thrusted from the one time caboose to the engine that runs most of the world’s business processing. This transformation happened almost overnight and the effects of the change, coupled with the force and momentum of the world’s current pace is just starting to present itself. IT leaders are in a position that many are unfamiliar with, and that is being business leaders first then technologists. This transformation has forced IT leaders to become marketing experts, communication experts, and accountants. Long ago are the times where technologies were procured, implemented, used, and supported the modern day technologist needs to be concerned with ROI, NPV and TCO.
Today’s IT leaders are forced not only to perform on the business stage, but contend with not only technology advancements and change, but, changes in culture, practices, and other societal factors. Business is rapidly changing, yielding an agile like approach to solving business problems. Staff is changing, creating cultural differences not only in your organizations, bur organizations you do business with. Keeping staff occupied and engaged is becoming more and more complex and seeming creating a merry-go-round of attrition. Institutional knowledge is being created as fast as it is being replaced and companies’ ability to manage their identities is becoming nonexistent except for the very few which culture was baked into the company’s creation. Changes in technology are moving at break neck Formula One types of speeds, in which the problems change faster than the solutions and the technology changes faster than most ability to adapt.
"Governments need to evaluate their business processes and determine if what once was, will continue to be"
Government is not absolved from these issues and is being put under more and more pressure to act and work like modern day companies. The difference is that companies can both invent new goods and services to yield higher profits and increase their costs of goods and services to offset increase in costs. Governments, on the other hand cannot just create new programs to offset cost and are under constant pressure to reduce taxes, yet provide the same or higher level of services. Couple that with community diversity, expectations of governments, and general distrust of government organizations makes for a seemingly impossible challenge for leaders. Many times, to invent new ways of interacting with constituents, business leaders lean on technology to try and implement new and innovative ways to do deliver services. Many programs are in place to help make cities smarter, yet, many are panicking to put in place solutions without identifying problems to be solved. Adding devices to a network and collecting data, is meaningless, unless the data becomes informational. Two questions an organization needs to answer before starting on a smart cities voyage, first ‘What will we do with the information’ and second, ‘What will we do with the ignored data’. For instance, let’s say a deployed sensor at a busy intersection determines there is acidic levels of pollution. Is the organization going to perform costly work to fix the issue, even more dangerous, what happens if the organization has the data and does nothing with it?
Governments have to become more innovative to solve complex financial, social, and regulatory challenges in a sea of massive community change. Technology can help improve and augment business processes, yet cannot solve problems that have not been defined or worked out. Too many times, organizations buy software from a marketing slick, without understanding both the business process and the handoff of processes from one department to another. Technology should be an enabler, it is there to reduce friction and complement and accentuate good business processes not be the end all be all. All technology will do to a bad business process is make the problems worse and more expensive.
In conclusion, governments need to evaluate their business processes and determine if what once was, will continue to be. Agility and flexibility in organizational dynamics are imperative for both the future operations of the organization and service customers and constituents. Smart technologies are very effective at solving problems, identifying the issues and implementing technologies that fix those issues are essential for successful and cost effective solutions. Technology will continue to be the engine that drives the world and technical leaders will need to focus first on business knowledge, then cultural challenges, then technologies to help make the process more efficient.