Making it real. Today, not some time in the future

Blog by Michael Whereat, ASCA President

How many times have you heard consultants describe how smart cities and communities will do this and that? These future vision statements fall short in so many ways. When we begin to unpack the vision into an implementation plan, these become complicated and require cross organisation agreement and support to work. The difference this time is that the digitisation of our urban environment means we need:

  • electrical connectivity or battery storage
  • wired or wireless connectivity
  • software coding to add logic and controls
  • security to protect the system, etc

What we need are clear practical and pragmatic steps, and starting today.

I'll share with you what I consider to be best practice to making individual smart cities real and welcome your feedback.

First, there is nothing "smart" about it; it's just good project management applied to the digitisation of our urban environment.

Second, you need good governance and cross organisational teams. This is a transition from a largely silo structure to integrated matrix delivery. No individual branch owns the whole pipeline of delivery.

What are the key ingredients?
  • An owner with a team who know their roles and contribute to the combined achievement of a clear set of success criteria
  • A long term objective and a series of steps to get there; however we also need a simple, clear objective to demonstrate to the community that this new smart initiative is delivering value from day one.
  • Targets for the beginning and end date; everyone needs to be accountable for the progress and meeting the timeframes.

For ASCA's business and industry partners who are keen to see these projects get to scale, the next step is crucial, but one that's not well understood.

We (the purchasers) looking for the smart digital solutions, need to be able to evaluate, learn to connect and embed the new digital solution in place of the old analogue one. This is the same as moving from steam to electricity, not from manual to automatic.

This means that we need to trial and evaluate the digital solutions and test them against a wide range of criteria. But let's be clear:

  • We need to have good governance by a single organisational group. They need to be involved from the start and at each decision gate right through to the end.
  • It's not just a test of the digital functions of the technology
  • We should not just test one version of the solutions in the market
  • We need to evaluate the solutions with:
    • the end user in mind – testing the use case for users
    • the users who maintain and operate the system
    • the owners of the initiative need to see the reporting highlighting the value proposition
    • the cost effectiveness of the connectivity when deployed at scale
    • the cost effectiveness of all the physical and other costs – licences etc when deployed at scale
    • It's critical to evaluate competing products – how do you know if what you're evaluating is best practice? Teams testing one system may not be prepared to admit their selection needs to be dropped if they have a vested interest in its success. If vendors are not prepared to provide a small number of devices and access to the platform for a competitive evaluation, at little or no cost, then they are not genuine about their desire for downstream sales.
    • the cost effectiveness of other unintended consequences which arise throughout the evaluation
    • there are other considerations, (standards, policies, legislation, regulation), but these are the major ones.
  • We need to evaluate in a way that is robust, independent and transparent:
    • Can all internal stakeholders see the evaluation screens
    • Is there an audit system which operates in real time and are all stakeholders able to add commentary as they go? Is all of this done by a team removed from the ultimate owners and operators?
    • Are all stakeholders involved in writing the final report? Or is your system segmented and the project handed from one group to the next. Who is responsible for organisational fit?

By using this methodology, we can make the digitisation of our urban environments real now.

I welcome your feedback: Do you think it is right or needs more work?

Do you have a system which is working well and are happy to share with the ASCA community?

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