When you read some press announcements about “smart cities,” you could be forgiven for thinking that a “smart-city solution” is an out-of-the-box product that you can buy, plug in, and turn on to make your city instantly “smart.”
So it's been refreshing to read recent reports on natural, incremental progress within the context of a smart-city philosophy, and a maturity model for smart cities. As with Rome, the most innovative city of the ancient world, our modern municipalities will require time to evolve into 21st-century metropolises that are data-driven, cloud-supported, and automatically optimized. The next generation of cities will emerge from a process, not a purchase.
Right now, many city officials are asking: “What is that first step to becoming an interconnected, next-generation city?”
There are several paths to choose from. One that's economical and accessible to cities of all sizes is to fully use your existing technology. By breaking down the silos or barriers that exist to its adoption by different departments, you can promote a culture of interconnectedness.
That's what happened in Varberg Municipality, located in Halland County on the west coast of Sweden. Varberg was using Microsoft SharePoint Server for its intranet platform, but the intranet didn't provide enough support to the city's Social Services Administration. There was no systematic approach for the various activities the staff performed every day, leading to inefficiencies and delays in serving citizens.
So Varberg's Social Services Administration took that crucial first step. To enhance service for its citizens, the department created a management system to streamline and improve the quality of its work processes. Its documents and procedures were diagrammed using Visio, and the process maps integrated with the city's existing SharePoint technology.
Describing the impact of new management system, Lena Brosché, director of Varberg's Social Services Administration, says: “We can give residents better service. Among other things, management of their cases is much faster than it used to be. We’re also continuously monitoring service quality for residents.”
This is a win for the Social Services Administration and citizens of Varberg, but it also helps other departments within the city.
“This is a big strategic initiative that Social Services is implementing to create a process-oriented organization that focuses on the customer," notes Christina Utzon, business developer at Mogul, the partner involved with the project. "The municipality’s existing technology - SharePoint and Visio - will be used to generate system support, which means other administrations can reuse the tool to create their own management systems.”
The journey begins….