At this point, it is not about being right or wrong, it is about getting started and capturing thoughts that may remain highly relevant as you build your tech strategy. You’ll continue to add on additional layers, but this initial brainstorm is the best place to begin."
How to focus initially
The educational article series introduction mentioned, “What do you want to do with tech? Without a driving logic and vision of what the technology should do to focus these conversations, they can become a free for all. The mind may take in all the opportunities, but it does not have a framework for evaluating them.”
Starting an urban technology journey, as with many journeys, begins with focus. As stated in the same article, “understanding what technology can help, in which situations it can help, and how and when to apply it are the key questions to ask.” Think, alone or with colleagues, about what technology can help and in which situations it can help. Sketch or map out these areas to collect your initial, fresh insights. At this point, it is not about being right or wrong, it is about getting started and capturing thoughts that may remain highly relevant as you build your tech strategy. You’ll continue to add on additional layers, but this initial brainstorm is the best place to begin. We’ll refer to this later as the “focus sketch.”
How to categorize to build awareness and depth
Now, let’s get into the functional categories of technology in cities. After we’ve run through these, you’ll have additional thoughts to add to your focus sketch. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of categories, but an illustrative one. First, there are analytical products. These tend to be software that are used for certain purposes such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for mapping and data analysis and specific functions depending on the agency. Take a transit agency for example; they often use route-planning software customized for such a purpose. Second, there are operational products. These are common for service-oriented organizations or those requiring real time data collection for various purposes. Again, thinking of transit agencies, they tend to have fare payment systems, automatic vehicle location platforms, and asset management software.
Operational products tend to have a mix of software and hardware as well as Internet connectivity to process extracted data in real time. Other common examples are traffic congestion monitoring and bike and pedestrian data. While there have been separate “counters” for each of these items (cars, bikes, pedestrians, etc.) in the past, it is becoming increasingly common to capture data on these items through one single piece of hardware, a well-positioned device with a video camera and connected algorithms to track such items, count them, note the direction of their movement, assess if collisions occurred, and other functions. Third, there are public-facing products, such as apps and websites that provide the public with information they need such as traffic conditions, service notifications, utility payment platforms, and real time transit data. Of course, there are other technologies for office functions such as talent management and payment processing, but our scope is focused on how the organization serves the public.
Now that you understand the categories, create a new “categorization sketch” that illustrates all the technology product types you think might be useful. Perhaps you captured them all already through the focus sketch. If you identified some new ones, go back to the focus sketch and see if any of the new ones in the categorization sketch are worthy of focus. If so, add them to your focus sketch.
How to integrate and approach holistically
For this step, you’ll create a basic diagram of the categories with the technology components core to each category branching from it. In this diagram, you’ll bring any strong ideas from the focus sketch and categorization sketch into one big picture.
You’ll tag the technology product types with terms including “current, soon, and long term” to differentiate between what you already have (current), should deploy in the near future (soon), and what comes later down the line (long term). Then, you’ll look at each technology and map connections between them and add tags for “existing and future” for cases in which a) there is an existing connection between two current technology product types (existing) or b) there should be a connection made in the future (future). From the educational article series introduction, “One example in the transit space is leveraging automatic vehicle location (AVL) data for fleet management (i.e., real time data on the location of vehicles to estimate on time arrivals) for public-facing real time transit data apps, such as One Bus Away. Agencies need the AVL data for operational purposes, but they can plug that data into public-facing apps to provide public information as well.” Some integration concepts will be less obvious, so its important to think deeply about all the ways connections could be useful for a variety of purposes.
What these results can provide
The integration diagram can provide a base for various types of documents and decision-making guides, at the strategic level and tactical level. These could include a Technology Strategic Plan, Technology Vision Plan, Technology Tactical Implementation Plan, and others. Furthermore, it could provide a base for a technology component of a broader plan that spans topics outside of technology, such as an Organization Strategic Plan and others. Learn more in How to Evaluate Technology According to Potential Impact to take your Tech Savvy Planning to the next level.