Not “Smart” But Efficient: Schneider Electric Helps Cities Achieve Realistic Goals

My sister used to tell me that I wasn’t smart I was just organized.  I’m not here to argue (anymore) but I have never forgotten her claim. In fact, it’s true for more than just me.  It’s really what is at the heart of smart cities. It’s not about what you know but what you can do with it. The industry has been pushing “smart” on cities for a half a decade.  But the most successful stories about cities cutting their cost of operations and improving the lives of their citizens are about being better organized or more efficient. 

At the Schneider Electric Influencer Summit in Boston this week, Schneider execs and customers focused their smart city story on just that – getting more efficient. We all have heard the numbers: cities take up only 2% of the world’s surface but they consume 75% of the world’s energy and account for 80% of the world’s carbon emissions.  As the Schneider CMO cited, “If left unchecked, our appetite for energy will grow 50% by 2040.” And there is significant room for greater efficiency. The sweet spot for Schneider in this Next Age of Change is in helping cities control their public energy consumption.  While their vision  – and “marketecture stack”  – extends into water and other domains, they plan to establish their footprint with energy efficiency.  Phew! That’s a refreshing change from vendors who want to do it all.

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Government CIOs and CMOs Unite! Governments Must Embrace The "Marketing" Function

Here at Forrester we are busy planning our upcoming Forum for CIOs and CMOs.  With a theme of “Building A Customer-Obsessed Enterprise” the event explores the partnership between marketing and technology leaders. But what about our government clients?  The role of marketing is associated with the private sector. Companies employ marketers to identify their target markets and the opportunities for providing goods and services to them. Public-sector organizations don't typically have the luxury of  choosing their target market or their products and services. Or at least that’s what most organizations think. But even if that is the case, it doesn't mean that these organizations shouldn't get to know their "customers" and understand how best to meet their needs. While the service might be prescribed by legislation or regulation, public organizations can influence the customer experience, and the rising focus on citizen engagement mandates they do so.

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Exploring Costa Rica: Progress And Challenges In Digital Government Transformation

Vacations are over – or at least mine is – but I’ve brought home some of mine for homework.  Yes, I did a little work while on vacation. While in Costa Rica this summer, I had the opportunity to meet with the country’s Director of Digital Government, Alicia Avendaño Rivera. 

Governments worldwide recognize the power of “going digital.” The recently announced US Digital Service and the appointment of its dedicated Administrator illustrate a commitment on the part of the US Federal government.  Yet the US is merely joining others who have made similar commitments to transforming government with a focus on efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and empowering citizens and businesses through new digital technologies.  Alicia Avendaño has served as Costa Rica’s Director of Digital Government since 2009.

Costa Rica Digital Government initiatives address four main goals:

  • G2C: Government to Citizen – citizen oriented services
  • G2B Government to Business – rapid and transparent business services
  • G2G: Government to Government – efficient and interconnected services
  • Infrastructure – favorable ICT infrastructure and legal framework
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Regulators Navigate New Data Sources To Better Know Their "Customers"

I had a fascinating inquiry this morning with a government securities commission (not the SEC and not in the US).  The client had a classic question about how to navigate the new data economy.  The commission produces and consumes large volumes of data but continue to struggle to answer persistent business questions like how well they are doing or even who they are doing it for.  Yes, securities commissions regulate securities markets; they monitor publically traded companies, investment houses, and brokerage firms. Howevver they continue to ask, “for whom?”  Who are the investors that they are protecting with their regulation?  As they expressed the question, “How do we know what Mrs. Smith is investing in?” They currently work with several large data providers who provide financial information on companies but that information wasn’t exactly what they were looking for. Essentially, in this Age of the Customer, they want to know who their “customers” are.  This was a question about how to best serve their customers, in this case the investors. 

They wanted to know how to source additional third-party data that would give them a clearer picture of the investors that they are serving.  Census data provides a wealth of information about households and individual finances. But the data teams at the commission are not experts in navigating census data.  Data providers like Thompson-Reuters provide data on the financial services industry. Others such as Experian or Acxiom provide information on consumers.  What kinds of other data providers can help them with their data strategy to answer that basic question of how to better serve their customers, and who they are? 

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Double Down On Data: Who Ya Gonna Call?

An explosion of data is revolutionizing business practices. The availability of new data sources and delivery models provides unprecedented insights into customer and partner behavior and enables much improved capacity to understand and optimize business processes and operations. Real time data allows companies to fine tune inventories and in-store product placement; it allows restaurants to know what a customer will order, even before they read the menu or reach the counter. And, data is also the foundation for new services offerings for companies like John Deere or BMW or Starwood.

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Mobile Mind Shift In Government Means Mobile Enablement As Well As Engagement

Governments face an alphabet soup of digital transformation with eGovernment and mGovernment mandates. Do I hear an sGovernment, anyone? The trend in engaging via new digital channels is clear: 52% of US online adults have engaged in one or more government related activities. For example, 19% have renewed a driver’s license or vehicle registration online, and 16% have paid a bill such as a traffic fine or utility payment. In the age of the customer, government organizations must understand and address the needs of their citizens. For governments, it's the "age of the citizen," with demands for greater transparency and accountability, improved efficiency, and, above all, better service delivery. Citizens no longer accept the shoulder shrug and age-old excuse that government is "like that" when service quality isn't as expected. And, part of that service quality for some is to be able to embrace a mobile moment to look up information or complete a task. Some government organizations hear the call and are making great strides to embrace and enable new mobile delivery channels — where appropriate. But many struggle to invest in what they do consider a strategic initiative. Of those who consider mobility a strategic priority, only 30% in government have increased spending on mobile projects, compared with 51% in other industries.

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To Name Your Price Is To Know Your Price: SmartProcure Brings Data Sharing To Public Procurement

So you need some work done that you’ve never had done before or you need to buy something you’ve never bought before.  What should you pay?  That can be a tough question.  What seems reasonable? Sometimes we set arbitrary rules. It’s OK if it’s under $50 or under $100. But that’s just a reassurance that you’re not getting ripped off too badly. Certainly the best way to avoid that outcome is to know how much that service or thing is worth, or at least know what others have paid for the same thing.

Fortunately now, in the age of the customer, that’s easier to find out. Price information for most consumer goods is easier to come by, making the buying process more efficient. But what about governments? We’ve all heard about the $600 toilet seat or the $400 hammer. Stories of government spending excess and mismanagement abound. Some are urban legends or misrepresentations. Others have legs — such as the recent reports of Boeing overcharging the US Army. While these incidents are likely not things of the past, open data initiatives have made significant progress in exposing spending data and improving transparency. Citizens can visit sites such as USAspending.gov for US federal government spending or "Where Does My Money Go?" for details on UK national government spending, and most large cities publish spending as well.

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The Changing Of The Guard: Mobile World Congress Isn't Just For Telcos Anymore

The central theme of Mobile World Congress 2014 for me was clearly Connected Living. I’ve been attending Mobile World Congress for quite some time — 2006 was my first, the year that it moved to Barcelona from Cannes. And, this year felt different. No longer did the event feel dominated by handset manufacturers and equipment providers. Mobile World Congress is no longer a telecom event; it is clearly a mobile event. Mobility has penetrated every industry and every aspect of life, and that diversity is now clearly felt at the show. The large presence of car manufacturers and the buzz around Facebook indicate a definitive changing of the guard. That shift is ongoing. The proliferation of connected devices, the explosion of over-the-top services and the rise of the data economy will continue to shape the industry. But for me, this year I felt excitement around our new connected lives. 
 
FordThe New Programmable Mobile Device: The Car
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Sharing Is More Than Caring: Shared Services Enable Public Sector Tech Upgrades

As we all learned as kids, it's nice to share.  That holds true for public sector organizations as well, particularly in tough times. Public sector organizations don't have the privilege of dialing back on scope in challenging economic times. In fact, when the going gets tough, government organizations often have to kick into high gear. And that was the case with state unemployment insurance (UI) programs in the US, which saw spikes in applications when the economy slumped.  But in most states the technology infrastructure wasn’t up to the task.  

  • Legacy systems were on life-support... Colorado’s 25-year-old COBOL-based mainframe systems continued to process unemployment insurance claims, but it was increasingly difficult and costly to find the "doctors" to keep it alive. They had to bring developers out of retirement to maintain it.  State officials knew it was only a matter of time before they had to pull the plug on their system.
  • …and just weren’t up to the task. Not only did the “look and feel” leave a lot to be desired, the legacy system failed to deliver. The system ran processes in batch mode, meaning that data was typically collected over a period of time (daily, weekly, or monthly) and processed into the system at the end of the period. Daily downtime for processing excluded the possibility of 24-hour availability or even extended hours. The delays and lack of availability frustrated end users who wanted or needed real-time or near-real-time information to make decisions.
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External data (Open And Other) Transforms Business – And Is Good Business

Last month, GovLabs, a research organization at New York University released a beta version of its Open Data 500 project.  The study set out to profile US companies that use open data to generate new business and develop new products and services.  Not all of the companies identified have been profiled but the list of 500 provides a wide range of both existing companies and start-ups that benefit from the use of open data. 

While the start-ups are interesting illustrations of innovation and economic value-creation, the presence of big, existing companies illustrates how data transforms business. 

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