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Posted by Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D. on May 31, 2012
Unfortunately, I will not able to deliver the keynote presentation at Forrester’s upcoming Infrastructure and Operations Forum in Paris as planned. The theme of the conference is “Redefining your greenfield,” and I was looking forward to sharing my observations of “greenfield” in the context of smart cities. So I thought I’d share some of my thoughts here.
A “greenfield” presents the opportunity to do things differently, to innovate. We often think of a greenfield as the clean slate, the ability to start from scratch, to create without the baggage of history, without existing infrastructure, without meddling stakeholders. We often hear of greenfields these days in the context of new cities – the massive infrastructure projects cropping up in the deserts of the Gulf region, or in Asia. In the IT world, we think of the entrepreneurial start up building out their infrastructure from ground up. Or even an emerging market with no technology legacy. But greenfield opportunities aren’t just for startups or emerging markets, and moreover, their grass isn’t always greener.
That’s not to say the promise isn’t appealing. The new, technology-enabled greenfield cities provide a clean slate, and the ability to test new technologies and practices. Think about:
But fullscale buildouts are complex and expensive, and the “greenfield” isn’t always as green as expected. A few examples demonstrate the difficulties of a greenfield city:
Why isn’t the grass always greener in these cities? While there are a variety of reasons, a couple of them come to mind first:
On the other hand, many existing cities have successfully transformed themselves with new initiatives by creating their own “greenfields” driven by specific needs, policy concerns or cost pressures. Take a look at Rio de Janeiro or London or Madrid, or smaller cities like Chattanooga or Corpus Christi. Rio defined its “greenfield” to a focus on emergency management, a pressing need as the city addressed annual flooding. The city recently launched its new Centro de Operações Prefeitura Do Rio to better coordinate across city departments. London’s focus on transportation issues through Transport for London (TFL) –with congestion pricing, toll automatic payments, and improved public transportation—lead to a 70% reduction in car use throughout central London. Corpus Christi has focused on application and infrastructure consolidation, and creating shared services across city departments: their IBM Maximo asset management system is currently shared across 17 departments.
Like these cities, even the most established and mature companies have greenfield opportunities to reinvent themselves. Expansion into new geographies can provide greenfield opportunities. So can investments in rapidly moving technology areas such as mobility and collaboration; or new programs such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) or infrastructure and application consolidation, and shared services delivery. Greenfields are not limited to huge, complex, expensive projects. Greenfield opportunities are a means of doing things differently.
This idea of developing a greenfield is one that Forrester will continue to explore. Please feel free to share ideas and experiences.
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