Keys to the smart city: How to make initiatives successful


Keys to the smart city: How to make initiatives successful

Globally, more people live in urban areas than in rural areas -- a sharp difference from half a century ago when just 30 percent of the world’s population lived in cities. And this trend is accelerating, with more than two-thirds of the world’s population projected to live in urban environments by 2050. This rapid increase in population density presents considerable challenges to today’s cities whose infrastructure is already in need of an upgrade or replacement.  Additionally, city leaders face an array of problems including revenue challenges, staff reductions, sustainability requirements  and increased expectations from citizens for service delivery excellence. 

Cities also face significant global and local competition for financing.  Public infrastructure investments often attract multiple funding sources including donations, foreign investment, public-private partnerships and self-funding.  Investors require not only investment-grade projects but also accountability in how funding was appropriated to projects and vendors.  Cities must implement and maintain robust financial management and governance across their projects’ life cycle.

The smart city era

In response to these challenges, modern leaders are looking to smart city initiatives to replace and upgrade city infrastructure. 

According to ABI Research, $39.5 billion will be spent on smart city technologies in 2016 alone. The spending is projected to grow exponentially, with city governments forecast to spend about $41 trillion over the next 20 years to upgrade their infrastructure as part of a smart city roadmap. With such large amounts of capital in play, leaders must coordinate efforts across multiple sectors -- energy, telecommunications, transportation, water  and health, among others -- to work as a team and achieve the “big picture” outcomes envisioned for the city.  To manage its public infrastructure, city leaders are looking to align their project portfolios with the smart city transformation agenda. 

Smart city infrastructure projects can range in complexity from small, low-value initiatives to complex, long-duration projects with global supply chain requirements.  Regardless of the level of complexity, all project team members must be able to monitor project performance in real time; integrate project cost, schedule and risk management; trace funding back to the transaction level; manage contractors and project changes; and manage facilities infrastructure.

Technology drives transformation

An effective smart city project portfolio management (PPM) solution can deal effectively with the complexity of working across multiple verticals or responsibilities in the city. Look for a solution with the following capabilities:  

Easy-to-use web and mobile interface:  These solutions should be easy to deploy, leverage existing communications infrastructure and improve team collaboration while enabling access to real-time project status through mobile devices.

Anywhere, anytime access:  Project team members also need access to information whether they  in the office or at the project site.  With an effective smart city PPM solution, team members can leverage mobile applications on smart devices to perform tasks, determine status or access analytical data remotely.

Enterprisewide view:  Enhanced portfolio management defines and captures strategic multiyear objectives.  The PPM solution should also provide a holistic approach to identifying and selecting opportunities across all departments and sectors, including private-sector initiatives. As important, teams must be able to identify the relationships across multiple initiatives as well as analyze, score and rank all transformation opportunities to ensure project success. 

Comprehensive platform and integrated analytics:  Project teams should be able to view all critical data in one place.  With an integrated platform, team members can collaborate with ease, ensuring consistency across the entire project.  An effective smart city PPM solution should empower teams to develop time and cost planning for all projects, identify and manage risk across the project portfolio and track and manage funding and budgets across all projects.  In addition, the solution should ensure a smooth handover of new assets to operational teams while tracking and controlling all project documentation.

Costs and asset tracking:  Another attribute of successful smart city PPM tool is its ability to track, monitor and maintain assets, facilities and buildings; track and manage space allocation; and track the efficacy of sustainability measures across the city.

Turning a vision into reality

In addition to traditional on-premise deployment, software-as-a-service smart city PPM solutions provide a cost-effective way to rapidly scale the solution across the city.  With a cloud-based solution, project team members and managers can leverage the mobile applications on smart devices, rapidly improving operational efficiency through the elimination of double administration.  The cloud also enables teams to deploy the solution faster to ensure the project starts and ends on time. 

As cities around the world expand, they need to ensure long-term economic, social and environmental sustainability. Improving infrastructure and enhancing the quality of life for citizens are top priorities for city administrators, but such challenges bring many management complexities.  To overcome these hurdles, city leaders need real-time visibility across their entire project portfolio to help them better plan, build and operate their smart city -- turning their vision into a sustainable reality. 

About the Author

Yasser Mahmud is vice president of industry strategy with Oracle Construction and Engineering Global Business Unit.

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