Achieving scale: The final frontier for smart cities

Even if your city is flush with pilot smart city initiatives, broad outcomes depend on scale. Yet scaling smart city programs is rarely easy. This is because political endorsements are essential, but elusive.

While securing political support would seem like simple stakeholder engagement, political stakeholders view large-scale ICT investments very differently than they view physical capital investments.

Technology investments are less tangible, technically challenging, and fraught with delivery and political risk.

If smart city investments are ever going to achieve their transformation potential-which I believe they must-cities must address the barriers to achieving scale. My team and I have been wrestling with this issue, and I want to share our view of the path forward.

For seven years, we have championed the importance of human-centered design as the basis for smart city strategies. This has helped our clients pivot from vendor-driven technology strategies to citizen-centered strategies, enabled by technology. This approach is now the new normal for any smart city strategy.

There is still work to do to embed design within city government, but this shift is an important step forward.

The next step on the path to scale is addressing the key impediment to getting political endorsement: Making the case for how these technologies add value to the city. Put simply, articulating a compelling value story. In the private sector, shareholder value provides a clear and accepted framework for value articulation.

However, in the public sector, value creation is more nuanced and multifaceted. Value can be monetary, certainly. However, it manifests in other, less immediately quantifiable ways as well, such as: abundant water, clean air, safe streets, social care, education and more.

There is no single equation for value measurement.


Value creation changes from city to city, community to community, individual to individual-and it changes over time. This is why any framework for public service value creation must be multidimensional and adaptive.
I have asked my team to tackle this void head-on, to create both a framework for value creation and an approach to working with city governments to identify where value creation opportunities exist and how the results can be measured and articulated. I will be sharing findings in a future blog post.

A value measurement framework alone cannot convince political stakeholders to invest to scale.
The currency of politics is stories. Stories of how an administration delivers services that address citizens’ needs and make their lives better. Unfortunately, enabling technology rarely takes a leading role in such stories, at least in the ones that truly resonate. It does not have to be this way.

This is why I am challenging my team to become the best storytellers we can be, and to back that up with a value measurement framework that stands up to scrutiny. If we can arm city administrators with these tools, then they have what’s needed to move from smart city pilots to scale. In my next blog post, I’ll explore the other pillar of achieving scale-building a delivery ecosystem.

I welcome your views please leave a comment or carry on the cities transformation conversation here;

The interview was filmed with Faye Barker, Business Correspondent of The Business Debate and Simon Giles, Managing Director, Cities Accenture.

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