May 16, 2017

Discussion of the smart city strategic roadmap and citywide challenge

Meeting date: May 16, 2017 Time: 2:00-3:30 PM

Meeting purpose

To discuss the smart cities roadmap and how departments can work together--with the support of the OGOB and its advisors--to use technology to solve problems and achieve goals

Meeting context

  • CTM and the Innovation Office are scheduled to deliver the draft Smart Cities Strategic Roadmap during Council work session earlier the same day. (More info on the roadmap)

  • As part of the roadmap, departments have created an inventory of open government / smart cities projects. The inventory includes analysis of how projects align to outcome areas, the partners involved in different projects, and what projects need to succeed.

  • The City is developing tools to help open/smart projects troubleshoot problems, get the expertise they need, and achieve missions more effectively.

  • The strategic planning initiative has made progress in defining outcomes and forming outcome teams, which complement efforts to advance smart city projects.

  • Example of a smart city opportunity needing help right now: Grant opportunity for 5G Platform for Advanced Wireless Research


I. Status of Smart Cities Strategic Roadmap

  • How might we help projects troubleshoot and advance in maturity?

  • What does the inventory of open/smart projects tell us?

II. Organizational alignment

  • How might the roadmap and strategic plan work together to help projects?

  • How and where are departments aligned around the strategic plan and smart cities?

III. Looking forward: Implementing the roadmap and the role of the OGOB

  • 5G Platform for Advanced Wireless Research grant opportunity

  • How might the OGOB executive board and advisory network help departments troubleshoot their efforts to use technology and solve problems?

Meeting notes

Discussion of the Smart City Strategic Roadmap

Mark, Kerry, and Stephen walked through the smart cities presentation to Council. The presentation was scheduled for briefing to Council during the May 16 work session, but Council tabled this agenda item.

The group discussed the smart project maturity model proposed in the presentation and agreed to use it to help organize and manage the portfolio of open/smart projects.

  • Model embeds the Open Government Partnership principles of transparency, participation, accountability, and technology innovation.

  • Model is based on the International Standards Organization definition of “smart city”. An internationally recognized standard may enable Austin to benchmark its smart city progress against other cities.

  • We envision using the model to organize and prioritize projects as an open/smart portfolio; assess what projects need to troubleshoot challenges; and make decisions about projects to invest in.

  • This model is version 1.0. We will continue to refine it and update it as we use it. For example, more detailed versions could be created or borrowed for more specific domains like data maturity, user research/interface maturity, network/security maturity, etc.

Citywide challenges to address

We need to raise awareness of the roadmap among departments, as well as the tools and resources they can use to help projects succeed.

  • The City is already doing many projects that fall under our “smart city” definition--but not many departments frame their projects as “smart.”

  • A communications strategy can help departments understand how their projects connect to larger efforts in the city, as well as make them aware of resources at their disposal (ex: the open/smart board, software, technology assistance)

The group discussed the grant opportunity regarding 5G Platform for Advanced Wireless Research. This is a grant opportunity for $24 million that will form the foundation for faster, more robust wireless communications. This opportunity needs the following before July 31, 2017:

  • (Low) Commitment from the City of Austin to work with the researchers to get the approvals needed to conduct the 5G research in ACL.

  • (Med) Commitment from the City of Austin to expedite the approval processes for research in geographies,corridors, neighborhoods, etc as they are proposed.

  • (High) Pre-select a subset of eventual geographies/neighborhoods with approval to install small batches (5 - 10) of 5G small-cell nodes (cell "towers" that aren't towers, but devices you stick on utility poles or on the side of buildings).

The City needs a more thorough and consistent way to intake and evaluate unsolicited proposals.

  • Ex: CAR2GO approached the City (Transportation) years ago to deploy their carsharing service in Austin. We were able to intake this opportunity, but have lost out on other opportunities in the past because we haven’t moved quickly enough, didn’t have the right expertise to evaluate the opportunity, and for other reasons.

  • Suggestion: Profile how we have responded to unsolicited proposals, past and present, to understand what factors contribute to successfully intaking and evaluating them.

Departments and project teams need to collaborate more across boundaries.

  • Currently we are too divided across departments and not able to know where all the skills and resources are and how best to work across the organization together.

  • The strategic planning initiative is sketching out a concept for teams/departments to borrow talent from one another and form mixed project teams based on skillset needs.

The City needs stronger practices in prototyping and experimentation.

  • Testing at early stages can help build a body of evidence for what works and what we should invest in, before committing ourselves long-term to something that doesn’t work.

We can get better at scoping and clearing paths and getting teams together to getting this done better and faster.

  • If a challenge is important to solve, we should “projectize” it -- scope out outcomes to achieve, form a team around it, and resource it.

We need stronger capabilities in grant writing.

  • Grants could be an important source of funding for technology and innovation projects.

  • Stronger skills in grant writing would help us take advantage of these funding opportunities. We currently leave a lot of funding on the table.

We need to address legal barriers that are holding back projects.

  • Ex: Many talk about the need to improve city procurement in order to help projects succeed. However, procurement is governed by state law. We need to figure out what levers we have to experiment with procurement, and what firm barriers exist that we might influence to change.

Redesigning the Open Government Operating Board and how we help projects succeed

The open/smart group can help projects solve challenges related to business/funding models and policy blockers (two of the smart city building blocks in the strategic roadmap).

For future meetings, we want to hear reports out from projects and departments to hear their needs and how to help them. Unmet needs through the IT governance process could be another source for this.

We have talked about redesigning the Open Governance Operating Board into two bodies that work together to help projects succeed:

  • An advisory network of staff that works with projects to identify and address needs at a peer level, and

  • An executive group that makes decisions regarding new opportunities, project priorities, and

The advisory network could organize by topic/capability area (e.g., one focused on partnerships, one focused on methods for discovery, one focused on methods for prototyping).

The advisory and executive need a way to prioritize and focus on projects to assist. The group discussed several options for prioritization:

  • Identify the biggest bang for our buck is in the project inventory--what will have the most impact relative to effort/cost

  • Focus on lifting all the projects up to a level 2 maturity and then invest in maturing projects progressively.

  • Start with projects related to mobility/transportation, given the urgency of the bond.

  • Mark wants to identify projects that can be achieved in one year and identify what needs to happen in the next 5.

We need to figure out how different decision making bodies relate to projects.

  • It is unclear right now what role the open/smart board plays vis a vis IT governance and the Council strategic planning initiative.

  • Some see the IT governance process should serve technology infrastructure and operations needs, while the open/smart group serves projects focused on transformation.

Agenda items for next meeting

Next meeting scheduled for June 21 @ 10:30-11:30am

  • Update on project inventory - takeaways from analysis, prioritization

    • Focus on transportation/mobility projects to start

  • Discussion of how open/smart board and IT Steering Committee intersect

  • Reorganizing the OGOB into executive group / advisory group

  • Communications effort to make departments aware of smart city roadmap, maturity model, open/smart board, resources and tools available

  • Discussion of how to intake, prioritize, and act on unsolicited proposals

    • In advance of meeting, list out past, present, and potential future unsolicited proposals--what are the challenges? what do these need?

Calls to action (post meeting)

  • Help CTM/Innovation Office connect with departments to build and test a project tracking tool over the next six months

  • Provide CTM/Innovation Office feedback on Smart Cities maturity model


  1. Rey Arellano, Assistant City Manager (chair)

  2. Mark Washington, Assistant City Manager (co-chair)

  3. Stephen Elkins, Chief Information Officer

  4. Kerry O'Connor, Chief Innovation Officer

  5. Kim Olivares, Chief Performance Officer

  6. Matt Esquibel, CTM

  7. Jill Goodman, OPM

  8. Angela Hanson, Innovation

  9. Daniel Honker, Innovation

  10. Charles Purma III, CTM

  11. Sara Smith, CTM

  12. Chris Stewart, AWU