A bold strategy to smart city planning and execution
A vibrant city of 35,000 in Los Angeles County, California, West Hollywood (WeHo) is on the forefront of the smart city movement. Civic innovation is not new to the city. For years, various departments have deployed innovations independently to improve their organization and to benefit the WeHo community. But why not bring these smart projects under one united plan?
In 2016, the City of West Hollywood’s Innovation Division embarked on an ambitious initiative to holistically weave technology into the fabric of the city. Just three years later, their WeHo Smart City Strategic Plan won the American Planning Association (APA) Technology Division’s Smart Cities Award, which recognizes communities that are using technology to be intelligent about growth, quality of life, inclusivity, sustainability and resiliency.
From inception, the award-winning WeHo Smart City Strategic Plan has been centrally managed online using Envisio. It provides the city with a multi-phased roadmap to efficiently incorporate smart technologies into its urban infrastructure and improve the quality of life of residents.
What does being a Smart City Mean?
Cities around the world define “smart city” differently, because “quality of life” means different things to different communities. With this understanding, the team at WeHo took a people-first approach to building their smart strategic plan.
WeHo’s Innovation Manager, Francisco Contreras, AICP, started by talking with people. “If you’re going to embark on a smart city initiative, it’s really important to touch base with your community, talk with your stakeholders and engage folks at City Hall,” he advised. “It’s important to find out what being a smart city means to them and what benefits might come from that.”
These engagement efforts helped the team define what “smart city” meant for their community:
“In West Hollywood, we define a smart city as one that optimizes systems by using not only technology but also data to improve service delivery and customer satisfaction while creating new opportunities for engagement and problem solving for better shared outcomes.”
Their planning process also helped solidify the city’s core values, which spell S-M-A-R-T, to bring focus to projects that promote “Sustainability, Mobility, Accessibility, Resiliency and Transparency.” It helped identify the three main focus areas for the WeHo Smart City Strategic Plan:
- Smart City Hall uses data to help manage programs and services; empowers staff to make a positive, measurable difference daily; and effectively engages the community to solve problems together.
- Smart Streetscape (+ Buildings) are places where the community can convene; support economic vitality; and combine good policy, design and technology for a great experience. They are a place for experimentation and exploration.
- Smart Mobility helps connect the community safely and sustainably, no matter how people travel. Smart Mobility makes it easier to get around with accessible, convenient choices.
WeHo Centralizes its Smart City Plan in Envisio
Now that the team had a direction for the plan, how was it going to align, manage and report on all of the cross-functional smart city projects like smart LED light poles and smart bus shelters?
Managing a complex strategic plan in spreadsheets simply wasn’t an option. The team wanted a smart solution to manage, track and report on their 3 strategies, 14 cascading initiatives, and dozens of action items that would help them stay focused on their core values and goals.
They chose Envisio. “Our plan is set up in a very specific structure that we then mimicked in Envisio,” said Kate Kigongo, WeHo’s Innovation Analyst. The plan starts with three key strategies:
“The core goals that Francisco talked about are really our end goals. But how do we get there? We get there with three strategies! (1) The first strategy is creating a culture of data as a smart City Hall ready for the future. (2) The second strategy is collaborating and experimenting across departments to do more with less. (3) And the third strategy introduces big smart city technology.”
Francisco explained how simple it is to securely access all the details for their plan in Envisio, starting at the top with the three strategies and cascading down:
“To explore Strategy 1, you click on that strategy and see all the different initiatives underneath. By highlighting an initiative, we then see all of the actions that support it. So, we’ve gone from strategy, to initiative and down to individual actions.”
Envisio makes it easy to track and prioritize projects
Activity tracking provides the building blocks for effective management reporting. Roll-up reporting means that updates automatically aggregate, providing a clear view of plan progress.
Using the Envisio Gantt chart allows the Innovation Division to view the WeHo Smart City Strategic Plan in its entirety and maintain flexibility as new technologies emerge. Kate explained:
“Some projects have already changed in our multi-phased roadmap. Our smart street lights project wasn’t scheduled until much later, but an opportunity arose with our Public Works Department to move that project timeline up. The beauty of this plan is that we can pick up projects and place them on our road map. The Gantt chart view helps us keep a manageable workload at all times and gives us a good sense of where we are in terms of accomplishing the whole plan.”
Live dashboards and reports keep leaders in the know
Envisio helps Francisco and Kate to track performance, identify trends, troubleshoot issues early, align performance to goals and manage the delivery of their plan.