Smart City: If you build it for the People, they will come

Smart City

Government needs to take a lead in removing barriers to innovation and facilitating collaboration between multiple diverse actors. ~ The Smart City Market

Challenges of building a Smart City

Smart City efforts are being initiated by cities across the globe. Regardless of the size of effort and investment, enabling smart technologies at large scale have a number of challenges.

Here are some issues outlined in assessments by Gov.UK:

  • A lack of funding for multiple Smart City initiatives
  • Creating a common and long term vision that is sustainable across government agencies regardless of who is in office
  • High cost of investment in new technologies and its implementation
  • Collaboration across different procurement and agency policies to ensure high volume cost savings for technologies and associated services
  • A common user experience and transparency across services regardless of type of service, whom it serves and which agency manages it
  • Common understanding of privacy, data management and safety policies across agencies
  • Regulations and legislation that encourage innovation and facilitate growth while serving citizens and businesses alike
  • A business model that serves the needs of citizens first

Barcelona has created a Smart City PMO (Personnel Management Office) which coordinates all the projects in the city that are classified under the smart city tag. This has meant transitioning from silo’d work to “transversal” work. The city has produced an early strategy document which attempts to set up the basis of the smart city strategy in the city. Ms. Lopez Ventura claims: “I think that this change to get all departments working towards the same strategy is quite new.”~ Global Innovators, International Case Studies on Smart Cities

A Model for Innovation and Collaboration:
Major League Baseball Internet and Interactive was originally created by investments from 30 team owners and a mandate from the league with a total cost of $77M. Originally, it built and managed a common user experience for all baseball fans while pursuing digital revenue streams including ticket sales, subscriptions, sponsorships, merchandising, etc. also has a media channel called MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) centred around the game of baseball across all media channels and devices. Estimated value of IPO in 2005 for MLBAM was $2.5 Billion. Current estimates are not available as MLBAM has no plans to go public any time soon.

So what makes MLB a model for innovation and collaboration:

  • MLB Interactive has one coherent mission mandated by the league and agreed upon by team owners:To be the internet and interactive branch of baseball league.
  • It collaborates with
    • players
    • owners
    • leagues (including NBA)
    • tech partners (Apple)
    • non-tech partners (cities across North America)
    • non-tech branches (MLB retail)
    • television and radio
    • online media
    • gaming partners
    • music bands
    • sports networks
    • and more…
      to generate revenue and serve the fans.
  • It serves all segments of baseball fans…from season ticket holders to fringe fans who occasionally dip into the game on their mobile devices.
  • It is autonomous in its decision making about technology investments and innovation.

Without question, BAM’s success stems in part from its autonomy. “It’s unlike other things in baseball where someone is meddling,” says Gary Gillette, coeditor of ESPN’s Baseball Encyclopedia. Bowman, who answers to a board of club owners, is free to make decisions about pursuing new devices or new technologies. ~ MLB Advanced Media’s Bob Bowman is Playing Digital Hardball. And he’s Winning

  • It is innovative in both identifying opportunities to serve baseball fans and in creating new ways to enjoy the game. A good example is PITCHf/x.
  • They build technology for the digital fans. User experience spans all devices, technologies and use of data to enhance the experience.
  • Cost is managed centrally thus allowing for better assessment of investments in technologies including ROI.

BAM’s business is more multifaceted than YouTube’s; [in 2009], it sold more than 35 million MLB tickets, more than half of the league’s inventory. It streams more live video than any other spots entity — and any other company ~ MLB Advanced Media’s Bob Bowman is Playing Digital Hardball. And he’s Winning

  • Privacy and data management policies are all led centrally and the fans are never in doubt about safety.

The MLB internet and interactive business has grown to BAM proportions simply because it sits outside the game. Yet it still serves the game, the stakeholders and ultimately the fans using the latest smart technology.

MLBAM on CBS Segment

Click to Watch

Challenging Status Quo Models of Smart City Initiatives

Building a Smart City is not a two-term proposition. It is an ongoing effort to change the way city folk live and work by actively using smart technologies on a daily basis. Smart City effort requires not only an innovative and collaborative effort from inside different government agencies but also a willingness to engage and serve citizens transparently and work with partners across the public/private horizon.

Mr. Godfrey, Government CIO for Hong Kong Smart City initiative explains “The vision is that our clients should find the government service as convenient, as efficient, as pleasurable to use as the best services they get from the private sector. ~ Global Innovators, International Case Studies on Smart Cities

MLB demonstrates a model for collaboration and innovation in technology all while serving fans with unforgettable experiences that are emphatically rooted in tradition as they often are within a city.

Smart City effort should be approached in the same way. An independent partnership between government agencies that are looking to use smart technologies to improve the experience for their customer: The citizens of a Smart City.

Why? Because it will enable:

  • Singular accountability with multi-agency, business and citizen stakeholders
  • A common vision of success across agencies and for perpetuity
  • Autonomous decision making by singularly accountable
  • Common and transparent experience for citizens across services
  • Cost consolidation, driving ROI and investment transparency
  • Integrated technologies across agencies with citizen-focused delivery
  • Common privacy and data policies across agencies
  • A need to drive collaboration and innovation to be successful
  • Serving the direct customer: Citizens of Smart City

The real challenge for Smart City initiatives is to find the balance between



UPDATE: December 11, 2014
HBO to Use MLB Advanced Media for Stand-Alone Streaming Product

OPEN WRX Consulting Inc. is committed to helping companies improve competitiveness through effective decision making by applying strategy to tech solutions, building plans that create value and sharing knowledge that drives innovation.


Service Level Agreements: Building Long Term Partnerships

Image“Business partners are the second most significant source of new innovation for enterprises.” ~ IBM Survey, 2006


Service Level Agreements in technology can often lead to a contentious relationship between a company that needs the service and the one that provides it.

In one of my engagements I found myself in a situation where there was much anxiety between a Fortune 500 company and one of its technology partners.  Neither party was clear on how to proceed with an agreement that required management of hundreds of unique deliverables, quality of  technical service, and ongoing service level management meant to support a newly implemented system.

Nonetheless a relationship had to be forged where both parties could give and take while keeping their minds on what was best for their companies.

Effort – The Service Levels

Given the situation, I realized that I had to find a win-win solution that enabled both parties to repair their relationship and ultimately meet the needs of their individual customers. Following is an account of the approach I took to defined SLAs based on Fortune 500 companies’ business needs:

1. Defined Business Objectives: The most important piece of work I undertook was defining business objectives for this relationship.  If there was one thing that both parties (even lawyers) could agree on was that they both wanted to be successful in this long-term relationship. So business objectives for this relationship provided common grounds both parties could agree to and accept as a foundation for the relationship.

2. Collected and prioritized list of deliverables: I collected and prioritized list of hundreds of business deliverables including reports, statistical business intelligence, tools, real-time vs. batch updates, timed queries, customized features, etc. that needed to be part of the agreement. I also took time to review the importance of each individual item to ensure that it was actually necessary from a business perspective. To have a partner report on items that no one will use for business decisions is a waste of time and effort for both parties.

3. Outlined architectural service requirements: These are services required by most technology systems but they may vary based on what type of architecture is in place or the  technical service that is being provided:

Service Requirement



Availability Amount of time the service  is available for use. 99.5 % availability required between the hours of 7 am and 7pm annually, and lower availability required during remainder of the time.E-commerce operations typically have extremely aggressive SLAs at all times; 99.999% availability is common requirement for a site that generates millions of dollars of revenue an hour.
Reliability Comparison of actual availability to planned availability. Reliability is measured in Mean Time To Failure (MTTF) in days. Minimum 40 Days of reliability is required by the site per quarter.
Scheduled Downtime Expected times when service is withdrawn for maintenance or upgrade purposes. Maximum of 15 hours per month, Saturdays 12am to 3am per week
Scalability Ability to increase resources as service needs change over time (i.e. increase in volume of users) Expected increase in volume of users by 25% annually.
Performance Time it takes to load a User Interface for any system or website within a given timeframe. CRM system user interface load time is expected to be minimum 2 seconds between the times of 6am to 8pm, thereafter it is expected to be minimum 5 seconds.
Defect Rate Number or percentages of errors in deliverables or changes to the system. Production failures should be no more than 5 annually. Production failures can include automated backups, restores, coding errors/rework

4. Defined expectations for Service Level Management: This section rounded out the SLA development process to allow business managers to manage metrics on an ongoing basis. This section includes:

i.         Change Management Process for managing major changes that take more than 2-3 days to complete.

ii.         Support Ticket Process for managing any errors or user problems with the system. Note that in a newly implemented system, always expect the number of defects to be higher than after normalization of system during business as usual.

iii.         Incident Management Process ensures that if there are significant issues like unscheduled downtime, there is a clear understanding of who should be notified, what actions need to be taken to address the downtime, what resources are available during off business hours to solve the problem, etc.

iv.         Reporting Process allows business managers of the system to manage their SLAs in a systematic way. Example would be schedule of monthly meetings to review exception reports where only breaches of metrics are reviewed.

5. Align business objectives with defined SLAs to ensure business needs are being met: It is essential that all SLAs are directly related to outlined business objectives. Without this step it is possible that you will ask and pay for service you don’t need or worse not have enough services to meet the customer’s needs.


Process – The Agreement

After completing service levels, I went on to create a contract with the terms to enable these levels of service.  The agreement in this case needed to ensure that both parties clearly understood why the service metrics were important. It is a fact that if Fortune 500 company was to continue to provide the service necessary to serve its customers, the technology partner must ensure that they can provide it and continue to improve it as the need changes. But if the technology company failed to provide the service necessary, there would be financial consequences.

For each service level metric breach, a percent reduction in support costs charged by technology company was negotiated. These percentages were between 2% to 5% based on the importance of the service to the business. The technology partner needed to improve their service based on the needs of the business of their client, the Fortune 500 company. And the Fortune 500 company could concentrate on serving their customers rather than rigorously managing service providers.


The financial reductions were not meant to cripple the service provider but ensure that the service behavior remains consistent. It was therefore not necessary to stage hardball negotiations, but rather reach an agreement where the partner is gently reminded of their responsibilities.

My ultimate goal here was to set up a long-term relationship where two partners could work together to grow each other’s business. A win-win partnership for the long-term.


  • Business objectives of the company that requires the service
  • Service levels defined based on business objectives including direct deliverables, architectural requirement and service level management processes
  • Agreement negotiated based on importance of each service level that enabled a business objective
  • A long term partnership that is set to enable new innovations


Kiran Sohi’s career has focused on leading companies to success by enabling effective decision-making. While her passion is strategy and technology, her work spans a number of corporate strategy disciplines including product development, process design, marketing and financial forecasting.

Prior to finding OPEN WRX Consulting, Kiran was a business consultant at CIBC and Innovapost, where her clients included Canada Post and Purolator. She also had the pleasure of working as a strategist for NBA, Kraft, Samsung and Travelex. Visit for more info. 

Sam Walton’s 10 Commandments

Sam Walton's 10 Commandments

Sam Walton’s 10 Commandments

1. Commit to your business.
2. Share your profits with your associates and treat them like your partners.
3. Energize your colleagues.
4. Communicate everything you possibly can to your partners.
5. Appreciate everything your associates do for the business.
6. Celebrate your success.
7. Listen to everyone in your company.
8. Exceed your customers’ expectations.
9. Control your expenses better than your competition.
10. Blaze your own path.


Kiran Sohi