7 mins

Putting citizens lives first in technology-led cities

By Steve Cook

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How do you progress the worldview of a global technology giant about its own contribution to the places where 80% of the world’s population live?

Furthermore, how do you build a lasting new collaboration between global innovation, technology, sales and marketing operations, create a world-beating new initiative across 46 cities, and inspire a new strategic partnership?

Well, as it turns out, relatively easily.

It started, as these things often do, with a full day workshop, this time involving the clients Global Public Sector leadership team and their senior technologists responsible for Intelligent/Smart City technologies.

The challenge was how to take highly complex, integrated technologies for energy, security, transport, utilities, infrastructure, healthcare, education and more, that together would support the development of future intelligent cities, and communicate this to Chief Technology Officers, urban developers, city custodians and central governments around the world.

Everything we heard was about the technology involved, and after many detailed, technical presentations, much debate and ever more convoluted and opposed perspectives, two things became clear: 1) We didn’t really understand in technical detail how technology works, and 2) We didn’t have to.

The simple reality was that no matter how important the technology is (and it is) the thing that’s really important for everyone involved in the technology development, its eventual go-to-market strategies, its ongoing innovation processes, its buyer decision making and the development of future cities, is why the technology is good, who it is good for and what it delivers as benefit to the world. And we completely understood this immediately.

Even before the end of that first, vital workshop, we started to develop with the client team the idea that the technology itself, the people who developed it, bought and integrated it, the intelligent future cities they created and the infrastructures embedded into those cities, all had a common underlying purpose – to create the ultimate, inclusive and sustainable environment for the citizens who live, work, play and commute in those cities. It doesn’t matter who those citizens are or what city they inhabit, the city defines their lives and, potentially, their futures. The technology can substantially add to or detract from this.

From this principle and over the next 5 months, we developed the vision, the strategies and the cultural shift required within the client teams to enable them to develop the technologies and the go-to-market propositions necessary to achieve required business strategic outcomes.

The citizen became the reason for, and the beneficiary of, all activities and initiatives. Every programme, working group, innovation centre, sales strategy meeting, bid development playbook, leadership session and business case draft had the citizen at its core.

The client became driven by this idea.

Ultimately, we took the central idea and developed it into a brand positioning and rallying cry for its approach to market. We used the citizen in the first person to truly demonstrate the effect of the technology. We created ‘MyCity’ and we heroed in on individuals from business leaders to mothers, from homeless people to shopkeepers and from taxi drivers to mayors, in cities as diverse as Mumbai and Liverpool or Brasilia and Munich.

The first city to adopt the technology was Barcelona. The City leadership announced to citizens that they had bought ‘MyCity’ to develop their future city. From that point, ‘MyCity’ grew and grew in public consciousness and as a brand. It eventually became a part of the vernacular for many urban development programmes around the world. Cross city collaborations between Barcelona and Philadelphia developed into city ideas development across 46 cities. We activated a global research and knowledge share operation, supported by social media and events and we fully supported an emerging partnership opportunity between the client and Microsoft, where the latter approached the former specifically because of ‘MyCity’.

MyCity delivered €400m in sales in its first 12 months, equating to a staggering 24,000% ROI. Yet the benefit to the client in terms of brand recognition, partnerships and, 3 years later, the sustained global impact of ‘MyCity’ has been incalculable.

Not bad for an idea in a workshop born out of an ignorance of technology.

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