Smart project management for smart cities

There are many industries in which a graduate degree in project management will come in handy. Project managers (PMs) who have earned a Master of Science in Project and Program Management may enter any number of business sectors that interest them, like construction, energy, technology and municipal management. All of these subjects converge, however, when considering the rise of the smart city, a trend that allows project managers to have a hand in developing urban metropolises of tomorrow.

As technology continues to advance rapidly, new tools and abilities have increasingly transformed how cities are run on a day-to-day basis, from the buildings that make up urban skylines to the quality of transportation and public services like waste management. With more of the world becoming automated and data heavy, cities have been quick adopters of technology. Yet launching projects aimed at sustainability, increased efficiency or greater quality of life cannot be achieved with technology alone; cities also need skilled and knowledgeable PMs to tackle the challenge of constructing digital cities that reflect the modern age.

Smart cities, as noted, combine a number of concentrations: construction, logistics, public safety, government and many more. Knowing this, PMs pursuing smart-city projects will need to ensure they have a full repertoire of competencies that can help them address the unique needs of smart-city project management. Here’s more information on smart cities and how PMs factor in:

Internet of Things, automation driving smart-city evolution

Given the scale that many urban areas operate on — millions of residents often fit into tight quarters — it makes sense that technology has played such a large role in helping cities craft strategies, tools and services. Namely, the Internet of Things (IoT) and automation have figured heavily into the plans and projects of many smart cities. The Internet of Things allows interconnected machines to communicate with other equipment and deliver users real-time control and insight — for example, this helps transit agencies manage rush hour when a bus or train breaks down. Additionally, automation is the overall trend toward the elimination of manual tasks (like spreadsheets) and the introduction of smart technologies.

Some of the most common smart-city projects — as outlined by the National League of Cities (NLC) — include:

● LED lighting that is weather adaptive and sends an automatic notification to public works when the bulb needs to be changed.
● Solar panels and energy monitoring systems to help cities manage public consumption and avoid blackouts or disruptions.
● Drones that can be used for law enforcement purposes or to assess infrastructure integrity and health.
● Parking apps that help drivers find spots and pay for their parking with accompanying kiosks installed at the curb level.
● Sensors that help cities manage a number of tasks, from traffic controls to disposing of accumulated trash in sidewalk receptacles.
● Green facilities that optimize energy use and can feature rooftop gardens to help alleviate carbon concerns of city pollution.

Smart-city innovation also extends beyond the practical level. The NLC report also mentioned plans by Chicago to introduce an open data policy that would encourage sharing and analysis, as well as Philadelphia’s plan to introduce an officially sanctioned IoT-focused agency. The incredible variety and forward-thinking nature of many of these projects call for the skills of a project manager. With so many moving policy pieces to manage and technical specifics to counter, there is a great opportunity for PMs to impact the growth of the new smart city.

Urban area at night with sidewalk lamp.

Community engagement must be considered alongside budgets and workflows

Smart-city project management, while an enticing prospect, can also be a complex affair. After all, these projects will factor heavily into the daily lives of city residents, affecting everything from how they get to work to what their work looks like, what they eat, how their safety is looked after and what their tax dollars are ultimately working toward.

PMs in charge of such initiatives have to balance a range of needs. Not only must they address core project specifics like budgeting and planning, but they must also address concerns from the public and generate buy-in from institutions, communities, businesses and other stakeholders. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an entire city to manage a project. Oracle recently looked at the role PMs are playing in managing smart cities, and their tasks include:

● Software and hardware: Smart-city projects in most cases depend on technology, and when deciding which solutions and companies to engage with, PMs have to go by a set of criteria. Software/hardware should be cost-effective, easy to use and easy to implement; offer a slate of features; and come with on-demand, high-quality support from vendors.
● Stakeholder collaboration: Cities are diverse and teeming with competing interests; smart projects that take place within them are no different. PMs will have to manage the expectations of several different factions — from the public to the administration — and will need to effectively encourage all those involved to collaborate and have productive conversations. PMs may be called upon to resolve conflict as well.
● Tracking costs: While budgeting is important no matter the project, it takes on added urgency when taxpayer dollars are in the mix. Having processes for accurately monitoring and predicting costs is central to good smart-city project management.

Prepare for the future with an MSPPM from Brandeis University

As technology and smart-city initiatives become more complex and sophisticated with each new iteration of software, project managers will need a way to keep up with all the trends affecting their profession. One way to prepare for what the future will demand of PMs and smart cities is by earning a graduate degree to help build skills and competencies. Interested readers can learn more about Brandeis University’s online Master of Science in Project and Program Management when looking for continued education.


Recommended reading:

Tips for Managing Contracted Government Projects

How Big Data and Analytics Are Transforming Business

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