Innovation

4 enterprise lessons from leaders who are transforming today's cities

TechRepublic's Jason Hiner moderated a panel of leaders from the smart city movement at the Digital Business World Congress. They shared several big takeaways that can make all businesses smarter.

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TechRepublic's Jason Hiner (center) moderated a panel on the digital future of global cities at DES 2017 in Madrid. The panelists included Rafael Fernandez (left) and Thibault Van der Auwermeulen (right).

Image: Marcus Carús

Smart cities remains one of the hottest areas of enterprise technology investment. Some of the world's biggest, most ambitious, and most impactful IT projects are happening as public-private partnerships to make communities safer, easier to travel within, more energy-efficient, and more responsive to citizens.

At the Digital Business World Congress (#DES2017) in Madrid this week, I hosted a panel of leaders who are working on various aspects of smart cities and asked them to share some of the most important things they've learned and their best advice for professionals who are working on smart city projects.

The panelists were:

  • Rafael Fernandez, Director EMEA & Asia Pacific, Ferrovial
  • Eduard Martin, Director of Strategy for Public Sector, Sopra Steria
  • Thibault Van der Auwermeulen, Managing Director, ExpoPolis
  • Íñigo Valenzuela, CEO, Smartvel

It turned out that much of their advice was not only relevant to smart cities, but could be useful to people working across lots of different industries. Here is a quick summary of their four big takeaways.

1. Outsource to move faster, overcome obstacles

Martin, who was formerly one of the leaders behind Barcelona's rise to become one of the world's smartest cities, said that one of the most important principles to moving faster was outsourcing. It's expensive and slow to build in-house and so finding partners you can trust is critical for any enterprise that needs to move rapidly and quickly create results in order to win more trust and investment. You also benefit from the accrued wisdom that a strong partner can bring when you run into obstacles. Today's smartest cities are advancing not by developing internal technical expertise but by becoming the best at public-private partnerships.

SEE: Video: The one key that led Barcelona to become one of the world's smartest cities

2. Use mission and work-life balance as recruiting tools

Van der Auwermeulen, who runs a business that hosts virtual trade shows and worked in the public sector for over two decades, said that what he's seeing in some of the virtual job fairs is that today's engineering and computer science students have shifted their priorities. They aren't simply jumping to the highest paying jobs in the market. Instead, many students are placing high value on jobs with good work-life balance and a strong mission for making an impact on the world. This is giving public sector projects like smart cities the ability to compete for top talent even though they can't offer big salaries or stock options like the big tech companies or the hottest startups. The same could apply to many traditional businesses: use work-life balance and your company's unique mission when recruiting.

SEE: Video: Why some of the best engineers are choosing smart city jobs over high-paid gigs

3. Add value to each stakeholder

Valenzuela, who runs a startup that is powering smart cities with content and events data, said that one of the keys to creating a successful company has been learning how to add value to each of his stakeholders—customers, employees, investors, and partners. If any are neglected then things fall out of balance and it's more difficult to keep moving forward at a strong pace. Figure out who your most important stakeholders are and figure out how you can add value to them, and you'll get value in return if the relationship is a good one.

4. Engage students in the journey

Martin also shared that as part of its journey to becoming a smart city, Barcelona made a point to engage children and schools in the process. The city sent representatives to schools to explain to children what a smart city was and how it was making the community better. They even had toys that helped demonstrate. The idea was to get them engaged and invested in improving the community and eventually involved in co-creating the smart city of the future. Schools are always looking for speakers from the community. Think about how your organization can engage with schools to provide value while helping to share and promote the larger mission of your enterprise.

SEE: Video: How Barcelona involved students in the journey to become a smart city

Also see

About Jason Hiner

Jason Hiner is Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.

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