How Memphis is utilizing fiber and the cloud to become a smarter city

From owning its own fiber to smart hiring practices and harnessing the cloud, the city of Memphis is moving through a digital transformation.

How Memphis is utilizing fiber and the cloud to become a smarter city

Karen Roby: Like many US cities, its size, Memphis is undergoing a digital transformation and becoming a smarter city. Mike Rodriguez, the Memphis CIO, is talking with us about some of the facets involved, including cloud usage and IT hiring practices. Mike, let's talk a little bit here about the infrastructure that's being built out in the city.

Mike Rodriguez: For us, when you talk about a smart city, infrastructure is one of the most important things to have in place, right? You can move a lot faster if you focused on and built out an infrastructure. We've been inventorying all of our fiber assets. We're unique in that we own our own fiber, and we have a ring around the city. We're trying to explore other ways of quickly adopting newer technologies that make us a smart city by utilizing that asset, be it the fiber.

SEE: 5 successful smart city projects (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Karen Roby: How does IT fit in?

Mike Rodriguez: The mayor's made a task force that's a combination of our innovate Memphis partners, the city IT, and planning and development organization. Now we're going to build our smart city based off of that thinking. We're going to try and do it uniquely Memphis, but we're going to try and do it the right way the first time.

Karen Roby: Now, in order to run a smart city, of course, top talent is always needed. How do you handle staffing concerns in such a tight market?

Mike Rodriguez: Memphis is unique in one situation where a majority of their IT resources were outsourced for 17, 18 years. And the first thing that I was tasked with was taking that and bringing those resources internal, right? We've shifted the model. With the outsource model, it's kind of an SLA, a service level agreement type model, uptime, downtime. And what we know is we need a little more, I guess you could call it intellectual curiosity on what we can bring to the table in solving a problem, how we can take the value of some of these new technologies and turn around and make them beneficial for the city. We are attempting to attract that talent, but at the same time, we're leveraging contractors to bring in some of that thinking. I think we're seeing some successes. We're not necessarily giving in to the fact that you can't bring the best talent to the table. And we're working with a lot of the other city partners to try and bring that together. And I think we'll see success. It's not going to be easy, but laying the groundwork for this is the most important thing I think at this moment.

SEE: Digital transformation road map (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Karen Roby: Okay. And finally, Mike, please expand on cloud migration and where the city stands with that.

Mike Rodriguez: Memphis is one of the first cities to move to the oral pool cloud, the fusion instance, human capital management. We did that about; I think it was October of last year. We're also running our office 365 in the cloud. Recently adopted Service Now as our system to help us manage our ticketing. We're moving our system into the cloud with a partner. We've doubled down on moving some of the core systems into the cloud, predominantly because they give us a lot of options when it comes to disaster recovery and business continuity. And it also brings a lot more of focus on security through those vendors, that's contractually managed. So yeah, we're adopting the cloud quickly, understanding a lot of the issues associated with that. We're trying to make sure we do it the right way.

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