A tool for smart community strategies

A smart government platform for small and medium-sized municipalities – this is what researchers at the Institute of Public Sector Transformation at BFH Wirtschaft are working on.With the ongoing innovation project “InoVille 4.0”, they are developing the foundations and models so that municipalities can use smart government strategies and intelligent management processes and act more transparently.

Today, the management and strategy processes of small and medium-sized municipalities in Switzerland are often based on paper or, at best, on a wide variety of Excel spreadsheets. In the annual strategy meeting, the written strategy is reviewed and, if necessary, adapted. Certainly, recording the management and strategy process as well as the required key figures on paper or in Excel spreadsheets is better than not writing down the processes at all. Nevertheless, this approach is not optimal, as it entails various disadvantages. Specifically, there are four reasons why a municipality should not record its management and strategy processes on paper or in Excel spreadsheets:

  1. high time expenditure
  2. Susceptibility to errors
  3. Loss of up-to-dateness
  4. Intransparency

Time-consuming: The preparation of annual strategy meetings is very time-consuming with the procedure described above. This is because all the necessary data always has to be obtained and prepared anew each year.

Error-proneness: Mistakes can easily occur when manually transferring the required data into the “strategy paper”. An unnoticed typing error can manipulate the key figures and thus falsify the entire result of the strategy monitoring.

Loss of topicality: If the strategy and monitoring meeting only takes place annually, the key figures are usually only checked once a year. Certainly, there are key figures that are only published once a year, but there are also numerous key figures that can be recorded at more regular intervals. This should also be taken into account in monitoring. With constant updating of the key figures, one can recognise seasonal trends and always have a dashboard at hand that is closest to reality.

Intransparency: If the management and strategy processes are only discussed annually, this leads to intransparency. It seems likely that the reviewed metrics will stay with the decision makers for a few weeks at most. After that, they are forgotten because the focus is once again on day-to-day business. However, due to the community meetings that take place several times a year, it would be good if the current status of the monitoring process could be communicated at these events.

Transparent processes

As part of the Innosuisse project InoVille 4.0″[1], BFH Wirtschaft and inova:solutions AG[2] are developing a smart government platform that provides municipalities with the best possible support in their strategy-finding and monitoring processes, so that the problems described above are a thing of the past. BFH is focusing on the scientific aspects:

  • What should such monitoring processes look like?
  • How can they be improved in the future, e.g. through participatory aspects?
  • Which key indicators exist both nationally and internationally?
  • Which indicators are particularly relevant for Swiss municipalities?

Inova:solutions AG, on the other hand, is primarily concerned with implementation in a software tool that it markets under the name “inova:score”. With this smart government platform, municipalities can analyse their initial situation, develop and document a strategy, implement it and review it on an ongoing basis. For this purpose, the platform supports decision-makers with a variety of digital tools. These include a SWOT analysis, strategies of model municipalities that can be adapted to the individual needs of the municipality, a canvas library, an indicator catalogue with currently a total of 286 KPIs (=Key Performance Indicators), a task board to assign the various tasks to the different decision-makers, and a report library to create periodic evaluations and reports and make them accessible. For clarity, the strategy fields and KPIs can also be displayed in a hierarchical structure based on the Smart City Wheel. By using these tools, the strategy development and monitoring process is documented in a comprehensible way. The strategy can thus be reviewed on an ongoing basis. In the event of changing influences, adjustments can be made quickly and also reviewed in a timely manner. The platform developed can bring together the data required for the strategy formulation and monitoring process in short regular periods of time. This is of great importance for the development and monitoring of a smart governance strategy. The fact that the strategy, as well as the current values of the selected KPIs, can be continuously presented through the platform leads to more transparency and can also strengthen the trust of the population in the municipal authorities in the longer term.

Workshop involves municipalities

The BFH’s Public Sector Transformation Institute[3] and inova:solutions AG can look back on a productive first year of the project, in which the project goals were largely achieved. The initial concept was defined and relevant indicator frameworks were identified and prioritised. From the relevant indicator frameworks, BFH and inova:solutions AG finally extracted the suitable KPIs and a catalogue of KPIs categorised according to the dimensions of the Smart City Wheel was created. The catalogue of indicators[4] is posted on the project website, as is a recently published white paper[5] containing further and more detailed information about the project. In June, a first workshop was held with four municipalities (Moosseedorf, Wohlen BE, Thun, Winterthur). This showed that the project is relevant for municipalities. In the second half of the project, the main focus is now on the agile further development of the concepts and the platform in cooperation with pilot and productive municipalities. The next workshop with interested municipalities will take place at the beginning of December, and the project will also be presented to various associations and organisations and publicised at Swiss Smart City events.

Participation as a success factor

Participation is very important in this project. By means of the chosen co-creation approach, decision-makers of the participating municipalities can contribute and continuously place their suggestions on the functionality and design of the platform. This ensures that the platform will also function in practice and can support the municipalities in the modelling, implementation and review of their smart government strategies in the best possible way. In the future, it is also foreseeable that residents of the user communities will be able to participate: Be it in the selection or definition of key indicators relevant to the municipalities, or be it in the collection of data via the municipality app to determine the values of certain indicators such as satisfaction with municipal services.


Further communities wanted

If your community is interested in participating in one of our workshops, please contact us. We are also at your disposal if you have any other questions or suggestions in connection with the project. We are convinced that with your participation we can deliver on the value proposition of this project and thus support municipalities to act more transparently in the future and to define and implement smart city strategies more easily and cost-effectively.

Please Contact Prof. Stephan Haller, Head of the Data and Infrastructure Division, directly, phone: +41 31 848 44 16.


References

[1] https://inoville.ch/

[2] https://www.inova.ch/

[3] https://www.bfh.ch/de/forschung/forschungsbereiche/public-sector-transformation/

[4] https://inoville.ch/indikatorenkatalog

[5] https://inoville.ch/fileadmin/t8_jetpack/redaktion/inoville/downloads/White-Paper_Inoville-4_0.pdf


Acknowledgements

The innovation project “Smart models for strategy and management processes in the municipality of tomorrow (lnoVille 4.0)” is supported by Innosuisse under the number “48377.1 IP-SBM”.

AUTOR/AUTORIN: Nicolai Wenger

Nicolai Wenger is a research assistant at the Institute Public Sector Transformation at BFH Wirtschaft. He graduated in 2019 with a Bachelor's degree in Business Information Systems from BFH Wirtschaft. He is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Applied Information and Data Science at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts.

AUTOR/AUTORIN: Stephan Haller

Stephan Haller is a professor at the Institute Public Sector Transformation at BFH Wirtschaft and at the BFH Center Digital Society. He teaches about project management, IT sourcing and e-government and conducts research in the areas of Smart City, Open Data and Internet of Things.

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