I dislike the use of "2.0", Social Anything, and other terms that are thrown around to vaguely indicate new ways of doing business. These words and terms do nothing but confuse the majority while leaving a few "experts" in a place to educate us all about how we're doing it wrong. It was refreshing, however, when I chatted with Chris Moore, CIO for the city of Edmonton, about his approach to the changing role of government/business.
Chris, no relation to me, Moore, has been the CIO in Edmonton since October of 2008. It's no small job as it is Canada's 5th largest City and he has more than 300 people working for him. Chris came into this new role knowing that changes were needed. He needed to open up the organization in terms of making it more transparent, becoming more open to new ideas, new ways of thinking, both from within the team and from outside the team. Chris noted, and I paraphrase, "If I have to come up with all the ideas we only get the results of my creativity. If we collaborate we can get the best ideas, the results of 300+ people". How did Chris do this?
- He launched a series of mini town halls with his staff, meeting with roughly 10 people at a time. At first, people were fairly quiet, unwilling to chat and throw ideas around. It is hard to know if the new boss really wants change, really wants ideas. Chris did.
- Launched an internal site to capture feedback with forums, blogs, etc... It provides a good chance for users to give feedback, even if they want to do so anonymously.
- This is social, but it is not an example of trying to force usage of tools like Facebook or Twitter. Edmonton went with a site built on JOOMLA after encountering several early issues building it with SharePoint.
- This was a great move as it has given people a place to get ideas out, for them to discuss what they like, and to discuss what they do not like. Chris was very honest about the fact that it is not always positive feedback. However, just like companies must embrace and respond to detractors, those who are having a problem with your products and services, governments must too.
- Being more open to meeting the needs of its clients (councilors, departments, citizens, etc..). Simple changes like becoming open to the deployment and support of Macs, iPhones, and other common tools that most IT staffs view as tools of Satan. In fact, I think I might have used that very phrase when my boss first bought his iPhone.... Hmmm, maybe I can learn something from Chris..
Chris led the charge as the City of Edmonton recently opened up their data catalog. While it is nothing revolutionary, it is a good start. They took information that was already on their web site and put it into a format that programmers could leverage. Information like park locations, census information, historic buildings, etc. Personally, I always question where the value in opening up this data will come from, as little of it is very exciting to me personally. I liked Chris' answer on why this is important, it helps "Government demystify government".... That is pretty important and none of it required Twitter, Plurk, Facebook, or any other shiny new toys.
What's holding you back?
John 3.0, Better than the original