Cities started master planning in response to the evolution of zoning law which initially gave municipalities the power to determine land use patterns for commercial, residential, industrial and open space uses. The practice of land use planning through zoning has evolved and resulted in many new tools for shaping the City’s growth, economic health, housing, public – private partnerships and more. The master planning process is now standard in most municipal toolkits.
As cities face the new challenge of how to enter the digital world, the master planning process can guide them again. Unlike traditional master plans which focus on the built environment which evolves slowly and so typically have a 20 year time horizon, the IT master plan should have a 5 year time horizon to reflect the rapid evolution in technology. Following is a set of general guidelines which cities can adapt to their own cultures and build a robust municipal information technology master plan.
Step 1: Inventory Current Software
Step 2: Set Management Mission
Whatever the form of government, Mayor, City Manager, Town Administrator, the chief executive pulls together department heads and sets forth a mission statement that will guide the formation of the IT master plan. The mission statement should address the purposes to be achieved by the master plan. Typically this early stage mission statement should address:
- Needs of staff
- Needs of citizens
- Increasing efficiency in service delivery
- Cost saving in municipal operations
- Establishing a city wide software platform that integrates existing software deemed keepable and can integrate new software acquisitions.
Step 3: Create a Checklist for Assessing Software to Keep or Acquire.
- Review “Top 10 Rules…. “
- Does it combine via api or open data with other city software?
- Does it give city full access to and control over data at all times?
- Is it user friendly and flexible enough to adapt to city’s changing needs?
- Is it cost effective?
- Can it be accessed via desktop, laptop or mobile devices anywhere in the city?
- Does it protect the privacy of individuals?
- List core components of a future IT software platform.
Step 4: Identify Gaps in Current Software Platform
- Review the inventory of current City software products.
- Score and rank each software product according to the Checklist developed in Step 3.
- Mark on inventory list those products to phase out or cancel.
- Mark those products to expand or reconfigure
- Identify categories of operations or services that need software but don’t now have it. Consider departments, neighborhoods, districts and the following list of suggested categories:
- Environmental issues
- Business community and economic development
- Scorecard on“311” type government services
- Census on population, economy
- Public Safety
- Human Services
- Legislative functions (like ordinances passed, council voting records, etc.)
- Regulatory functions (like licenses, permits, sanctions, zoning regulations, parking, building ordinances)
- Accessing government services via internet
- Property (zoning maps, building, permitting regulations)
- Schools (test scores, bus schedules, charter schools, kindergarten, adult learning, etc.)
- Transportation (parking, public transit, traffic)
- Utilities (municipal owned, other owned, locations, terms,, prices, consumption patterns, etc.)
- Finance (federal, state, local funds spent in city buy funding source (ie sales tax, property tax, transfer payments, etc.)
- Political activities ( party headquarters, congressional districts, city\state and federal elected representatives and contact information, campaign finance data, etc.)
- NGO’s (civic organizations, League of Women Voters, Boys and Girls Clubs, health centers, etc.)
Step 5: Review & Ratify
Convene a series of small group meetings with city staff; by department, by neighborhood, by function; to review the mission statement and the proposed “platform” of existing and new software. Listen to staff comments, gather, assess and incorporate ideas, feedback and concerns.
Step 6: Build in Civic Engagement
- Review “Civic Engagement & User Experience” article.
- Survey city departments to learn what kinds of civic engagement they now have and what would they like to have.
- Survey elected officials to learn what they recommend the city needs to enhance civic engagement and provide more and better information on city services and city living to citizens.
- Prepare a draft list of reports, website functions, applications and other tools that could meet these needs.
Step 7: Create Draft Master Plan
- Combine proposed Inventory, list of new software needed and preliminary mission statement into a draft master plan.
- Set proposed timelines for achieving goals.
- Take the draft master plan public to solicit citizen comments.
By Barbara Thornton,
AssetStewardship.com Follow Barbara Thornton @assetstewards