Tool promotes ‘common language’ for city hall

Becoming a smart city is about more than deploying systems that use sensors, meters and advanced data analytics. It’s also about creating systems that improve the dynamics inside city hall.

That, at least, is partly the premise behind a new business process tool called the City Government Process Classification Framework (PCF). The tool is the brainchild of the American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC), a nonprofit group that promotes knowledge management, benchmarking and best practices business research.

The City Government PFC specifically aims to help a city workforce improve its internal productivity, communications and performance standards. It also tracks with the emerging notion that if city personnel develop more effective internal processes they might have more success at implementing today's new technology solutions in their communities.

A collaborative effort
The APQC, which has worked with over 750 organizations over the past three decades, had already created a number of industry-specific PFCs prior to releasing its city government version back in November. Microsoft and the city of Redmond, Wash -- where Microsoft is headquartered -- also participated with APQC on the project.

Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental & Cities Strategist for Council Lead Partner Microsoft, talked about the City Government PCF in a recent Microsoft CityNext blog. He says it provides cities with "a common language and format to enable benchmarking, identify process improvement opportunities, and facilitate communication between city workers, constituents and vendors. This gives cities a head start when planning city system and solution architectures.”

This idea that the PCF can help bring city departments together is what attracted the city of Redmond to the project, the city's finance director Mike Bailey said in an APQC press release.  

“This framework provides the architectural guidance that every smart city needs to successfully break down functional silos and provide its citizens a consistent, efficient and most importantly, pleasant, experience when they interact with city processes,” said Bailey

A common language
In a recent 
Government Executive article, APQC’s John Tesmer elaborated on the PCF’s ability to create a “common language" inside city hall.  When a common language is available, Tesmer says mayors and city council members are able to talk about strategic vision setting and performance management while agency leaders have a language to describe benchmarking and business architectures for their departmental areas.

“It helps them take things that were difficult to understand or articulate and make them more transparent,” said Tesmer. “If there is an objective standard around how the processes it reduces the potential for conflict.”

The City Government PCF comes in the form of a spreadsheet and is available for free. You can download it here.

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Doug Cooley is a staff writer with the Smart Cities Council. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.