The Big Picture

Adaptive Leadership and Innovation in Information and Communications Technology (ICT)

Like all cities, Boston continues to face the financial and political stress created by the global economic downturn. People are hurting and demand for city services continues to increase. City revenue opportunities are limited and the increasing costs of employee health care and pension obligations “crowd out” funding requests for new program activity. That’s the bad news. The good news is the City of Boston’s incredibly strong and sustained response to these challenges. At the core of this positive response is the City’s strength in financial management – now coupled with the Mayor's commitment to innovation and technology enabled change.

In Boston, we view our core competency in prudent fiscal management as “table stakes” for providing an opportunity to deliver the transformation that is needed in government today. But it is Boston’s creative approach to enabling city government efficiency while improving citizen engagement that has realized the value of the “Digital City”.  It is in Boston that a unique balance has been struck between taking risk and delivering tangible, sustainable results. It is in Boston that a culture of “Innovation First” – fueled by information and technology -truly permeates the broad enterprise of City functions.

In 2006, the City’s commitment to technology was enhanced with the creation of a CIO position that reported directly to the Mayor and had a seat on the Mayor’s Cabinet. This critical step set the stage for a very new approach to using technology to support the Mayor’s key initiatives. The initial focus of the City’s new tech leadership was the transformation of the constituent services function. The successful implementation of unifying technology in this area exposed the Mayor’s leadership team to the value of the system, the data and the practices demonstrated in improving business functions.  

In 2011/2012, the City of Boston’s technology environment is radically different. It has been a dynamic process that has seen changes both within and beyond the CIO’s organization. The relationship between the Mayor, the CIO and Cabinet Chiefs has led to building capacity across the City’s organization and unlocking the potential of our employees and the potential of our partners. Boston now has the luxury of collective action and critical mass. Based on some of our early success, The Mayor’s 2010 challenge to “usher in a new wave of municipal innovation” solidified our direction. Here are a few examples of that change:

  • DoIT, the City’s IT organization is attracting the City’s” best and brightest” from across city government to work on exciting projects that improve government efficiency and constituent engagement. In an effort to adapt the organization DoIT has successfully created and filled new roles like “Civic Coder” and” Social Media Strategist”  in a highly unionized, civil service organization.

  • The City’s organizational model for municipal innovation, the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, were recognized as “Public Officials of the Year” by Governing Magazine in 2012 and “Champions of Change” by the White House in 2012.   

  • The City has made tremendous progress in enhancing enterprise capabilities with major project successes – including a full Financials System (PeopleSoft) upgrade; Licensing and Permitting extended to major department;  Asset Management System (Maximo) and Cash Management (Inovah) systems.

  • Released a new “Open Government” capability to support increased transparency and engagement that addresses Boston’s commitment to our residents, visitors and partners.

In the last year, the City of Boston has also demonstrated our commitment to extending this progress to our partners in government and beyond:

  • Boston has taken our Innovation Model to Cities and Foundations  across the country in an effort to create a network of municipal  innovators.

  • Boston is a founding member of the G7 group City CIOs and is actively looking to increase the size and influence of that entity.

  • Boston is taking its Citizens Connect application to cities and towns across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts under the State’s Community Innovation Challenge (CIC), awarded earlier this spring.

  • The City’s CIO was appointed to the Governor’s Innovation Council in April of this year.