Technology, Transactions, and Transformation

Tarek Tomes, CIO, City of Saint Paul
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Tarek Tomes, CIO, City of Saint Paul

Tarek Tomes, CIO, City of Saint Paul

I recently created my best ever home video. It is a compilation of videos of my youngest son from over the years. It contains short video segments that were edited from longer family videos. These video segments were complimented with incredible music and when appropriate, sound bites from my younger son. When I sent the memories video to my wife, her reaction was priceless. She watched the video and quickly got into tears. It was an impactful moment and clearly very meaningful. It may have been one of the best home video’s I have ever created.

In reality, I did not create the best home video as some may anticipate. I woke up one morning and received a notification that a new memory was available. With the use of artificial intelligence, facial recognition, and intelligent editing, a video was created that provided value to our lives. It was a power example of the intersection between technology, transactions, and transformation.

As information technology organizations are continuing the shift towards harvesting an organization’s digital estate, they are asked more than ever to provide meaningful contributions and insights toward improving outcomes. The notion of being a partner to business isn’t sufficient. We must be a part of the business and anticipate how to blend the three cornerstone pillars of the digital estate into organizational advantages to not only help drive but also predict future outcomes.

The technology pillar consists of the vast array of technology available to an organization. In my home video example, that technology would consist of the video recording equipment used. A combination of mobile devices and cameras. In my present role as the CIO for the city of Saint Paul, it would consist of technologies like body cameras, IoT sensors, mobile devices, web sites, mobile applications, automatic vehicle location, and many more technologies that allow for the most efficient and effective use of technology to meet the complex needs of a city workforce. Essentially it is the technology input and output tools that are available to best meet the requirements of a given task. It is very important that technology organizations continually evaluate the vast array of options and evaluate new solutions. It isn’t sufficient to wait for a business request. Technology organizations must maintain an inventory of solutions in use and measure the effectiveness and efficiency of those solutions. The technology pillar is generally a relatively low hanging fruit on the journey to providing value for an organization.

 With the use of artificial intelligence, facial recognition, and intelligent editing, a video was created. It was a power example of the intersection between technology, transactions, and transformation 

The second critical pillar is the transactional pillar. From the home video example, this transaction pillar would include the ability to both upload and synchronize videos as well as how to tag those videos and organize them. The transactional pillar in my current role includes many lines of business applications that capture critical transactions for a business unit. Examples of that include ERP’s, customer relationship management tools, police records management tools, SCADA systems, legal transaction applications, and many other transactional applications. This transactional pillar generally records the events and activities that occur within an organization. This pillar includes workflow capabilities as well as event notification, reporting, and other basic functions. The transactional pillar must provide for a level of sophistication that not only records all the critical information necessary but also includes advanced capabilities that can accommodate the unique business requirements of many different crucial business processes. The technology pillar and the transactional pillar must work seamlessly together to provide for an efficient and effective capability for people to perform their jobs. The transactional pillar also requires a continual modernization as the rate of innovation is rapidly increasing.

The transformation pillar may be the most critical pillar for organizations in the future. While it depends heavily on effective technology and transaction capabilities, it is generic to any specific technologies or applications. The transformation pillar includes artificial intelligence, machine learning, data visualizations, and other advanced services that provide deep meaningful insights into the current state of an organization as well as predictions into future states and advanced modeling capabilities. From the video example, this was the ability to search within video’s, utilize facial recognition, and realize what music we like to create a meaningful product. The transformational pillar is the biggest shift for organizations from caretakers of applications and infrastructure to meaningful contributors to organization goals and objectives. These insights provide views for an organization that allow for an immediate measurement of policy changes or other business decisions.

Another example in Saint Paul was a solution implemented to assist with resident notifications for Snow Emergencies. Several times per year when the weather is extreme, Saint Paul declares a Snow Emergency. As a fleet of city operated snow plows clear roads, certain parking restrictions are in place to provide for an efficient and expedited ability to react to the weather. An unfortunate consequence of the snow emergencies and resulting parking restrictions is that many cars receive citations for parking incorrectly and are towed. The technologies leveraged are GIS, GPS, electronic ticketing, web sites, and mobile applications. All transactions are captured to make sure that as much data is available related to snow emergencies. Providing equitable services and understanding outcomes must be a lens that all city operations are viewed through. This should be a real-time lens that is applied to everything a city does. From a transformational perspective, we map all ticketed and towed cars across the city leveraging GIS tools to ensure that impacts on neighborhoods are clearly understood. A mobile application was developed with multi-lingual support to alert residents if the area where they are parked currently has snow emergency parking restrictions. The colors on streets change as the parking restrictions are implemented. During the first snow emergency with the mobile application in place, Saint Paul towed over 30 percent less cars.

The above example is one of many that clearly demonstrates the benefits of understanding the intersection between technology, transactions, and transformation. As the rate of innovation continues to accelerate, information technology organizations must continue to evaluate all three pillars to provide effective solutions. Intelligent and mindful use of artificial intelligence and machine learning coupled with data visualization capabilities form the backbone of critical business intelligence capabilities that will transform the vast information available within an organizations digital estate into actionable and valuable insights that are both current as well as predictive. We are incredibly excited about the contribution for insuring better outcomes for people through the smart use of technology.

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