In recent years, with the development of the new generation of information technology represented by the Internet of Things, cloud computing and mobile Internet, the technological conditions for the construction of smart cities are becoming more and more mature. Smart city construction is a project set with top-level logic, which usually contains many interrelated sub-projects. For a complex project set such as a smart city, top-level design and project management are important factors that determine its success or failure.
The development of science and technology gives rise to smart cities
Only 40 years after its birth, the Internet has greatly changed the way people work and live. Network space is a new dimension different from human real space. Although it is a virtual space, it has become the second space of human society. On the basis of hardware resources and operating rules, the core elements of cyberspace are ID, data and connection, while the core elements of real space are people, things and things. Each element of the two Spaces can intersect and interact with each other. The reality is mapped to the network, which can produce massive data; And the mining and application of data in the network can react on the real space, making it possible for the city to be “smart”. At the same time, coupled with the mature application of the Internet of Things, cloud computing, big data, AI, AR, VR and other new technologies, the development of smart city has a solid technical foundation.
The new generation of information technology gradually breeds an open urban innovation ecology under the environment of knowledge society. Along with the wave of urbanization, the concept of “smart city” is spawned. In fact, there is no accepted and clear definition of a smart city so far. Generally speaking, the so-called smart city is the use of cloud computing, big data and the Internet of things and other advanced information technology, change and innovation city production, life and development mode, to achieve efficient allocation of urban resources and urban planning, construction, operation and service of wisdom.
The construction of smart city is of great significance in realizing the green and sustainable development of cities, promoting the upgrading of regional industrial structure and the benign development of industries, leading the application of information technology, promoting the urbanization process, enhancing the comprehensive competitiveness of cities and improving the quality of life of residents. It can be said that in the future social and economic development, smart city has an important strategic position and is one of the important new driving forces for China’s economic development in the future.
The construction problem points to project management
The author has participated in a large number of smart city-related construction projects as a planning and top-level design expert and government consultant. In practice, I deeply feel the important role of project management in the construction of smart city. It can be said that most project failures are the result of project management failures.
Wisdom city construction of large or very large projects are very complex, not only because of the complexity of construction content, involving more than professional and related departments, large time span, more major projects involving a large number of management changes and departmental interests conflict, management and technology, as well as the new technologies appear constantly in the process of construction, the impact of the new mode, etc. In the process of building a smart city, the problems outside the technology usually far outweigh the problems of the technology itself. Therefore, effective project management is one of the important factors for the success of smart city construction.
For wisdom urban construction demand presents the characteristics of fuzziness, variability and innovative party a with party b to the requirement of change and innovation to the demand of the targeted happen is a pair of contradiction, put forward by the party a from the perspective of management requirements from a technical point of understanding with party b is a pair of prominent contradictions, this makes the scope management become very difficult. Many builders of smart cities do not pay attention to scope management, which often leads to inconsistent understanding between the two parties, affecting contract implementation, lowering the level of the project and hindering system innovation.
Schedule, scope and quality requirements
Decision-makers in smart cities sometimes don’t understand the complexity and difficulty of the project itself, and they focus more on results. Therefore, the schedule may not be very realistic for the project. How this conflict is handled becomes critical to the success of the project.
Effective communication is needed to clarify the project objectives, clarify the scope of the project, and coordinate the relationship between various parties. For the demands of the management side, the construction side, the contractor, the user side and the public, there are often many barriers in communication. For example, the different professional backgrounds of the user and the construction side lead to different understandings of the same problem. Different jobs will affect the way and Angle of view; Different interest demands will form distinct concerns. All of this makes it difficult to communicate effectively, and also creates a lot of landmines that can lead to failure. Communication is a very big challenge, especially for large smart city projects, and general communication skills are not enough to solve the problem.
Project objectives and success criteria
What are the assessment criteria for the success or failure of smart city construction? We can judge the success or failure of smart city construction from the following three perspectives.
First, from the project management four elements (scope, quality, schedule, cost) to assess. Very few smart city projects meet the requirements in this regard. Every project I’ve worked on has had some problems in these areas, more or less.
Second, from the “project can complete acceptance” to the assessment. From this perspective, smart city construction projects have a high success rate. Because, scheduled acceptance is not only the requirements of Party B, but also the requirements of Party A’s assessment. Party A and Party B have the same appeal in this respect.
Third, from the “project application effectiveness” to assess. After the completion of smart city construction projects, those that can be applied normally and continuously are considered to be basically qualified, those with obvious application effects are considered to be good, and those that can play a supporting role to the city’s strategic goals are considered to be excellent. The reality is that the pass rate is not very high, the good rate is lower, and excellent results are rarely seen.
At present, people usually use the second Angle to evaluate smart city projects, so we see a high success rate of smart city construction projects. This kind of “false high” covers up the potential problems in the construction of smart cities.
The top design
At present, the biggest problem in the construction of smart cities is the lack of top-level design. Some cities nominally have top-level design, but in fact, they lack the logical design and innovation of city-level top-level. Their so-called top-level design is actually just the stack of some low-level projects. Therefore, the current smart city construction is generally difficult to make “city” level of effectiveness, at best can only make some local value.
Smart city construction is a project set, which includes many projects. We often think of a smart city as a collection of small projects, and when each small project is done, a smart city will be done. This understanding is common, but not accurate. We can simply interpret this logic as: make every part good, and the machine will be fine. Naturally, this logic is wrong. In many cases, “machine manufacturing” is more important than “parts production”.
To make smart projects at the city level, we must consider what the overall logic of the “whole machine” of the city is, what problems exist, how to optimize, how to innovate, and what the requirements for parts are, etc. Only in this way can we make smart city projects with overall value of the city. As a smart city project manager, it is necessary to find experts at the corresponding level to carry out the top-level design and overall control of the project, and establish communication channels and coordination mechanisms at the corresponding level.
Project characteristics determine the management style
Smart city construction projects have their outstanding characteristics. Only by understanding these characteristics can we better manage the projects.
Different levels of smart city top-level design have different requirements for project management. If it is only a group of unrelated projects (such as smart transportation, smart environmental protection, office automation, etc.), then project set management should be adopted to focus on resource allocation among multiple projects, guide and coordinate the specific management work of each project, and the final goal is to complete each sub-project, focusing on solving the problem of key resource conflict.
If wisdom city the top-level design of the project is set around the city development strategy, the project is the organic connection between each other, effectively support the overall strategy, then the need for portfolio management, focus on what to do “project” and the logical relationship between project, by helping organizations focus on the maximum value of the project, Align the project portfolio with the city’s development goals, achieve the right balance and mix of projects, and optimize the value of the portfolio by prioritizing and financing the most valuable projects, with the ultimate goal of ensuring that actual implementation and operations are aligned with the city’s development goals.
Most smart city projects are innovative projects with unclear needs. Even imitating successful project cases actually needs to be adjusted or innovated according to its own business characteristics and requirements. For example, Party A requires the establishment of a monitoring system, and its demand is naturally to solve the problem of poor monitoring effect and low effect of the original manual monitoring system. And party B’s plan is often only the existing manual monitoring system electronic, network. Such a design, high level of party A will not be satisfied, because it may improve the efficiency, but not necessarily improve the effect. Although the effect and efficiency are only one word different, but the difficulty of implementation and investment are very different, so it will cause the contradiction on this issue that the two sides of party A and Party B mentioned before.
In addition to the contradiction between party A and Party B, there is also the contradiction between the superior requirements and the construction unit. The superior thinks from the overall point of view, while the construction unit thinks from the point of view of completing specific tasks. There are also conflicts between the different parties involved. From the point of view of project management, this involves the scope management of the project. It is the basic work of project management to make the scope clear in the complex contradictions. If the scope is not clear, other work will have no basic basis.
Smart city projects are always in the process of change, with constantly changing needs. The needs of Party A will change with the requirements of the superior, the development of technology and the change of the environment. Change is the normal state of smart city projects. Change is one of the most basic needs of smart city construction, and what Party B fears most is the change of project scope, which will not only affect the progress, but also greatly increase the development cost. In project management, in the face of such normal changes, the project manager should not only bargain with party A on the content or conditions of the changes, but also consider together with the technical supervisor how to provide products or services that can respond to the changes from the perspective of technical design. In short, Party B should take the initiative to adapt to change.
The top-level design of smart city is not only an issue of information technology, but also a complex issue of the integration of information technology, humanities and social sciences and management sciences (including project management). The design content and deliverables cover information technology, humanities and social sciences, and management science, while the design process also requires deep collaboration of project management work. The word “synergy” is used here rather than the word “coordination” because project management skills such as communication skills, communication management, and scope management directly affect the level and quality of top-level design. It can be seen that for complex, top-level smart city projects, project management is no longer just the management of work beyond the project deliverables, but also an integral part of the “process” to achieve the deliverables.
The construction of smart cities requires a large amount of funds, and the problem of funds has always been a big problem in the construction of smart cities around the country. The PPP model is also one of the ways to solve the capital problem advocated by experts and governments in recent years. In the author’s opinion, smart city projects that rely solely on large investment can only be regarded as pseudo “wisdom”. Spending money on high-tech “smart” projects does not need “city-level” wisdom, but only the skills of technical experts. Smart city is the “wisdom” of a city, so it should play an important role in optimizing the allocation of urban resources and promoting the development of urban economy.
For enterprises engaged in smart city projects, if they do not create more economic value for the city and do not design a good business model for themselves in the process of creating such economic value, it can only show that the enterprise does not have wisdom, nor can it be regarded as smart city construction, but can only be regarded as intelligent project at most. Because good smart city design can create great value for the city, and it has the ability of self-growth. In this case, the profit-driven capital determines that a good smart city project does not need a large amount of government investment.
Because people’s cognition of smart city is not clear enough, new technologies and new concepts continue to emerge. Often, a project has not been completed, and new demands change. Nowadays, intelligent construction all advocates the mode of “small step and fast run”. It is difficult to adapt to the requirements of smart city construction with the traditional project management mode. Agile is a measure to deal with the uncertainties of the project. In the construction of smart city, agile project management mode is worth advocating and promoting.
The construction and development of smart cities cannot be separated from artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, cloud computing, blockchain and other high-tech. However, we tend to ignore the innovation and application of another kind of “technology” — the “technology” of humanities and social sciences. The rapid development of information technology has promoted the transformation of social science and the transformation of production, living and management modes. If we want to build smart cities at the true “city” level, we must attach importance to the top-level design and top-level project management integrating social, economic and cultural innovation. Only in this way, In order to create huge social, economic and cultural value for urban innovation and development. If we blindly invest in technology “intelligence”, it is impossible to realize the “wisdom” of urban ecology with the overall coordination of “society, economy, humanity and environment”.