A Deep Dive Into VivaCitadel - Episode 3
Delving into VivaCitadel
In the third video of our podcast mini-series, we take a deeper look into VivaCitadel - the product we’re building for the Intelligent City and Living Lab space.
What is VivaCitadel?
VivaCitadel is a web platform that aims to be the one stop shop for all data owned by a city. It provides a single search interface for all data repositories across the city, empowering the city to improve access control over its data within and outside city hall, and creating opportunities for non-tax revenue via the sale of commercially valuable, value-added data (similar to what is done today with Building Information Requests for real estate markets).
Why do cities need VivaCitadel?
When we look at cities as a whole, they’re incredibly diverse - with several lines of business, from building roads to collecting tax and licensing payments, and everything in between. In a world where making data driven decisions is paramount, and significant disruptions lie just around the corner with AI and other major innovations, making sense of a city’s incredibly diverse pool of data is no easy feat. This is compounded by the siloed structure most cities see with their technology - often a “band-aid” approach, where different lines of business solve their problems with different solutions, resulting in an approach with many independent systems that are often difficult to integrate with one another. VivaCitadel aims to make sense of this patchwork of disparate systems and data to facilitate data-driven decision making.
The data-driven decision making process today
Let’s consider a scenario where a city manager wants to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of irrigation systems deployed at city-owned soccer fields. The simplest approach is to go check out those locations in person, decide if they’re over irrigated or under irrigated, and make your best guess as to which systems should be dialed up and which should be dialed down. Then repeat the process a week or so later and re-evaluate. The problem is this is not really data-driven - to achieve that, we must answer questions like “what areas get more or less rain?”, “what is the state of our soccer fields right now?”, and many others.
The challenge is that the process for answering these questions today is heavily reliant on humans - one might email other staff to obtain information, or at least be pointed in the right direction. Even things as simple as all soccer field locations across the city, or rainfall data across different areas of the city typically are shared internally by employees asking others for help and information, and those other employees being gracious enough to take time away from their priorities to provide this support.
This challenge is even greater when we think about higher-level decision making, say, if a city manager were to evaluate the complete irrigation infrastructure of the city with the goal of improving its efficiency and effectiveness across all city infrastructure - parks, gardens, soccer fields, and everything in between. All of the sudden, we’re looking at a much wider pool of data that is needed, which means the manual, e-mail heavy process gets compounded as multiple people across many different departments may be involved.
This effect is also referred to as siloing, where different groups of people within an organization (read business units, or departments) are privy to their information, but there is little to no knowledge of what information even exists outside of this group. In practice, this often leads to duplication of work - department A has information that is useful to department B, which doesn’t even know it exists. Department B may procure that information independently, deploying valuable resources into performing work that has already effectively been done by department A.
Why should we care about mitigating the siloing effect?
Although the status quo has mostly worked for the last several years, cities stand to gain from the efficiencies of a less siloed environment. For example,cities can benefit from reducing context switching from staff, empowering staff who need information to obtain it faster and thus accelerate their work, and even facilitating processes associated with data governance and management without relying almost entirely on collaborative and eager staff to drive forward a stronger data culture.
In addition, this becomes significantly more important when we look at the challenges cities are facing today and in the foreseeable future - wicked problems such as climate change, social disorder, housing shortages, affordability, and others. These issues are multifaceted, and require collaboration between stakeholders within and beyond city halls - academics, industry partners, the community, not-for-profits - all of whom need accurate information to help drive positive change across complex societal problems. So, striving for less siloed environments has tangible benefits today (in terms of efficiencies), and is crucial to empower our communities to face complex challenges effectively moving forward.
The VivaCitadel MVP
In typical startup fashion, we’re validating our research by building the simplest possible solution to the problem we’re approaching - a Minimum Viable Product, or MVP. This is an early stage version of what we believe to be a suitable solution to the siloing problem, and we’re approaching this by building our single search interface for all data stored within SharePoint Online - including all sites, all lists, and all documents. This means users no longer have to find which site may contain the information they need, then navigate through complex folder structures or hope they know the name of the file they need so they can search for it. With VivaCitadel, they can search once and let our system do the heavy lifting of scouring through everything that is available and recommending the best results.
We know our MVP probably doesn’t check every box our customers want, and it likely will need some more work and polishing before it can be meaningfully adopted by municipalities everywhere. And that’s okay. Our goal here is to validate that the data siloing problem exists and is significant enough to merit pilot deployments of this solution, and to partner with problem holders to evolve our platform over the coming months and continue to shape it in the pursuit of a fully featured product that can be meaningfully adopted by municipalities everywhere.
With our MVP completed, we’re looking for cities that want to address their data silos, improve data governance controls, and generate non-tax revenue from data to partner with us for pilot deployments. We’d love to put VivaCitadel in the hands of your employees so we can learn from this experience, all the while we do the heavy lifting to build new integrations and additional features that will iteratively make the product more valuable to you and your team. If you’d like to learn more about our pilot program, you can contact us on our website or contact Stefano, our Technical Product Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!
You can watch the extended version of Episode 3 of our VivaCitadel Podcast series, which talks more about the platform here: Introducing VivaCitadel - VivaCitadel Episode 3 (extended edition)