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Collaboration is an important factor of every digital transformation strategy, and it becomes increasingly significant when building smart cities, where a wide range of connected devices and data streams come together to improve the efficiency of an urban area.

Organisations often have internal collaboration between departments, such as IT and non-IT. However, this tends to extend beyond the four walls of your organisation when it comes to the development of smart cities due to the involvement of residents and other businesses in the city.

That might include organisations collaborating with local councils and even startups as they work to build a smart city. Whether that is based on data sharing or technology and IT alignment, CIOs tend to be responsible for the leadership of this.

CIOs are likely to face challenges when facilitating collaboration between private and public sector organisations that have differing priorities and resources. Finding alignment here can be the difference between the success and failure of a project.

“We define a smart city as something that harnesses the power of data from public to private sources for the benefit of Londoners and people who work and visit here,” Theo Blackwell, chief digital officer of London told Computerworld UK last year. “We see that as enabling us to seize the opportunities of a city that’s growing and dealing with its challenges as well.”

"That means using data to find solutions and mobilising the different bits of brain centres of London together is how we envision a smarter London - and fundamental to that, which is a key part to my role, is doing that collectively,” he added.

In a blog post on the topic, consultancy Deloitte advises organisations to look for the different opportunities available to partner with cities. This includes seeking initiatives that match the end-goal of each organisation.

It also adds that organisations, whether non-profits or social enterprises, should do more than just financing these initiatives, but seek available opportunities that would add value to the city and businesses such as local transport services.

Read next: How CIOs can improve collaboration with other departments, and why they should

How to collaborate strategically

CIOs and CTOs can lead their organisation to collaborate in a number of ways, from partnering with innovative startups and co-developing emerging technology solutions with local authorities.

This often requires some core strategic planning to collaborate effectively and may include promoting the need for innovation to improve certain areas of the city, such as modernising homes and transportation infrastructure with these local authorities and organisations.

A strategic CIO will be expected to collaborate with the right organisations to fulfil such requirements. For instance, any work in relation to transport in the area would require close communication with the council and its local transport services.

Case study

For example, London-based media agency Posterscope recently collaborated with local councils to investigate innovative out-of-home advertising opportunities.

“We are a media agency so we don’t own any of the infrastructure or the hardware to do that, so we would work with different businesses within cities,” Gavin Lee, CTO at Posterscope told CIO UK in an interview.Whether that would be to enable a local council to look at the assets that they have as a way of monetising them for advertising, through to a new product launch.

“We’ve done work with smart bikes and we’ve got collaboration with a local authority in Greenwich to work out what solutions they are trying to do, and whether there are marketing opportunities that we can help them turn into a product.

“Projects of such large scale would mean we’d have alignments with some of the compartments within the city,” he added.

Lee explained the importance of planning when collaborating on smart city development. This can vary from identifying the data that will be used, making sure its GDPR compliant to recognising an ethical way of treating that data.

“It’s important to plan in the direction that you’re going,” Lee said. “We identify the industry, the level of data that would be available in the marketplace and then we start the journey of the ecosystem.”