Smart cities: The rise of new C-level executives

Move over traditional C-level executives. Cities are adding chief bicycle officer, chief innovation officer, chief data officer and chief citizen officer to their smart city dream team.

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Assembling a smart city dream team

Increasingly, cities are adopting smart technology to become more energy efficient, improve transportation, make neighborhoods safer, manage traffic—basically use technology and the data it generates to create better places to live, work and visit.

As they do so, they’re discovering they need specialists to head the new departments that the smart technology is enabling. And many have created new C-level executives, such as chief bicycle officer, chief innovation officer, chief data officer and chief citizen officer—to name a few. According to global digital business association TM Forum, these are the jobs that will comprise future smart city dream teams.

smart city chief bicycle officer
Chief Bicycle Officer

As cities become increasingly bicycle-friendly, they need people to oversee activities and projects related to cycling—hence the title chief bicycle officer. Last year, Atlanta appointed its first chief bicycle officer, Becky Katz. Her tasks include public outreach, project development, implementation of the Relay Bike Share program and ensuring new development is consistent with cycle-friendly aims.

smart city Chief Innovation Officer
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Chief Innovation Officer

Technology and the ever-growing amount of data it generates can help cities better analyze problems and assess solutions. But they need someone who understands the technology and can assure the data is analyzed and shared with the appropriate departments and businesses. To meet that need, cities have started appointing chief innovation officers.

Challenges CIOs address include public transportation, traffic congestion, parking, lighting and public Wi-Fi access.

In San Francisco, the CIO’s role is to ensure technology drives change in city government, leads technological innovations within the city and creates jobs. In Philadelphia, some of the CIO’s responsibilities are to ensure the IP system is up to date to create services that citizens can perform online. And in Kansas City, Missouri, the CIO identifies the city’s future technological needs, then acts as facilitator to help them become reality.

The ultimate goal of the chief innovation officer is to make cities better places to live and work.

smart city chief night mayor
Chief Night Mayor

When the sun sets, cities stay very much awake. Some cities are even considering having sections that are open 24/7. They could include libraries, offices, restaurants and night clubs. Such nighttime activity, while welcome by some, goes against the wishes of people who go to bed early and want peace and quiet.

To bridge the gap, cities—including Amsterdam (pictured), Paris and Zurich—have created chief night mayor positions. The appointed role is largely about managing and improving relations between night businesses, citizens, visitors and city hall. The difference between this position and the elected mayor is the night mayors have experience with nightlife activities. They understand the night culture and communicate with officials who are often tucked in bed at 10 p.m. and know nothing about the night scene.

smart city Chief Data Officer
Chief Data Officer

With the increased use of IoT sensors to make cities smart—on street lights, traffic signals and automated vehicles, to name just a few things—the amount of data generated is immense. Cities need people who know how to analyze all of that data and ensure all departments have access to it so they can make better decisions.

With that in mind, cities such as Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Diego have created chief data officer positions. Some cities have also been asked to set up a specific in-house Office of Data Analytics, such as that in New York, which includes a small expert team tasked with using public and private data to create smarter and more productive cities. 

“The chief data officer would likely be responsible for championing and driving the use of data throughout every department in the city and for breaking down the silos of data, ensuring that data becomes part of everyone’s responsibility,” says Carl Piva, vice president of strategic programs at TM Forum. “Indeed, with the introduction of the GDPR legislation and an increasing push for a data-driven approach in cities, this role is likely to grow in importance.”

Pictured: City of Chicago Chief Data Officer Tom Schenk

smart city Chief Citizen Officer
Chief Citizen Officer

As of yet, no city has appointed a chief citizen officer, but organizations are talking about this new role. Unlike a mayor, who manages all aspects of a city—commercial businesses, regional and federal governments, non-profit organizations, police departments and fire departments, to name a few—the chief citizen officer would be responsible only for the needs of the citizens and would report to the mayor.

“The chief citizen officer would have direct responsibility for the livability of a community and the overall quality of life of its citizens,” writes Mark Pivon in his blog post The Rise of the Chief Citizen Officer. “Things like transportation, education, healthcare, community events, parks and recreation, housing affordability, employment, communications and social media—all would fall under the domain of the chief citizen officer.”

The chief citizen officer would have to foster an outside-in view—ensure that everyone looks at everything from the citizen’s perspective, adds Carl Piva, vice president of strategic programs at TM Forum.

smart city Chief Digital Officer
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Chief Digital Officer

Industries such as banking, retail and telecommunications already have chief digital officers. They’re responsible for introducing digital technologies across a business: moving marketing spend from analog to digital, digitizing the research and development budget, and digitizing how they service their clients.

Cities have also created this position as part of their smart city initiatives. In some cases, the position is an evolution of the chief technical officer. The City of Melbourne, Boston and New York City currently have a CDO, and London’s mayor recently pledged to appoint one. IDC predicted the number of CDOs would grow fivefold in cities by 2018.

This government position will be responsible for speeding up the digital transition of the city and linking everything digital in the various departments across the city. For example, the person helps the city use technology to better serve citizens, as well as save tax payers money by making city services more efficient and accessible online.

smart city Chief Resilience Officer
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Chief Resilience Officer

The chief resilience officer formulates strategies to strengthen a city's resilience to unforeseen events and their impact on the community, says Carl Piva, vice president of strategic programs at TM Forum. These events could include catastrophic events such as earthquakes and terrorism events. The person also addresses stresses in the city, such as racial and economic inequality, lack of affordable housing, unemployment and climate change issues.

Cities that have a CRO include Boston, MiamiNew Orleans and New York. In Miami (pictured), chief resilience officer is helping to plan for the impact of climate change.

smart city Chief Design Officer
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Chief Design Officer

The way of developing public services is changing. If city officials want residents and visitors to use the smart city tools and services, those things must have a user-friendly design. Enter the role of the chief design officer. Helsinki, Finland, recently appointed Anne Stenros as its first CDO. Her objective is to provide the city with visionary, creative ideas for projects—with a focus on users’ needs and preferences.

“The CDO carries three roles: those of a design professional, a reinforcer of the city brand, and a visionary of future solutions,” writes Roosa Murto in Helsinki Design Week. “The most important objective is to make the city a functional environment for all—for citizens and companies alike.”

smart city Chief Sustainability Officer
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Chief Sustainability Officer

Increasingly, cities leaders seek to create more sustainable and livable cities. To help with that, they’ve created the role of chief sustainability officer.

The chief sustainability officer acts as the city's overall lead in embedding sustainability principles into municipal operations and community development. Responsibilities include improving land use planning, conserving energy and water, mitigating and adapting to climate change, and building transit options. A few cities, including San Francisco, Austin, Chicago and Los Angeles, have appointed this role.

Pictured: A community-built farm on the former Central freeway ramps of San Francisco