The city's IT overhaul is not going so well. Here's how to do better - Philly


Aug. 10, 2017 12:42 pm

The city’s IT overhaul is not going so well. Here’s how to do better

Reporter emeritus Juliana Reyes penned a op-ed on finding a better path forward for City Hall's tech efforts.

Philly CIO Charlie Brennan speaks before City Council in April.

(Photo by Roberto Torres)

A story by Inquirer reporter Claudia Vargas revealed Friday that the city’s IT upgrades have gone over-budget by $21 million and are significantly delayed.

In an talk-back op-ed titled “‘Fight the culture of shame’: Why Philly’s tech upgrades fail and how we can fix them”,’s Juliana Reyes shared some thoughts on how to improve efficiency in the tech space. One of the more eye-catching suggestions? “Do what startups do.”

Yes, this line is getting old and there are definitely lots of things tech companies do wrong, but when it comes to developing software, startups have it down to a science. Build a working prototype, known in startup circles as a “minimum viable product.” Get user feedback and apply it. Repeat as necessary. When governments execute tech projects, they often favor one big release, which leaves no room for evolution along the way.

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In her piece, Reyes also pointed to shaking up the way the office goes about getting talent in the door, suggesting ODDT’s fellowship program as a “promising” solution.

Earlier this year, we caught CIO Charlie Brennan’s presentation at City Council’s budget hearings. At the time, Brennan doubled down on his focus on legacy projects like fixing the city’s phone lines. It’s in line with what was expected of the former beat cop that took over the city’s top tech job early last year.

  • Joe

    Why is there not a larger civic tech scene here? Clearly the city could use the help. Or to just have it all outsourced entirely.

  • Jon Ross

    Not much will change in this town until they start hiring visionaries and “outside the box” thinkers. Everyone hires people who think like they do. I have a degree in the field of study invented by a former Philadelphia Science Center resident and world class inventor R.Buckminster Fuller. They should hire me.
    “To change something, build a new model (of thinking) that makes the existing model obsolete.”

  • Projects go better with you start with the end in mind. And Juliana Reyes’ comments about MVP (minimally viable product) – a critical element of the design thinking process of prototyping and market testing, taking feedback to improve – is spot on. The government is also used to spending OPM (other peoples money) so they have an entirely different view about managing costs, especially compared to startups. Which is a sad truth, but a reality. Which begs the question: will the project manager or others that allowed the budget train wreck and non-deliverable outcome of this large waste get let go? If I were a betting man, my money is on “not very likely.” Another sad truth about public official accountability. Guess I’ll go buy a soda now, so they can grab some tax $ to pour into the next municipal boondoggle. 😮


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