Thursday, December 3, 2009

Lessons from Boston's City Hall and from David Plouffe

Just came across this story this morning about how the city of Boston is empowering its citizens using the iPhone. Not only is the app itself cool - you take a picture of a pothole and it recognizes and enters coordinates - that is cool! - but also, refreshing to see city officials keeping up with the times and using a technology to connect with and simplify lives of citizens! I'm already a huge fan of the Wi-Fi option available on some Seattle buses - here's to hoping there's more coming!

On another note, I'm currently reading the memoir of David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager. The book itself is rather dry - no literary flourishes there - but I'm rather surprised at the detailed use of metrics & intelligence within the campaign. I'd heard all the stories about the tech savviness of Obama's campaign and I expected to read about how they used the Internet and social media. More than that though, I've been struck by a few other things that any business could learn from as well
1. Early strategy setting and then sticking to the plan - Only about a 100 pages in so far but he hammers on the point of how they devised a clear strategy early on and then stuck to it with a strict discipline. The strategy itself was based very clearly on a detailed analysis of the playing field - the candidates strengths, electorate profiles, a gap analysis and a clear recommendation of what was needed. Again and again, he gives himself and Obama credit for sticking to the plan even when there was tremendous pressure to buckle and be diverted.

2. Great CRM (Customer relationship management) - I was amazed that they managed and cross referenced detailed voter lists against various sources. Matching Internet sign up lists with volunteers showing up at events and then against contributors to the campaign allowed them to paint an incredibly detailed picture of the kind of support base they were building and get an extremely accurate pulse on their campaign supporters. This is what I mean when I am preaching a 360 degree view of the customer.

3.Metrics - good ones - Even as the media and the country at large went nuts over every which poll that came out during the intense campaign period, he describes that they set their own, internal, more reflective metrics and measured themselves by those more than anything else. One specific instance is where the press reported total money raised by campaigns during the Primaries. However, there is apparently, a distinction between money that can be used during the primary itself and money that has to go to the General Election spending. By drawing this distinction internally and externally, they kept their own team focused on what mattered most at the moment and also probably highlighted their planning & strategy externally. Again, a great example of prescient strategy, great discipline and rock solid grasp of true metrics. As a business analyst, it made me think whether I had the right metrics to track progress against.

Great examples of innovative uses of technology and just clear headed and with-the-times thinking in American politics. Would love to see more examples!

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