“Key competences for smart cities stakeholders” – SmartDevOps workshop at ALL DIGITAL Summit

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“Key competences for smart cities stakeholders” – SmartDevOps workshop at ALL DIGITAL Summit

The workshop “Key Competences for Smart Cities Stakeholders” was organised by the SmartDevOps consortium on 8 October 2020 online as part of the ALL DIGITAL Summit. It was co-chaired by SmartDevOps project coordinator Prof Panos Fitsilis of the University of Thessaly and Prof Hans Rudiger Kaufmann from the University of Applied Management Studies in Mannheim.

The workshop started with the introduction of SmartDevOps project and DevOps approach by Prof Fitsilis, followed by Prof Kaufmann presentation of the main research findings of the project, and finally Prof Angelika Kokkinaki from University of Nicosia presented the SmartDevOps MOOC, which is currently the project’s very tangible result. Unfortunately, due to technical reasons, Prof Wilfried Bolewski couldn’t deliver his keynote speech on corporate diplomacy. This is an interesting concept to be applied in smart cities, as one of the problems is to coordinate the whole ecosystem of smart cities, and we share the full speech/article “Smart City Diplomacy Inspired by Corporate Diplomacy” in a separate blogpost.

To watch the recording of the workshop, please scroll down.


Competences for Smart Cities – Results from the SmartDevOps project

Prof Panos Fitsilis started with the notion of a smart city that we should define as an ecosystem, which offers a variety of services to citizens, ensures information exchange between subsystems, and enables analysis of information, creation of statistics for optimizing resources utilisation.

Prof Fitsilis underscored five key challenges and explained in detail what each of those meant in relation to the smart city ecosystem:

  • Digital transformation that affects all aspects of citizens’ life
  • It is a problem domain of high complexity – many stakeholders, many subsystems, various technologies, etc
  • New ways to develop software. Technologies are changing rapidly, and now the development is different from the methodologies used in the past
  • City crisis management (resilience), crisis that could be caused by many different reasons, like environmental, health
  • Training needs (or lack of awareness). We need to develop consensus of what are the skills for people to run the smart cities

Why DevOps?

While talking about the new ways to develop software, Panos remarked that we have two types of people that we need to bring together – the ‘inventors’ and the ‘mechanics’. Unlike the past, we cannot wait for five years for a new product or service; we need this immediately to offer it to the market. From the other side, we have people who offer this service and who focus on stability, because they want to give high quality every day. We have to balance rapid innovation made available to the public – to the customers, and at the same time we should offer the consumers reliable services. This is a megatrend for the current society. E.g., with COVID-19, we were expecting services to be available to the citizens next week, because there was a pressing need, and this is happening more and more often.

The answer to this question, at least on the technical level, is DevOps methodology. This is the attempt to bring together inventors and service providers in one team to make innovation and delivery one unique process. And this is the main idea that smart cities officials should have in mind – citizens cannot wait for next year, they need to be offered services today.

DevOps eliminates this gap – the gap between invention, development of the idea, between development of the new product/service and the people that are deploying and delivering this service.

It creates one unique team, and the software is developed according to this approach. This way, the software is delivered much faster, more frequently, we limit substantially the failures of the services, and whenever the failure happens, the recovery time is much faster.

Training needs

Until now there has been a big lack of specialized training for the staff working in municipalities or at least for the related sectors, like IT companies providing solutions for municipalities. In the EU funded projects, so-called light house projects all are focusing on technical solutions, but not on the ecosystem. We don’t have enough projects working on training smart city staff, enough curricula. People working on this topics usually have undergone some training courses on technical issues. And this collection should produce the smart city trained officials.

So, we need to have a systematic approach to smart city skills training. And that is what our SmartDevOps project is focusing on. Smart DevOps has developed three job profiles necessary for smooth operations and further developed of solutions for smart cities:

  • A Smart City Planner
  • A Smart City IT Manager
  • A Smart City IT Officer

The Consortium have developed a European VET curriculum for these profiles with 40 training modules that correspond to the needs of each profession. It is composed of a MOOC, in presence training and work-based learning. The objective is to standardise these new profiles.

Summary of Research Findings

Prof Hans Rudiger Kaufmann continued with the research, which was conducted by the project consortium during the first phase of the project, and presented some of the findings, which formed the base for the Curriculum development.

As a result of the research, the following hypotheses were confirmed:

  • Citizen and identity driven strategies require different competences than technology driven strategies
  • There is a relationship between a citizen and identity driven approach and DevOps related decisions
  • There is a relationship between different Smart City (SC) administrative profiles and required general transversal and IT specific competences (not significant, but strongly implied by frequency tables)
  • There is a relationship between SC services and DevOps related and transferal competences
  • SC Administrative competences will differ according to their level of external cooperation
  • Different SC services require different software architectures and IT specific competences

Then Prof Kaufmann presented the results of national documentary analysis of market demands in Germany, Italy, Cyprus, and Greece, and the main conclusions regarding the competences for smart city professionals.

Key competences for Smart City professionals:

Transversal/ general management competences: mandatory for both Smart City Planner and Chief Digital Officers, less for IT officers (differentiated with national differences)

Key transversal competences for a Smart City Planner:

  • Social competences, personal, methodological, planning, and general technological
  • technical skills to switch from operation to strategic tasks (co-operation);
  • broad and deep understanding of the process due to higher process complexity and city planning capabilities; Territorial planning
  • Resilience (co-operation); social competences; being co-operative

Key transversal competences for a Chief Digital Officer (Smart City IT Manager):

  • Social competences; general technical; personal; Methodological; Legal
  • technical skills to evaluate and apply the integration between geospatial tech and traditional IC tech and engineering processes’
  • Understanding IT security and cybersecurity
  • Networking skills; ability to work in a team, create relationships

Commonalities between Smart City Planner and Chief Digital Officer (equal relevance for both): ability to work in a team; efficiency orientation; flexibility; ability to work under pressure.

General IT management competences: for Chief Digital Officers and IT officers – mandatory, for Smart City planners only introductory knowledge is mandatory

DevOps related competences: for Chief Digital Officers and IT Officers – mandatory, SC planner – only introductory knowledge is mandatory

Specific Smart City related competences: mandatory for SC Planners and Chief Digital Officers; but more optional for IT Officers.

Citizen centric perspective – attributed mandatory importance for all profiles.

The speaker also shared qualitative findings, with quite interesting suggestions and reflections that you can see in the presentation or in the workshop video, competences typology and comparison between DevOps and European Frameworks.

The most important conclusions of the research:

  • It is paramount to balance transversal and digital competences
  • Transversal competences are mandatory for both smart city planers and chief digital officers
  • Separate training for IT officers (because of the different competence set, i.e. more optional transversal competences)
  • DevOps includes all transversal competences taught by European VET providers, but importantly, adds new ones: ambiguity tolerance, emotional intelligence, strategic vision, intercultural skills, leadership and management, stakeholder engagement, knowledge management, advanced presentation skills
  • Compared to European VET providers, DevOps imparts competences on “Agile methods”, “IT Quality Assurance”, and “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence”.
  • European VET training offers clearly lack DevOps training

DevOps is currently associated with technical connotations, but we suggest associating it with real benefits for diverse stakeholders, such as higher level competitiveness, or more tailored offers to citizens.

Design and delivery of the SmartDevOps MOOC

Prof Angelika Kokkinaki presented the Smart-DevOps MOOC that was designed by the project consortium and which was about to start. She gave a brief introduction to a MOOC concept, with lessons learned from other institutions and other MOOCs and explained how Smart DevOps MOOC was designed and developed.

Major concerns in the community but also for each learner that had to be taken into account:

  • Problem-based learning and group learning in a MOOC setting offers motivation which is a primary driving force for learners to finish the course
  • The lack of motivation is one of the primary causes for the failure of students to success in a distance learning environment
  • Course design, including options for interaction, plays a significant role in the level of students motivation to learn, especially in an e-learning environment
  • In a balanced assessment system, both summative and formative assessments are an integral part of information gathering.
  • It is important how the course is assessed, whether it leads to certification of completion of possibly to a formal certification or they qualify for an additional training as is the case with our SmartDevOps course.

Smart DevOps MOOC was based on instructional design model which provides general guidelines or a framework which can guide the course design and development process to achieve instructional goals. SmartDevOps MOOC follows the ADDIE model – the most commonly used model in instructional design which enables the delivery of high quality content tailored to the needs of the learning community.

The ADDIE approach illustrates an iterative and self-corrected process since it provides continuous assessment in every step and follows a team-based approach for development, which includes:

  • The author who designs and develops the content;
  • The technical reviewer who monitors the intermediary outcomes assuring the following of the instructional design guidelines
  • The scientific reviewer who assures coherence and validity of the produced content

Smart-DevOps MOOC outline

Based on the research, 15 modules were identified as common for the three job profiles, and they were grouped together in a MOOC.

Every module consists of 2-5 unites and requires about 5-10 hours of workload for learners.

Each unit has a combination of core learning objects (e.g. presentation), additional educational material (e.g. videos), collaboration objects (e.g. forum), and assessment objects (e.g. quizzes). They are delivered in the order that enables learners to fulfil specific learning outcomes.

Learn more here


00:02:40 Workshop starts; Introductions
00:09:13 Competences for Smart Cities – Results from the SmartDevOps project – by Prof Panos Fitsilis
00:40:35 DevOps Competences for Smart Cities – Research Findings – by Prof Hans Rüdiger Kaufmann
01:16:10 Designing, developing and piloting a MOOC for Smart City professionals – by Prof Angelika Kokkinaki