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Smart City Cloud Innovation Center, Greater Phoenix Economic Council partner on data management platform

The partnership used Amazon Web Services' 'working backwards' process to enhance its services

“ASU Cloud Innovation Center has partnered with the GPEC to provide technological solutions to advance economy in Phoenix.” Illustration published on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020.

The Greater Phoenix Economic Council's recently completed project with ASU’s Smart City Cloud Innovation Center will provide a pathway to better deliver accurate data to the businesses they serve.

The partnership was created to help further GPEC's goal of providing reliable and accurate information to the communities and stakeholders they serve.

“Every day we try to respond to inquiries to daily searches with questions,” said Stephane Frijia, senior vice president of strategy for GPEC. “We wanted to know, how do we collectively respond to the questions in a timely fashion that also reflects the business needs of the company?”

GPEC provides "regional economic information and advocacy" to help Phoenix businesses grow and attract new ones, according to their website. One of the resources GPEC provides is data analytics, and the council recruited the Cloud Innovation Center to optimize its service.

ASU's Smart City Cloud Innovation Center helps smart cities identify challenges and form prototype solutions. The center is a byproduct of ASU's partnership with Amazon Web Services, which provides on-demand cloud computing platforms and application program interfacing.

Frijia said the council prides itself on being able to turn around data in 24 hours or less, so it was necessary to find a way to pull big data, synthesize it and "enhance the delivery."

The project was completed using the "working backwards" process that the center and AWS uses, which begins with an outline of a final product, and the project develops from the end rather than the beginning.

The center provided the necessary expertise required to complete this process from their previous projects on smart cities.

Chris Richardson, deputy chief information officer of development, mobility and smart cities at ASU, said the center isn’t focused on providing solutions. Instead, they provide the resources and perspectives needed to "digitally transform."

The center's resources include faculty, student interns and Amazon Web Services itself. The center uses these resources and the "working backwards" process to create prototypes for their partners.

"The CIC facilitates a 'working backwards' process to come to a common understanding," Richardson said. "Then there is a methodology to produce artifacts that then narrow in what the 'thing' is that then will be prototyped."

For its partnership with GPEC, the center brought together different municipalities in Maricopa County to discuss and understand the problem, then creating a roadmap to determine what needs to be done. 

The center held a "setup workshop" where the problem was examined in the eyes of the consumer, then the team worked backward from there. After that, employees and students at the center developed a prototype solution.

"One of the focuses that we were working on was helping to incorporate that data into one place," said Ryan Hendrix, general manager for the center. "One tool that economic development managers across the Valley can use to help make informed decisions about the right-fit businesses."

Hendrix said the process of working backward usually starts with envisioning what a press release would look like and what frequently asked questions would be. 

Although the Cloud Innovation Center was responsible for aiding in determining a prototype solution, GPEC finalized the solution by using their in-house data scientists and creating a data platform. The finished project is near completion, with only some polishing to be done.

Frijia said the new platform is used to quickly query information that is searched, develop forms or tables easily and have a more free-form conversation with clients, thus producing a more efficient workspace.

“We were extremely satisfied with CIC and what they brought to the table was extremely valuable to us,” Frijia said.

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Luke ChathamCommunity and Culture Reporter

Luke Chatham is a Community & Culture reporter and previous Business and Tech reporter. He also worked in the studio production crew for Cronkite News and is currently a freelance reporter and writer for Arcadia News.

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