Philadelphia Restructures Its Innovation and Design Work

Staffers in that office, which was created three years ago, will be transitioned to the Office of Information and Technology or the Office of Chief Administrative Officer at the end of the year.

by / November 6, 2019
Philadelphia City Hall Shutterstock/Marco Rubino

Philadelphia is folding its Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation (ODDT) into other departments, with all team members transitioning to new offices by the end of the year, the city announced in a blog post.

There are two offices where the staff and the work done by the ODDT area headed, and those will be the Office of Innovation and Technology (OIT) and the Office of Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). In the blog, officials described the move “as the next step in the evolution” of Philadelphia’s tech and innovation efforts, noting that the goal is to foster greater focus on forward-facing projects such as deploying human-centered design methodologies.

As the blog also noted, Philadelphia is hiring four new employees to support the work, including a UX strategist, a UX designer, and a pair of content strategists. 

This seems to be part of an ongoing effort in Philadelphia to organize and streamline this type of work. In fact, in May, the city’s GIS leader moved into a new dual role that also included responsibilities of the chief data officer. As the blog notes, the open data team “has already joined OIT’s more centralized data team under Chief Geographic Information/Data Officer Henry Garie.”

The hope is that a more unified, collaborative effort will help accelerate open data work in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, others within the ODDT will make the transition at the end of the year, with that group including content strategists, user experience designers and visual designers. The goal for them is to provide a design and experience lens to work being done to maintain and expand the relatively new phila.gov platform, which was launched during the summer of 2018 with a mission of giving citizens a modernized portal through which to interact with local government. OIT Deputy CIO for Innovation Andrew Buss will direct this digital transformation team in the interim.

The developers in ODDT will also join OIT’s software engineering team, which is led by Director of Software Engineering Dan Lopez. Finally, ODDT service designers and design researchers will be forming a new design studio to be led by CAO Director of Strategic Design Liana Dragoman. The idea is that that office will help with cross-agency process improvement work.

City officials are optimistic these changes will help scale work that is already being done, noting in the blog, “Under the leadership of Stephanie Tipton, interim chief administrative officer, and Mark Wheeler, chief information officer, design, development and data now have permanent homes, growing teams, and expanding portfolios in OIT and the CAO.”

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