In areas such as planning there are statutory requirements setting out processes that must be followed. These define sets of policy documents, supporting evidence bases and studies, plans to produce, time scales for reviewing and updating them, and consultation processes.
In terms of decision making, national level guidance is set out requiring the definition of development objectives. These objectives are assessed according to a defined process based on achieving social, economic and environmental criteria.
This process is one of the most developed planning processes in the world, and aims to provide a holistic framework. The weak point however comes in the application of this process, where assessment criteria are tested qualitatively against an evidence base. This leaves room for potentially subjective interpretation by individuals, or situations where group assessments are settled by the person who speaks loudest.
Finally, it relies on a decision made by a councillor, or committee, who may make a politically based decision that may not be related to the functional performance of a city. It should be stressed that this is a hypothetical example to point out a weakness in the system, not a criticism of previous development decisions.
Councils are large organisations employing a wide range of staff. Some may be inexperienced and uninterested while others may be experienced and keen to continue developing. The proper application of processes, systems and tools relies on the human resource using them.
Within a few cities the issue has been raised over whether staff have the appropriate capability to apply a sophisticated tool that requires definition of a problem, manipulation of variables, and the interpretation of results data. Recurring questions can be summarised as whether users be able to ask the right question, or whether people may recognise error in results.
It must be stressed that in no cases were these issues raised around specific departments, but along the generic lines of adopting potentially sophisticated “black box” tools.
Finally, unless processes are embedded in departments to train and familiarise new recruits with these tools, they will always be sensitive to high staff turnover and inconsistent application. Where this happens, the tool will suffer the same fate as data collection currently does in many councils.
These conditions may not be applied to defining how Tombolo creates a digital connector, but how it is accessed and interfaced with.