Correction: lobbying budget in the millions, not billions! Sorry for error!
Great topic– thanks for writing about it! It is definitely true that TurboTax has played an important role in simplifying tax preparation through digital means in the context of the current tax system, but interestingly, TurboTax has also played a role in lobbying to keep taxes as complicated as they currently are. TurboTax spent billions of dollars lobbying to prevent common sense reforms to tax filings that would improve the process for taxpayers dramatically. (1) In some sense, you could see this as a smart investment by TurboTax to preserve its competitive advantage (no one will need to pay for TurboTax if taxes are made simpler to file). But there’s also a downside. As media groups got wind of this lobbying, there has been a movement to boycott TurboTax. Who knows how impactful it will be, but it’s worth looking at TurboTax with some skepticism and caution. (2)
Beyond this challenging PR, I think TurboTax does have some really interesting projects and opportunities on the horizon. There’s been a lot of policy conversation about the evolving “gig economy” sector of people who work in contract work rather than traditional W2 employment. Platforms like Uber, Airbnb, and TaskRabbit are shifting how people earn, and gig economy workers are treated differently under the tax code. There taxes are complex and hard to navigate, but due to regulatory and social scrutiny, platform companies are increasingly looking to support their workers in filing taxes. In response, TurboTax/Intuit have created a new tool to help gig economy workers track earnings and file their taxes (3). Uber has even partnered with Intuit to create a new tax dashboard for its drivers (4). TurboTax should be thoughtful to keep responding to evolving trends in workforce participation so that it can deliver value to emerging segments of tax payers.
Gonzalo– great post! Thanks for sharing. FastPark seems like a great example of the kind of innovative IoT player that City governments in the United States are increasingly partnering with. I really like how you made the case for the value FastPark can offer to local authorities in terms of dynamic pricing, reduced traffic, and other information.
This example made me think about how the City of Boston has partnered with the traffic app Waze to learn more about traffic patterns, in particular flagging double-parked cars in order to ticket them and get them off the streets (1). This success suggests increasing receptivity to this kind of partnership among City governments. I also wonder, though, about the capabilities and IT updates Cities need to build to effectively integrate this kind of technology into their operations. Will FastPark play a role in helping to build up the needed skills and technologies in order to generate sufficient demand? Or will it just depend on this trend evolving over time in Cities?
I also think the element you describe about flexibility in the operating model is absolutely key. Successful Public-Private-Partnerships tend to vary along a spectrum in terms of how much of the risk, cost, and ongoing operating is borne by a private sector provider versus by the government. I’ve seen lots of examples along this spectrum in the infrastructure and development spaces, so it’s really interesting to think about a similar dynamic is relevant with a civic tech product. The National Council on Public Private Partnerships describes this spectrum, noting that no two PPPs are exactly the same. The vary greatly by geography, project type, and moment in time (2). Perhaps FastPark can gain a durable competitive advantage by learning about this range of models and understanding how other private partners to PPPs decide which one applies in which context.
Hey Michael Alan,
Great post–thank you for shining light on this critical issue! I think your assessment makes a ton of sense and really resonates with how I see this issue. Police brutality needs to be addressed, technology can play some part, but body cameras alone are not the solution. As you note, many of the recent police killings of unarmed people of color were documented on camera (albeit civilians taking cell phone videos, not police body cameras), and that has not actually led to consistent indictment or punishment for the police. I also really agree with your point that the trust and community engagement components are critical.
The NYPD is doing some interesting things to try to restore its credibility and legitimacy with communities of color, and some of these changes and interventions involved technology. I had the chance to meet with the NYPD’s deputy director of IT last year, and she highlighted some elements of organization change and tech integration, including:
-Creation of new role “Neighborhood Coordinating Officer” who would have dedicated time to building relationships in communities (1)
-New, interactive training and curriculum (2)
-Integrating new, community-centric metrics into the data tracked in CompStat (3)
-Creating a new “Mobility Initiative” designed to give all officers mobile technology access so they can interact with citizens more easily in varying contexts
-NYPD has struggled with using them to foster productive interactive conversations with communities. To address this challenge, the NYPD recently launched a new platform called “IdeaScale,” which aims to crowdsource public concerns by giving citizens an easily accessible and anonymous communication platform and then promoting posts and ideas with large followings. (4)
These changes are all exciting, but I think the NYPD still has a lot to do in terms of building out the right metrics (CompStat’s legacy is so fraught and hard to address), ensuring that new tech tools and platforms are as citizen-centered as possible, and pairing new tech with deep investments in outreach.
Thanks for your post!
1. (NYPD). “The Way Forward.”
2. New York City Police Department (NYPD). “Training: Bringing the NYPD Into the 21st Century.” http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/html/home/POA/pdf/Training.pdf.
3. New York City Police Department (NYPD). “Trust: Bridging the Police/Community Divide.”
4. Mueller, Benjamin, and Jeffrey E. Singer. “New York Police to Use Social Media to Connect with Residents.”, The New York Times, March 25, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/26/nyregion/nypd-to-use-social-media-platform-to-address-quality-of-life-issues.html?_r=0.
Hey Jenna– great post! A very interesting topic, and I agree with what other comments have noted about how important it is for media to remain vibrant to help educate people. A few thoughts that occurred to me after reading your post and the other comments:
Rita Skeeter brings up questions about objectivity given that Jeff Bezos has such an influential role and plays such an important part in sustaining the paper. I think that’s a huge red flag in my book. In talking about his justifications for buying the Post, Bezos cites interest in turning the paper into a global powerhouse. He talks about how well positioned the Post is to play a critical role as a watchdog for American government officials (and for global leaders).(1) I agree that Bezos has helped the Post become a more financially sustainable institution and that it has been an important voice in this campaign season. However, is the Post positioned to be a watch dog of businesses if it is owned by a billionaire business man? The press should be a watchdog of politics but also of business, ideally.
I also share Captain Koloth’s interest in talent. It does seem like getting the right engineers is critical. Beyond that, I wonder about how the talent needed to create the content that will be best adapted to digital settings. Will WaPo need to hire more bloggers? More millennials? It seems like an interesting challenge to hire both traditional journalists and this new profile.
There’s been a ton of conversation recently about how digital media has created the opportunity for “fake news” to promulgate. This election season has seen fake news sharing be particularly problematic. Facebook has come under fire. (2). Will trend and conversation impact WaPo at all?
Thanks for the post!
Interesting post and a compelling articulation of the value of a new platform that would take the place of existing intermediaries and recruiters. A few questions and thoughts came to mind for me in reading this:
-Competency articulation: I’ve done some work in the postsecondary education/workforce/labor space, and one of the challenges I’ve encountered is that many employers don’t actually have a good articulation of the competencies that lead to success in their fields.(1) It seems like Hired is well-equipped to add value to employers based on the technical skills they have identified as needed, but there may be room for Hired to play a role in evolving efforts to support companies and sectors in exploring and codifying the skills and discrete competencies that are most predictive of success. There are a few interesting examples of nationwide convenings and organizations trying to bring companies together to try to articulate the competencies that matter most, and maybe that creates some opportunity for Hired to add additional value. Interesting ones to check out include ACT Foundation and Business Roundtable’s National Network of Business and Industry Associations (2). Even if this topic remains peripheral to Hired’s core offering, it seems important to be aware of how this conversation might change the ways that companies are hoping to screen talent.
-In addition to the refined view of hard-skill competencies, there may be room for Hired to incorporate other kinds of assessments into its process. Are there “soft skills” that would matter to hiring decisions? Diversity targets? What about the “performance versus potential” questions we discussed in LEAD? It makes me think about the portion of the hiring process that Hired is best and least suited to supplant. Or maybe it just impacts the portion of jobs Hired is suited to support with (i.e., very technical, individual contributor type roles)
-By delivering its core product, Hired gets access to a really interesting and large data set that could create a competitive advantage over time. Specifically, Hired gets to see what job types and what skill sets are most in-demand. Hired can use this information to work with other players in the pipeline to career (postsecondary education, boot camps, etc.) to ensure sufficient demand of the needed talent over time. Hired will have a good aggregate view of labor skill demand that it can use to design the services it provides to companies and to talent.
Thanks for the post!
Oops! Ignore my last line of notes to myself 🙂
Great post! I remember reading a really compelling New Yorker article about Miami’s flooding that touched on a lot of these elements– including the Governor’s denial, the scope and scale of the problem, and the huge economic impacts ahead. It also raised some really interesting impacts of the growing flooding that would probably further impact the tourism industry. For example, as flooding gets worse, it will probably become harder and harder to get financing and insurance for coastal hotels and resorts. Fascinating to think about how the tourism industry can respond to these kinds of changes in the supportive ecosystem. (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/12/21/the-siege-of-miami)
I also noticed in reading for this assignment that one of the anticipated impacts of climate change is on diseases. In particular, climate change will increase the spread and effect of vector-borne diseases (i.e., mosquito and tick borne) like malaria, dengue fever, and likely zika. (http://www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth/pubs/vector-borne-disease-final_508.pdf). I wonder if disease will become another climate change related threat to Florida’s tourism industry. I found a few interesting articles talking about worries about how Zika would impact tourism that seem really related to your post. Fascinating to think how deep the effects might be! (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/01/miami-zika-virus-tourism-industry-winter-season)
Thanks for the post! I totally agree with Elizabeth that the opportunity to reduce meat consumption could be a very fruitful (or fruit-and-veggie-full…heheh) way to cut emissions dramatically. As a vegetarian for whom climate change is a major motivator for avoiding meat, I’m really excited and curious about the emerging market of lab-grown meat like Beyond Meat!
I especially like your point that getting plant-based meat products to grow as a portion of the market would require consumer behavior shift as well as different choices by suppliers and retailers. On the consumer behavior shift front, I was thinking of some of the same considerations Elizabeth raised above. There is a huge interest in eating more natural and healthful food, and there is mounting skepticism of the factory farming/meat industry. Perhaps those trends create a big opportunity for Beyond Meat (and for Tyson, therefore).
That said, there a two big assumptions that would need to play out to make that possible:
1) People have to be willing to give Beyond Meat a try: I’ve read a bunch about the Herculean effort Beyond Meat (and other competitors) have put in trying to create a product that is a close in taste and mouthfeel to “real” meat as possible. They are clearly recognizing a certain skepticism and squeamishness among consumers who are hesitant to try new “fake” meat products. Getting the taste and sensation as comparable as possible is a critical component of the strategy, but it’s also important to lower barriers to sample so that more and more people are willing to taste it and see how comparable it really is. (http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2015/01/fake-meat-snob-no-more) (https://www.technologyreview.com/s/536296/the-problem-with-fake-meat/)
2) People have to believe Beyond Meat is more healthful: There are two things I’m worried about in this camp. I found a few articles citing that some of the additives used to simulate meat taste may be harmful to health (including smokiness, which could be a carcinogen). It seems to be the early consensus that, overall, substitutes are more healthful than meat, but consumers may still be wary of new kinds of threats. (http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/04/125066/#.WB-3GvkrLb0). Second, I worry about the totally baseless suspicion food consumers have of “processed” foods. Though there is little evidence about the relationship between level of processing and healthiness, many consumers shun foods that seem less natural. This can also be seen in the resistance to GMOs, which has little to no scientific evidence supporting it. I worry that health-conscious consumers might lump Beyond Meat in with GMOs and other rejected foods. (http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2016/03/the_gmo_labeling_movement_is_about_faith_not_facts.html)
Thanks for the post!
Very cool! It is incredible what scale of energy savings Related is able to create through its LEED and retrofitting approaches. Very compelling. It also seems like a classic “win-win” where the profit maximizing decision is the same thing as the most environmentally sound decision.
A few thoughts / reflections:
1) Hudson Yards: I’ve done a bit of work following the Hudson Yards development mostly from a civic tech/ urban innovation perspective. I know that the project is going to be not only one of the most environmentally friendly (as you describe) but also one of the most comprehensively networked developments ever built. I know that Hudson Yards is partnering with CUSP to install a wider array of sensors to track elements of lifestyle and behavior in the “quantified community”, including pollution levels, traffic patterns, waste, energy usage, etc. (https://www.engadget.com/2014/05/07/hudson-yards-smart-neighborhood/). This strikes me as an awesome opportunity for Related to learn about the actual environmental impact of its developments and to test and tweak the model to figure out what will actually drive more sustainable performance.
2) The incorporation of high standards for efficiency are obviously helpful for the climate change mitigation fight (reducing emissions, etc.), but how is Related thinking about climate change adaptation? New York’s coasts will be vulnerable to extreme weather, flooding, and rising seas. Are there ways that Related can incorporate a resilience and protection lens into its projects? What investments need to be made to allow its projects to safely persist in a more volatile context? (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/04/science/flooding-of-coast-caused-by-global-warming-has-already-begun.html?_r=0)
3) I also totally agree with Kenny’s point about retrofitting. I wonder if there would be resistance at the individual level (even though it’s clearly a great idea from a longer-range energy savings perspective). This past summer I worked at the City of Boston on the Economic Development team, and they were working on a really interesting initiative designed to give small business owners bridge capital to finance energy efficiency projects that would have long-run cost savings impact. (https://www.boston.gov/economic-development/energy-efficiency-and-sustainability). I wonder if a similar approach could be used to incentivize retrofits?
Thanks for the post! Very cool!
Retrofitting at individual level– what working capital mechanisms– city of boston;
This is super interesting as an example of some of the second-order impacts of climate change on businesses. Climate change will change the way many large fortune 500 companies have to operate, so in order to stay relevant and add value to clients, companies that serve those players also need to adapt!
I really like what you describe as a strategy for both developing a practice and the right capabilities internally and also building an influence agenda to gain prominence and attract clients. I know Deloitte is already doing some interesting stuff in this space, too. I had the chance to plan a panel for the Social Enterprise Conference last year where a Deloitte Partner (Will Sarni) spoke about water sustainability for enterprise (https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/profiles/wsarni.html). So it seems like some of the services are being developed, and some of the thought leadership is already happening.
Your point about a more integrated and thoughtful approach makes a lot of sense, but I had a few questions/reactions to your plan.
1) On creating a stand-alone practice: I appreciate your point that creating an independent practice within the firm is a good way to demonstrate commitment, to advertise that to clients, and to begin to align talent and resources around this new type of service. I wonder, though, if over time “sustainability” services will actually be seen as more of a cross-cutting capability that must be embedded in all of the engagements Deloitte engages in. At the (social sector) consultancy I was at before coming to school, like most consultancies, there were a set of content area verticals (education, public health, etc.) that were combined with cross-cutting capabilities (mission definition and strategy clarity, measurement and evaluation, growth planning, etc.). These capabilities were still advertised to clients and internally experts were staffed to “own” them, but they were seen as supportive of a broad set of practice areas. Maybe a model to consider! (https://www.bridgespan.org/services)
2) On developing the suite of services: One thing one my mind is how varied the sustainability-related challenges businesses are likely to face will be. The “Risky Business” report we read described a really wide range of impacts that would play out differently by region. Ideally, the sustainability capability would allow Deloitte to handle all of these kinds of changes, but I wonder if part of the strategy for developing this capability must be defining the highest impact services to develop first. What are the sectors and geographies that will be impacted first (coastal cities? agriculture?) and what are the most important services for them (infrastructure planning? new technologies?)? Deloitte could set itself up for success by taking a clear point of view on that and targeting service development and client pitching accordingly. (http://riskybusiness.org/site/assets/uploads/2015/09/RiskyBusiness_Report_WEB_09_08_14.pdf)
3) Competition: I love the idea that Deloitte can be an early mover in this space, but I know there are already some other consultancies exploring similar work. For example Accenture has unveiled a big focus on sustainability services. (https://www.accenture.com/us-en/sustainability-index). How will Deloitte differentiate itself over time?
Thanks for the post!
Hey World Traveler,
Thanks for the great post highlighting such a critical vulnerability in our public systems! I remember travelling to Boston during the winter of snowpocaylpse-level weather and being struck by how totally shut down the T was. The Boston-dwelling friend I was staying with had effectively given up on trying to commute using the T, which is obviously not a tenable solution to urban mobility issues.
I really like the set of things you highlight for incorporation of climate change resiliency into infrastructure improvements. The first thing that occurred to me in response was wondering about the budgetary feasibility of the changes you described. I know that part of why the cars on many of the lines are so old and so unreliable is that budget shortfalls have led to years of deferred maintenance, and the MBTA has already drawn down dramatically from all existing funding sources (i.e., State funding). In response to budget pressures, the T is in the midst of an initiative to increase revenue and decrease costs to reduce shortfalls. I was wondering if that makes changing gears to incorporate further resiliency planning especially hard given lack of resource flexibility and the fact that senior managers may be preoccupied with this initiative. I know that part of the point of the cost cutting in the operating budget, though, is to create more buffer for capital improvement projects, so hopefully the conclusion of the budget initiative will be an opportune time to push for the changes you describe (https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/03/15/mbta-expects-smaller-budget-deficit-next-year/W9uwEeYiZCTMlZkIjOxZEJ/story.html)!
I also started wondering about how else the MBTA can set itself up for success with climate adaptation issues. First, there are likely interesting practices to borrow or learn from in other cities, and there are thought leaders like the Rockefeller Foundations 100 Resilient Cities project (http://www.100resilientcities.org/) working to improve various elements of cities’ responsiveness to climate change and other long-range threats. Maybe there are practices the T can learn from?
I also started wondering about other creative financing schemes like “green bonds” and pay-for-success contracting. (http://www.nationalservice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Pay%20for%20Success%20Fact%20Sheet%20December%202015.pdf)
(https://www.climatebonds.net/market/explaining-green-bonds). Is there a way to demonstrate all of the costs associated with non-functioning MBTA trains and to leverage creative financing tools to pay for interventions that prevent incurring of these costs?
Very interesting and important post! Thanks!