For as long as there has been work to do, there have only been two ways to do it better: Work harder and work smarter. I doubt any of us can be working any harder (or longer), which leaves us with working smarter. Better planning, execution, and follow-up make for smart work, and any time we can develop tools to accomplish these tasks is working even smarter. This could be a good working definition of technology.
When the magazine’s editors set out to assess the state of technology in the field of parks and recreation, we weren’t sure what we’d learn. We know we’re similar in mission to other fields—tourism, retail, and healthcare, since we all have customers to whom we market, balance sheets to reconcile, and facilities to build and maintain, among other considerations.
We identified three key trends in technology—mobile technology and communications, mapping, and energy management. None of these technologies is easy, cheap to adopt, or without shortcomings. Marketing park and recreation programming through mobile devices is in its infancy, and data privacy issues still need work. Compatibility of operating programs continues to slow the receptiveness of customers to some mapping applications. And the high capital costs for retrofitting building automation systems into existing structures can scare off window shoppers.
Still, the braver adopters whom author Maureen Hannan interviewed show that resourcefulness and commitment to a longer view overcome many shortcomings. Read how the Chicago Park District, for example, negotiated the use of open software coding over proprietary code in establishing its centralized energy management systems. They were looking for long-term security and stability in their investment, and they even worked with their energy provider to fund the program.
Smaller agencies shouldn’t think only the big dogs can take the biggest leaps. These three trends are all scalable and may even favor smaller, nimbler, and more flexible adopters.