University of Southern California

City Hall in Hoffman Hall
Business and Information Systems Students Design Apps for City of L.A.
December 17, 2013 • by News at Marshall

USC Marshall School of Business students who sign up for IOM433: Business and Information Systems Analysis and Design have to impress real-world clients with their business acumen — not just their professor. This fall, Professor Ann Majchrzak partnered with the City of Los Angeles’ Information Technology Agency (ITA) for student projects with the potential for community impact.

The Mayor’s office is launching an initiative to open its data to the public and allow the private sector, non-profits and others to use data sets to develop applications that will improve services for its citizens and businesses. Six student teams took on that challenge, researching and proposing apps that help everyone from new business owners to affordable housing candidates.

On Dec. 4 in Hoffman Hall, the teams’ final presentations were judged not only by the professor, but also by officers from the City of Los Angeles, including the Information Technology Agency, Mayor’s Office and Controller’s Office. The judges in attendance were so impressed with all the teams that their materials are being distributed among the relevant City and County agencies.

“This partnership is a great opportunity for the students and the City,” said Ted Ross, assistant general manager of the ITA. “Students learn to present, market their ideas and do analysis and systems design while getting great real-world experience, and the City taps into new talent and ideas.”

The undergraduate students worked in teams of five to develop a detailed business case, sociotechnical systems design (with visualizations of the app) and realization plan, which were judged on case completeness, quality of justification, viability, creativity and relevance to L.A. City goals set forth previously by Mayor Eric Garcetti — including economic development and job creation, increased efficiency through the use of improved technology and systems, improved customer service and creation of a more sustainable and livable city.

“One of government’s greatest assets is its information,” said Ross. “If you partner governmental information with private sector and non-profit innovation, you can deliver great tools to the public and businesses. I think that’s a great relationship that we should always try to foster, and this partnership with USC Marshall was another piece of that. Yes, this was a part of their grade, but whether students knew it or not, they were coming up with good ideas and fleshing them out so that we can take them to City departments, County and State agencies, whoever it might be, to make them a reality. The students’ final assignments represent real citizen needs for the City of Los Angeles.”

Team One developed the Interactive Energy Saver (IES) app to help consumers lower their energy consumption and bills. Team Two’s app would simplify the registration, application and licensing process for new business owners. Team Three’s app connects Angelenos with exercise partners and safe places, such as City parks, to exercise. Team Four’s app would create a network between non-profit organizations to help them better deploy and even share their resources. Team Five’s app connects the databases at the multiple agencies that are part of the foster care system to create a uniform service delivery model. Team Six’s app assists individuals who have been approved for affordable housing find the best location for their needs.

After the final presentations, Majchrzak said: “One of the City officers at the final presentation told me that these were impactful apps that inspired him personally in multiple ways: inspired him about this generation of young professionals, gave him good ideas on how he might be able to make some of these apps possible, and left him completely energized to excite the many departmental managers at the City of L.A. to take on this charge that the students have started.”

Geoffrey James ’16, from Team One, said that one of the biggest challenges was assembling a final business plan that seamlessly incorporated work from all five team members. “The project was a lot of work, but I learned so much,” he said. “I like classes with this holistic approach where you have to understand the whole process. This is one of the best classes that I have taken at USC.”

“We are incredibly grateful to Ted Ross, [ITA General Manager and Chief Technology Officer] Steve Reneker and the Mayor of the City of Los Angeles for being involved in this class,” Majchrzak said. “Having Ted involved in reviewing the students’ work throughout the semester helped to switch the dynamics in the classroom from one of just learning the material to one of creating a design that might be used by the City of L.A., and that was incredibly exciting for us all.”

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.