Transformation is a major theme of Microsoft CityNext. To meet the unique challenges faced by urban areas, local governments must find new and better ways of doing business, instead of trying to simply do the same old thing a little bit better.

But it’s one thing to say cities will need to transform. It’s another to actually do it.

Where will these pathways to transformation come from? How will cities learn how they need to transform? One answer is that they’re come to a better understanding of their resources (and their citizens’ needs) via Big Data analysis, says Microsoft Worldwide Government Industry General Manager Joel Cherkis.

By analysing city data, local government leaders can implement a city-wide dashboard to see where resources are being allocated – and spot problems like water leaks and power outages. When resources are allocated wisely, cities can save money – often seeing results within a year’s time, says Cherkis.

Big Data can also help cities engage citizens. When local governments make data public, it can increase citizen confidence in government by increasing accountability. It can also help get everyday people involved in solving local government problems, Cherkis says. But Big Data analysis doesn’t have to just be used in a reactive way. Once a city has library of historical data, it can begin to make projections about things like traffic patterns. This helps the city project how it will need to spend money on infrastructure in the future, but it can also help businesses work more efficiently, accelerating economic growth.

Watch more of Cherkis’ talk in the video below, for insights into other ways Big Data can help cities – and how Big Data can work together with other important technology trends, such as cloud technologies.