Buildings and Places, Design, Equity, Los Angeles, Social Value, Strategy+, Transforming Los Angeles

In this Transforming Los Angeles blog series, we’re delving into the people, projects and initiatives that are shaping the future of Los Angeles. Learn more about the intricacies of creating interconnected infrastructure that delivers social value for a more cohesive, inclusive, and sustainable urban environment.

Alexis Plair leads our strategic consulting team in Los Angeles, California. With 10 years of experience, Alexis is highly skilled in design strategy and driving product and design strategy for leading, mission-driven organizations across infrastructure, technology, urban design, clean energy, and transportation sectors. Through her work with public agencies on sustainable infrastructure, she has been a champion for social and climate impact in the Los Angeles area.

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself – your role and career journey   

I am the manager of the Los Angeles team for Strategy+, AECOM’s design-led strategic consulting group. My team works to guide organizations through strategic planning, process improvement, and organizational transformation. We also focus on understanding people and communications dynamics within organizations and advancing equitable community outcomes.

As a participatory design strategist, I approach design by centering the people we’re designing for throughout the entire design process. I work to engage the people we’re designing for in every stage, from defining goals and methods, to brainstorming and iterating on different ideas, to implementation and monitoring results. My approach in design strategy comes from my background as a product manager where I managed products and customer experiences with a focus on people, ensuring their needs were central to the entire product design process.

2. Talk to us about a project that has impacted or been a major highlight of your career. How is it solving the challenges and issues our clients and communities are facing today?

One of the highlights of my career so far has been working with a local client on a move management strategy. My team led the design strategy and internal work planning through each stage of the project, from data collection and understanding, to solution ideation, to the development and delivery of the final study. We put the users of the facility at the center of the project from start to finish, by facilitating interviews, workshops, and feedback sessions with stakeholders to understand their required equipment, operations, and logistics needs to inform our recommendations.

3. The rise of AI and other emerging technologies are driving organizations to modernize and transform the way they work.  How does the work of Strategy+ help businesses to ensure their future success?

My career actually began at IBM, focusing on artificial intelligence technology in the form of text analytics and natural language processing. So now, nearly a decade later, it’s fascinating to witness the widespread adoption of AI across various sectors, including the public sector and our diverse client base.

Generally, when we think about technology, we perceive it as a facilitator for smoother processes, streamlined data gathering, and increased efficiency. The key, though, lies in understanding how people engage with and adopt these tools. Knowing where AI and technology generally provide the most value and how they can be optimally integrated into processes is more important than whether or not the technology is used. The tools by themselves are not valuable at all — the value is only realized when people use and adopt them effectively, maximizing their potential benefits.

So, this is where our Strategy+ team comes in, guiding the people side of technological advancement. We help clients understand the tools available to them. We draw expertise from digital specialists and help our clients to connect the dots — clarifying the objectives behind using specific technologies, identifying potential risks and disruptions to the business, and guiding clients in considering these factors as they plan their digital transformation strategies. We empower our clients to proactively embrace change, harnessing the potential of these innovations, and enabling them to thrive in an ever-evolving technological landscape.

4. Are there specific strategies or frameworks you utilize to assess and enhance the social value of infrastructure projects in Los Angeles?

Los Angeles is home to a diverse population, and it’s crucial that we prioritize communities that may have been overlooked historically and adversely affected by past investments as we design the future of infrastructure in LA. This shift aligns with the broader commitments of the City of LA and LA County to integrate equity into every infrastructure initiative.

At Strategy+, we embed this equity focus into our strategic planning process. When defining program success, we include equity as a fundamental aspect of our discussions. We approach equitable outcomes and social impact with the same rigor as we do business outcomes, ensuring they are integral to our project objectives. We’re actively partnering with our clients to drive tangible social change in Los Angeles. We establish equity-based objectives, make sure we center the right people and track the right data. This holistic approach is testament to our dedication in fostering meaningful social impact in the Los Angeles area.

Originally published Jan 26, 2024

Author: Alexis Plair