The Technology Craps Shoot

As the choices and options abound, making good buying decisions is getting tougher. I have better luck keeping my wife smiling.

  • Reduce the time required to complete a two-car, non-injury crash with only two drivers (no passengers) from the current average of ____ minutes to an average of ____ minutes.
  • Allow all information from FCIC, NCIC or the local records system to be imported and populate any field on the report relating to: people, vehicles, citations, and property.
  • Increase data accuracy on the recording of VINs from the current ___% to ___%.
  • Improve the officers' ability to maintain situational awareness and recognition of potential threats.
  • Allow electronic submission of reports to supervisors for review.
  • Allow electronic approval or rejection of each report along with supervisory notes regarding reason for rejection, as appropriate.
  • Eliminate the need for paper reports at least 80% of the time. Also eliminate the need for physical storage space for those reports.
  • Allow citizens, insurance companies or other stakeholders to obtain copies of reports without involving agency personnel, i.e. the records bureau counter.
  • Cause all crash report information to be electronically submitted and stored in our records management system.
  • Cause reports/tickets to be uploaded to the Court computer without human editing or intervention.
  • Allow electronic submission of all crash data to the state.

When you start thinking and talking in these terms, you stay on solid ground which is familiar and that you understand. You move the discussion from geek-speak techno-terms to the real reason that you are spending this money.

It Is Really Tough To Do

Every agency has at least one self-styled, amateur techno-nerd. You probably know him. He spends endless hours surfing the web. He helps others when their computers lock up. He reads each issue of PC Magazine within hours of receipt. He probably has a spare beanie + propeller stashed in his locker. He sounds really smart. You are reluctant to challenge him on anything technical because he will swamp you with jargon, making you look like the village idiot (technically speaking). He knows how many pixels are on a 15" monitor and how many nits your mobile computer screens have, but he wouldn't understand functional benefits if they bit him in the butt.

Maintaining the functional focus is your job. You must keep this train on the track and not allow the geeks to derail it with their demands for the latest and greatest gizmo that was just announced by Intel or Dell. Bring up the topic of automating a job, and within seconds, someone will convert the discussion into one of gadgets rather than process. STOP THAT!

Make the list of desired functional improvements. When a vendor starts talking about all that his technology can do, hand him your list. Tell him you want to see how his stuff does the tasks that you have listed. After that, you would be glad to look at his power point showing the number of wire strands used in the backplane bus or let him show off his nits. However, if the gear doesn't cut the mustard from a functional standpoint, you don't care about the rest. Period.

Also tell him that his gear and his company will be measured on how well it meets your functional goals. You will retain a percentage of the money due for a predetermined time until you are satisfied that your functional goals have been met. That will send the scam artists heading for the exit. Ask each potential vendor for a list of at least three agencies that can be contacted for a reference.

You Should Be Making A List and Checking It Twice

I recently developed a survey for a department that asked for my help. They were considering the acquisition of e-ticketing and e-crash reporting. Like all good surveys, it was very short. It is NOT scientific. It is NOT statistically correct. It will NOT satisfy the dweebs, but it DOES show a striking trend. Someone wanting a happy ending to their technology story should consider using this tactic.

The list of agencies to be surveyed came from the one I was helping. They were from various areas of the U.S. I called each one. There were:
14 agencies, in total
8 sheriffs' offices
6 municipal police departments

I asked each if they were using e-tickets and crash. I also asked the name of their supplier/vendor. I then asked five questions to determine the level of functional success. I am happy to share the detailed information with you (send me a request by email). For the purposes of this article, I will summarize the information received.

Four programs were found to be used by the 14 agencies. ONE program/system which had nine customers had a 100% success rate. ONE program/system which had four customers had a 25% success rate. Two other programs/systems which had a combined total of 3 customers had a 0% success rate - yes, zero percent.

Again, there are gradient measures of success, but the above statistics represent the percentage of agencies where the expectations of the original purchase were (or were not) met - in full. For the mathemagicians among us: there were two agencies that are each using two vendors.

It took a couple of hours to complete the survey and included some phone tag. If your agency is prepared to spend some serious money, this is time well spent. It can mean the difference between an atta-boy from the chief versus a permanent assignment to the property room.

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