Choosing the right technology to support public safety initiatives is mission-critical, but can be timely and complex. According to a 2009 study, 68 percent of government information technology projects failed to deliver on time, on budget, and with required features and functions. Moreover, they are almost always extremely costly with consultant fees, the request for proposal (RFP) process and implementation costs. But there are a few tips that when followed will help make the process run smoother and increase the chances of a more favorable outcome.
It’s imperative in choosing the right software to start out with clear, measurable goals and desired outcomes to determine what the software solution will ultimately need to be able to do for the organization or agency. This involves a thorough needs assessment that The Public Safety Technology Review (PSTech) says can be determined by having answers to these 16 questions at the outset of your selection process:
1. What is the problem we want to solve?
2. How much is the problem costing us now?
3. What are the operational needs?
4. What is the expected impact?
5. Why is that important?
6. What will the new software allow you to do that you cannot do now?
7. Who will benefit most and how will they benefit?
8. How will it benefit your agency?
9. How will it benefit the public you serve?
10. Where will it be used?
11. Who will use it?
12. When will it be used?
13. What are the measurements of success?
14. Who will pay for this?
15. What is the expected return on this investment in terms of time, efficiencies, or money?
16. What happens if we don’t buy any new software?
Writing a good RFP is critical in selecting the right software. RFPs should be detailed and specific in outlining the requirements needed to determine how and if the vendor can help solve the issues. Think of your needs in terms of either “Functional” or “Technical” and describe or provide examples of exactly what the software needs to accomplish. Write in concrete terms. Major issues can be avoided by starting off with a solid RFP that covers all bases.
There will likely be many people and departments involved in the process. PSTech says team member roles should be defined and there should be a system in place to share information. Key players in the selection process should:
• Provide strong leadership
• Provide clear governance
• Create a charter document
• Radiate information regularly
• Communicate the right amount of information to the right people
• Listen to others
• Meet regularly to discuss progress and issues
• Document important information and decisions
By having defined roles, members will understand their specific place in the process which helps decrease the chance of error. It also ensure the entire process is organized and documented should the process need to be repeated.
Lastly, finding out from colleagues if they’ve used the software before will help to provide a real sense of how the product works. The vendor should be able to provide a list of references from customers who have used the product and are willing to share their experiences. Some companies (such as us!) may offer public safety software case studies showing how specific groups utilized their software. Be sure to ask for a range of clients who have had different experiences, and use the RFP to ask them detailed questions about what their experience has been with aspects of the solution that address your specific needs. Try to talk to as many clients as you can. Also, look for online reviews from credible sources. Note the positives and negatives that you learn and discuss them with the provider.
This process can be daunting, but it is essential to ensure the safety of the communities public safety organizations support. Contact the experts at KOVA and we can partner with you to pinpoint and address your exact needs and design a solution that’s right for your organization.