No More Silos: Using Software Across Multiple Departments

In an insightful Inc. piece on the pitfalls of communication silos within the business environment, the author—a Navy veteran and expert on organizational goalsetting—outlines the primary problems complex organizations face when attempting to improve communications across departments or entities:

[Organizations with complex working conditions] have to not only develop and regularly communicated an aligned vision – and the specific narrative to support it—but also answer the questions: […] “What barriers need to be broken down to accomplish this change effort?”

In public safety, those barriers can come in a variety of forms, but they usually end up with the same result: less-than-optimal communication between well-meaning departments or agencies, who despite their best intentions simply cannot find tools and processes that promote easy data transfer.

To this end, many agencies and overseeing governments have adopted shared computer and communication systems, going beyond the shared databases of old and into a more cohesive digital working space. While this is generally a good idea, there are factors every agency should consider when choosing an interlinked computer system, such as a training management system (TMS) and interrelated tools.

Consideration 1: Scope of Operation

Grouping entire departments under a shared piece of technology can be a daunting task—and one that grows in size as the number of subdivisions and individual users does. Complex and costly licensing arrangements, questions about roles and privileges, compatibility concerns regarding multiple systems, and numerous other uncertainties can make an “easy” switch to an out-of-the-box solution look anything but. However, a single system that allows for an organized approach to workflows, security, and permissions removes guesswork and allows for strategic decisions that are informed by a full view of the landscape.

The solution: Going completely out-of-the-box. The more functions your new system can reliably assume and improve over time, the less you need to rely on an unruly (and often costly) set of individual systems.

Consideration 2: Breadth of Use-Case Needs

It can be tricky to figure out precisely what you need a new system to do. Comparing those needs to the features available through major vendors can be even more difficult. The challenge expands with the number of use cases your organization wishes to cover: a police department wishing to upscale its internal learning initiatives, for instance, may see less challenge than a county attempting to interloop its training academies with multiple deputy offices.

The solution: If an out-of-the-box solution is essential to smart technology use, one built specifically for the industry it serves is even more essential. By going with a tool designed for industry-specific use cases, agencies get tools to replace and simplify existing computer processes; others that allow them to digitize, automate, and improve current manual processes; and a relationship with a developer who knows and understands their specific needs. That can make everything from baseline implementation to custom integration far easier.

Consideration 3: Interaction and integration

It is essential for systems to work together—to share information in a way that is logical and easy to consume on the individual user’s end. One of the biggest advantages to using an integrated system is the ability to perform analysis across multiple data sets to gain better insights, but organizations just getting started might not be ready to leverage this in all areas.

Consider a training academy that must track various data to be shared across interlinked systems: The overseeing government may need up-to-the-second inventory updates, for instance, while attendance, test scores, specialized training, and other areas may be of constant interest to upper management within an individual department.

The solution: Platforms with expandable modules that communicate with one another come immediately to mind when this challenge rears its head. In the above use case, the government organization may not have need for housing or inventory data until they open a dedicated training facility; having an industry-built option that interfaces directly with their existing platform gives them utility now, and flexibility for the future. Moreover, the data they are tracking will continue to be recorded and will be ready for cross-referencing once additional modules are implemented.

Consideration 4: One Point of Contact

This admin consideration doesn’t get as much attention as it should, which is strange, considering its presence in every existing government technology hierarchy. The key point: The fewer vendors the organization must enlist to meet baseline technical needs, the fewer points of contact there are when billing and (especially) technical concerns arise. When a strange recurrent bug could be the fault of your telecom provider, your network provider, your phone vendor…etc., even small problems can get complicated fast.

The solution: Naturally, getting as many solutions under one roof as logically possible makes sense in this situation. The more workloads you put in one system, the more control and insight you have when problems or concerns do arise. An ongoing relationship with a responsible vendor can give your personnel a sense of security and empowerment, and reduce the stress inherent in adopting new technology.

Consideration 5: Futureproofing

Finally, when considering a move that puts multiple departments or agencies under one roof, one can’t think only about the immediate future. The organization’s ability to move forward must also be somewhat clear, even if the exact means and outcomes aren’t in place yet. Failure to think at least a little bit ahead can result in the same old problems arising again: impacted communications, productivity silos, and so on.

The solution: Going with an actively developed solution that continues to provide updates, upgrades, and new value-add modules is a smart idea to undercut this concern. Instead of taking individual departments and agencies down individual upgrade paths, choosing one forward-thinking vendor who specializes in public safety can help you shape how your systems will continue to serve your mission in the future—something important to think about in times of rapid change and uncertainty.

The Acadis® Readiness Suite is the most comprehensive public safety training and compliance software platform for officer performance management, use-of-force reports and cases, decertification, and analytics, and is trusted by more than 2 million public safety professionals and 10,000 agencies. Learn more about the comprehensive capabilities of Acadis.

Posted on Dec 29, 2020