Getting Started with Automating Your Academy Processes

Better tools. Smarter, more context-aware back- and front-end technology. Bigger time and financial savings.

There are a rather large number of reasons an organization may want to automate processes like training and its interrelated tasks—but as those with a modern, automated system know, getting there requires both planning and setup work.

And given the complexity of most academy operations, it might not always be clear how to get started.

Automating training in public safety: Primer questions and discussion

The first step of the process is taking an honest inventory of your current training-related systems, with a focus on enhancing strengths and shoring up weaknesses.

To get a high-level look at your processes, start with a few questions for your agency:

How many systems are required to manage the full spectrum of training data at your agency?

We’re talking everything, from the baseline office systems you use for document drafting and communication to the industry-specific tools you currently use to track and monitor compliance.

Knowing this helps you understand what you need out of more advanced, automated tools.

What areas of your training do you manage with spreadsheets, calls, emails, data entry, or paper files?

Related to the item above, think of all the processes you scattered across various tools or have shoehorned into ill-fitting one-size-fits-all platforms.

For many agency stakeholders reading this piece, there are probably more than a few.

On a scale of 1–10, how automated are your operations?

Even if you haven’t put much work into automation, there are likely some areas of your organization that already benefit from some amount of it.

Look to these areas and understand what your people are doing with the tools they have in place. Where could it be better?

On a scale of 1–10, how automated are the processes for your academy training?

Think of this one in terms of steps.

In your academy’s live training environment, how many steps does it take for training information to start at the proctor’s fingertips and become accessible to reviewers on the other side?

How many hands, desks, and/or computer systems must it cross to get there, and how much manual activity is required to make it all happen?

With the answers to these questions in mind, consider these five steps to make automation easier.

1. Assign a point person or project manager from the beginning

Be organized in your information collection and implementation strategy from the earliest steps.

Ideally, your point person will understand:

  • Your high-level workplace processes and the effort required to keep them running

This person will be focused on ensuring your automation goals are met and not waylaid by other priorities or distractions.

They will also become someone who can frame the discussion in ways everyone can grasp.

This will ensure that you and others (who might not have a firm grasp on the technical needs or failings of your architecture) have a shared understanding when making decisions and raising concerns.

2. DO engage in informed comparison shopping

Remember your list of technologies and systems from the questions above? Have your point person compare their direct benefits to newer, more fully automated alternatives.

You’ll likely find even more areas of improvement than you initially thought.

3. DON’T assume needs

We repeatedly mention talking to other stakeholders within your organization for a few reasons:

  • It helps you get a feel for exactly what they need out of automation.
  • It helps them get an idea of what you’re trying to build, which can be especially important for those holding the purse strings.

Both are essential as you plan and design any upgrade to your system, and the importance only grows as the impact of the purchase does.

4. Move holistically

Involving multiple stakeholders encourages them to consider your upgrade from their own departmental perspective, as well as the larger organizational perspective.

That’s important, because your overarching goal throughout the design and implementation process needs to come with a heavy focus on consolidation.

If a tool you’re moving to doesn’t supplant legacy systems or manual tasks (filing test results, for example); fully integrate other tools to increase automation; and make space for both the tools and the processes you’ll need to integrate in the near future, you’re limiting yourself from step one.

5. Implement incrementally

Public safety budgets and upgrade processes are what they are. You will likely encounter limitations as to how much you are able to implement right now.

As such, instruct your point person to look for tools that allow longer-scale adaptation in the workplace. The Acadis® Readiness Suite, for instance, is built to allow you to add modules and expand capabilities as your needs or budget grow (or as grants allow more software purchases, as they have for training-related tools in the past).

Where do you go from here?

Even at a high level, automating in public safety is a fairly involved, personalized process. No guide can fully spell out the exact steps for your circumstances.

However, these guideposts should give you a good start.

Keep them in mind as you chart your own path toward evolution—and see where they guide you. Chances are, there are plenty of places in your organization’s many workflows that will benefit from automation.

Posted on May 18, 2021