Driving business change in public security agencies

Assessing the key role of technology

By Rupert Hollin, Director, Strategy & Planning, SAS Public Security

Public security agencies understand the benefits of pursuing a change agenda as they strive to tackle crime and deliver greater efficiency. And they increasingly see the benefits of using the latest solutions to deliver that change.

Today, there are a growing number of drivers of adoption:

  • Technology capable of driving change is now widely available.
  • Agencies have an urgent requirement to keep pace with their adversaries’ increasingly sophisticated use of technology.
  • Agencies realize they will need to change their existing siloed or paper-based systems if they are to effectively adopt a capability-based approach to address these growing threats.
If you can deliver technology in one area that enables an agency to achieve quick wins and tangible benefits, then you have gone a long way toward a much broader solutions implementation that can kick-start real business change.

But that's not all

Looking ahead, systems flexibility will become more important as the nature of threat evolves. Driven by the need to make better use of their data resource, agencies are seeking out fully-integrated solutions, based on a single technology platform that also supports an analytics capability.

In the future, such technology will be key in enabling agencies to stay ahead of the rapidly-evolving regulatory environment, with agile systems critical in adjusting working processes to keep in line with the law. Technology can also be instrumental in enabling agencies to communicate with a wider external audience and engage more closely with them. Finally, with budgets still tight in many countries, improving operational efficiencies remains a key priority for many agencies. Technology-driven change programs can deliver this in abundance.

However, whilst these drivers are broadly accepted, the greatest barrier to change is frequently cultural. Industry observers argue over the need to address this key challenge first, prior to the introduction of new technology. In fact, the adoption of such technology can often act as the driver of cultural change. By implementing technology to address a specific pain point within the organization, agencies can quickly deliver a tangible capability. They can then win over the sceptics by delivering a proven case which shows how technology can improve working processes.

The issues impacting the decision to implement new technology as part of an organizational change agenda differ depending on market maturity:

In more mature markets, agencies are typically more used to and less skeptical of change because they are likely to have been through it numerous times before. However, these agencies generally operate within tighter regulatory or legislative frameworks than those in emerging regions. Change programs have to be conscious of that and new technology cannot be implemented without bearing those restrictions in mind.

Financial drivers are key here, particularly where government budgets are tight. Agencies tend to be particularly sensitive about the potential impact of change and therefore favor best-of-breed implementations rather than end-to-end technology solutions.

In contrast, agencies in emerging regions are typically starting from a much lower baseline. Often, they have historically worked in a purely paper-based environment. New technology therefore is more of a ‘leap into the unknown.’ Equally, business users typically find adoption of the technology harder because they are likely to be less familiar with the approaches and technologies used. Training and consultancy, therefore, have a key role to play.

Legislative or regulatory frameworks tend to be less well developed. Consequently, restrictions on the way technology can be used can be less tight. As a result, operational benefits are a key driver. So, the solutions provider needs to effectively communicate how the capability can help the agency in transforming the way it works.

One part of the bigger picture

Ultimately, technology is always just one element of the business change agenda within public security agencies. In order to achieve success from any new systems installation, agencies will also need to address the cultural, change management and business process aspects of the implementation.

Demonstrating that the technology works in practice can help providers get the deal over the line. But technology can never simply be introduced in isolation.

The best practice approach is to identify ‘change catalysts’ across the organization: people who have technical capability and credibility within the business, and who can also act as mentors, not only in terms of the adoption and use of the technology, important though that is, but also with regard to the broader cultural aspects of that change.

Ultimately, achieving business change within any agency is going to be a tough challenge. It’s never just going to be about the ‘bits and bytes’, it’s about all the soft issues around change management, training and consultancy too. Nevertheless, technology can often be a critical enabler. We have seen it so many times before, from agencies using analytics on data that has been collected to pinpoint patterns of offending to police forces using holistic search capabilities to help drive operational efficiencies. If you can deliver technology in one area that enables an agency to achieve quick wins and tangible benefits, then you have gone a long way toward a much broader solutions implementation that can kick-start real business change.

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