Leadership View: Doing More – and Better – With Less

Authored by Josh South, Head of Operations

Disruption, external pressures, and criticisms are not new to those in the US Criminal Justice Industry – each date back to our founding as a nation. Prior to the birth of our great country, the British brought law enforcement practices to the newly established US Colonies; functions such as Constables, Justices of the Peace, Sheriffs, and more were established and reflected their counterparts in the land from which they came. As the land that is now our country began to grow rapidly throughout the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, exploding populations stretched the resources of Law Enforcement, resulting in calls for expanded services, improved reliability, and increased safety. And while the Old West has been romanticized in TV and movies for the last hundred years, the concept of “doing more with less” is readily visible in the efforts of those in early US Criminal Justice to improve safety and enforce the law.

Fast-forward to the present, and while those challenges only continue to evolve, we find ourselves at a unique point in history. The COVID-19 Pandemic, Social Justice Movements around the nation, and our current economic outlook continue to place downward pressure on all aspects of Criminal Justice. From law enforcement to court rooms, prosecutors to clerks’ offices, we have seen the effects of this “perfect storm” of negative circumstances. Resignations are at an all-time high, early-retirement has become commonplace, openings remain unfilled, and organizations are often unable to provide the service they would at full staffing levels. With economic uncertainty looming, many are now faced with the prospects of hiring freezes – or worse yet – layoffs. Add to that an impending new software implementation, designed to move processes and workflows forward, and it’s a recipe for potential frustration and heartache. So how do organizations not only survive, but thrive, when implementing software under these circumstances? Planning, Organization, and setting clear and achievable goals are all key.

When embarking on a software implementation journey, there are five reminders I like to share with clients before kicking off a project:

  1. Evaluate Internal Processes
    • This is a critical step that is often overlooked until well into the discovery and requirements-gathering phases of projects. Without intentional internal discussions, organizations can overlook the need for a holistic understanding of their exacerbated staffing issues.  This results in project delays and the potential disengagement of team members who feel forced into new tools or processes.
  2. Understand Current Needs vs. Wants
    • This may sound like point number one, but it is critical. Evaluate every aspect of current processes to better understand what drove decisions to select a particular vendor, and then define “Needs” versus “Wants.” Many software vendors are flexible before venturing into the “custom” territory. A general understanding of your wants versus needs will help ensure a smooth discovery process, maximizing the return on your organization’s investment (also known as “efficiency”).
  3. Change, while sometimes scary, Represents Opportunity
    • Guard against “we’ve always done it this way.” When conducting internal process discussions, as well as requirements gathering conversations with a vendor, work to remain open to evolving current processes and workflows. Remember why the decision was made to implement the software and leverage the opportunities it presents to improve the daily lives of your teams. This need is amplified when dealing with unprecedented turnover and hiring freezes – running lean requires running efficiently.
  4. Commit More Resources than Less
    • It may seem contradictory when addressing short-staffing and resource challenges to suggest allocating additional resources to a project; in the short term, I might even agree. But when balancing the short-term pain against the long-term return of the efficiencies gained through streamlined processes, up-to-date software, and automation that modern software provides, it’s a worthwhile investment. Resource availability is a two-way street, and vendors should also commit here. Lack of resources is, in my experience, one of the top reasons for project fatigue, risk, and failure.
  5. Remain Flexible
    • Two things in life are constant, and the same holds for software projects: “change is inevitable” and “expect the unexpected.” Resource risks can be mitigated to some extent when working with software vendors by ensuring single points of failure are identified on both the organization’s and vendors’ teams. It’s the “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket” adage – things will come up, life will happen, and organizations that are positioned to be flexible, adjust schedules, and adapt to those uncertainties are those best positioned to weather the challenge and succeed.

There is no silver bullet, no sage wisdom to overcome these challenges – they are hard challenges. To overcome them requires patience, perseverance, and commitment. But CivicEye is here to turn these challenges into a positive experience that benefits your team, and I am grateful to be part of an organization that strives to deliver a positive impact to our clients and their communities.


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