Column Technologies recently conducted an interview with the New Orleans Police Department and the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation.
The following is some critical advice when selecting a case management system and a vendor in a question and answer format:
Column: What advice would you have for other agencies looking for a case managements system?
Dr. Michael Geerken, NOPJF:
I would suggest that what they do is find out what is available out there. Not just go with what they want. First look carefully on what is available, what others are using, because in my experience is people don’t know what they really want until they know what they can have. And we found that, in this project, things that we had left out of the RPF because we weren’t that interested in a specific feature. Then we saw possibilities when we started working with Column and started working on the project, which led us to ask for additional enhancements later on. So don’t just restrict yourself to what you want, go out and see what’s out there because you will find a lot of things you never even thought of that can be really useful.
Melanie A. Talia, NOPJF:
One of the advantages to the approach that we’ve taken was that we have multiple stakeholders in the decision making process, so we needed to find a vendor that every aspect could agree upon. And we think that we found that this approach is much more effective than the previous, where agencies would go out on their own and would buy what they wanted for themselves without seeing if that system would really be useful to other agencies involved in our criminal justice system.
Column: What were you looking for in a vendor?
Dr. Michael Geerken, NOPJF:
One of our criteria was that the system had to be an existent off-the-shelf system and that vendor would be willing to make any improvements or configurations. We also wanted a system that had been in use someplace else, had gotten good reviews, and had all the features that came into alignment with what we needed. We also needed web-based system, which used graphic interfaces to make it as easy as possible to learn to use. We were also looking for a vendor that would be able to manage the project with all the different elements that were involved and all the personnel involved.
Lieutenant Paul M. Noel:
If I can give any advice to anyone working on a project like this is definitely do your homework. Talk to other agencies. If you have a few vendors in mind, bring them in once or twice for a presentation and ask some questions. Checking references is big. The other thing that worked great with Column, that I was concerned with some other vendors, was that Column really had a large support staff to help out with the development of the project. If a company doesn’t have enough support or people behind the scenes to get the job done, you could have some big problems.
If I could add this: the customization aspect that Column did was to me absolutely phenomenal. The product that we started out with, the product we have now, and the product we hopefully have a few months from now when the development is done is drastically different from the product we started with. Column really customized this to fit the needs of the NOPD. Which are different than a lot of other departments. Column completely tailored this product towards us. Also I think people are going to find, I did it, I picked up the phone and started calling people and trying to figure out what they were using. And I thought that we were all backwards and everyone else was using all this space age technology and I found out everyone was doing the same thing we were doing. So I thought “where do I start?”