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How university police and public safety teams can win in 2021

Many universities and campuses across the globe are leveraging the latest generation of licensed-based life safety solutions. They’re delivering a level of protection, rapid response, and operational command and control capability that police departments could only dream about a few years ago.

Delivering Impressive Results
While it is true that the number of transformative tech implementations at campuses is growing – and delivering impressive results – there are many examples that indicate some new technologies have not quite lived up to their promise. And, there are many reasons why.

Sometimes control interfaces that looked promising in demo sessions prove to be too unwieldy in real-world situations. Other times, dispatchers and offcers get frustrated by having to switch between multiple systems and interfaces. One of the most common problems is lack of community engagement, which leads to poor uptake and use of apps by students and staff. When this issue isn’t resolved the value of the entire solution, and all its functions, can be undermined.

But with the right approach – starting from initial roll-out, through deployment, to daily use and subsequent monitoring and improvement - these problems are entirely preventable.

An all-in-one public safety soffiware emergency and security management solution that empowers safety and security teams to streamline and strengthen their capacity to respond to incidents, optimize outcomes and mitigate risks can provide impactful results for campus security teams. But, realizing these results requires testing that solution in daily operations and real life emergencies to customize capabilities specific to each campus’ particular needs

Asking the Right Questions
Any police and public safety department looking to transform operations by leveraging a licensed-based service will benefit from asking the right questions in advance.

Let’s assume that you have chosen the service that best fits your campus life safety needs, that it works within your budget to give you all the functions you need; for example: targeted mass communication; lone worker safety monitoring; emergency call; user location pinpointing; three-dimensional positioning in multi-floor buildings; heat mapping; team command and control tools – in other words, everything necessary for full situational awareness across all your buildings and sites.

Let’s also assume that you are satisfied that all these functions will be easy to use, having talked to existing customers about their experiences.

Now is the time to focus on implementation, training and support, recognizing that with any new technology there’s a risk that overstretched offcers will feel burdened by having yet another new system to manage and operate.

Pitfalls to Avoid
When this risk isn’t addressed, you can end up with shortcuts being taken, functions not being used, or with responsibility simply being handed over to one or two team members whose job it becomes to manage the tech. That narrowing down will leave your organization vulnerable any time those persons are not available.

To avoid this, every member of your team needs to be engaged with the solution, and any difficulty or reluctance they have in using it needs to be identified and fixed. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t appoint one or two people to take overall responsibility and project manage introduction of the new service. Often, establishing those roles provides a great promotion opportunity that unlocks new energy and commitment. But it does mean that none of your officers should be left with a “blind spot” around the technology. You should verify that your service provider will deliver training, both initially and refresher training, to help ensure this.

The result should be that your team becomes more capable and less stressed. Instead of disengagement, you end up with every team member convinced by the value of the new tech and eager to advocate for it. This belief is essential, because only heartfelt enthusiasm from your officers will lead directly to high levels of user engagement which underpin the effectiveness of the whole service.

Essential Stages for Success Here are some of the stages that are essential for achieving this outcome:

  • Project plan. If you’re signing up to a new licensedbased service, the first thing you should expect is for the technology developer to work with you to formulate a detailed project plan. This is the roadmap that guides the successful initial deployment, and it leads into the subsequent evolution and ramp-up of the service.
  • Valuable opportunity. Done well, the project planning meeting provides a valuable opportunity to consider any issues that have been causing you challenges, and it should help you to drill down into specifics that aligns the deployment of the technology to your highest priorities as the customer. A good supplier will point to best practices other customers have successfully implemented to tackle similar problems and offer practical steps to replicate those strategies.
  • Engagement. These introductory meetings are also the time to build engagement and awareness of the technology across your whole organization: with your senior teams, your staffimmediately responsible for the implementation, managers from other departments, and wider stakeholders including external agencies that you work with. While initial deployments are typically focused on one or more specific objectives the organization wants to focus on, it’s important everyone has a solid understanding of the depth and breadth of the solution, so they can gradually increase the value they drive from its deployment across the organization.

Those additional capabilities may not be taken advantage of for a few months, or even another year, but with successful tech introductions customers invariably look to extend and develop what they do. This extension of service scope is often the result of feedback and ideas generated either from frontline customer teams using the tech daily, or at the request of stakeholders they are working with.

Achieving Hassle-Free Roll-Out
Only after the project plan is agreed on are you ready for the deployment phase. The goal is to ensure that your roll-out is onpoint and hassle-free. In this phase, it’s often helpful to ask your supplier to work more closely with significant stakeholders in your organization, for example coordinating between IT, marketing, security and senior executives. All these departments may have different ideas and agendas which need to be addressed, aligned, and scheduled for a truly successful deployment.

You should verify your supplier is prepared and able to do this. At this stage, ask if your technology partner will assist your IT department with things like supporting the use of Single Sign-On (SSO) for users to log into your new solution with their existing organization’s credentials and ensure full compliance with their data privacy standards.

A critical aspect of deployment is ensuring high levels of community engagement, so you should check how your supplier will help you with communications strategies and resources such as branded assets. Examples include digital signs, posters, and social media campaigns which you can use to drive up adoption through awareness and interest among members of staff, students, remote workers, first response teams, support personnel or patrol officers themselves.

As you move into full-scale operational use of your new service, it’s best not to tackle everything at once, but rather, to prioritize use-case applications that address your pain points and serve the needs of the most vulnerable before expanding your capabilities.

The Importance of Measuring Success As you move forward, it’s essential to measure how much, and how well, your team uses its new technology. Granular measurements will underpin your success by allowing you to see which functions your officers are making good use of, and which need more focus.

An effective way to achieve this is through a system of quarterly reports that let users drill down into Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), including the number of active users, the number and type of alerts triggered, average first response times and average incident resolution times.

Crucially, this quarterly review mechanism also includes comparative data which enables the customer to measure their performance against others. This comparison between peers provides an ongoing barometer of how well teams are doing. These valuable insights can show customers where there are opportunities to further improve performance.

Successes can be celebrated if problems are addressed early on with enhanced proficiency training, targeted online courses and explainer videos, or targeted promotional tools.

Major, but Unexpected, Benefits
There is another benefit to this approach. It is a major advantage that customers truly value but isn’t usually obvious when you first look to adopt a new technology. Are there opportunities to network with other users and share best practices? For example, look toward vendors that host online and in-person events and conferences that will bring together police and security chiefs and heads of department that enhances the value of the service solution.

It is at this coming together of customers, industry thought leaders and operators from around the world where successful results are shared, and valuable relationships are forged. Senior practitioners share details of incidents, challenges, and examples of operational innovation, and help counsel one another through difficult circumstances.

In addition, you should be provided the opportunity to look ahead at product development plans for the short, medium and longer term. This should allow every customer present to vote on and prioritize specific product enhancements they want to see next, so that every customer has a voice versus just the largest customers. It is imperative that vendors commit to act on these votes, and report progress as product roadmaps are expanded throughout the year. When vendors make a new feature or capability available, it should be released to their entire customer base.

Investing in the necessary on-boarding, training, and providing customer support through ongoing meetings and metrics results in customers truly getting the most out of their service. With this approach, university police and public safety teams can come out ahead in 2021 by getting the most from the latest generation of campus safety, security and emergency management solutions. This rigorous approach will help ensure campus security leaders enhance and deliver a level of protection, rapid response, and operational command and control capability that they could only dream about a few years ago.

This article originally appeared in the March / April 2021 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.

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