I spend most of my time helping public safety agencies make the best possible use of digital technologies—helping them to not only deal with the threats and challenges presented by this digital age, but to maximize the benefits it presents.
Accenture has found that there are four things, which the most successful companies and organizations are doing to become even stronger as a result of digital disruption in this “New” age — so what can public safety agencies learn from this and how can it apply to them?
The first is to transform their core business.
Virtually all organizations have a “core” business—made up of what they have traditionally done and are pretty good at. The things that their leadership have grown up doing, are comfortable with, and draw on to form the ideas, behaviours and direction of the organization as a whole.
Today, the key is to use digital to transform this core business and free up investment and capacity elsewhere. This means looking at the value chain and cost structures to see how and where that capacity can be found.
In public safety, the core can be seen as the ability to react and reassure. So, the question is how can digital technologies be applied to respond better and faster to incidents, complete thorough and effective investigations and bring offenders to justice. Ways to do this include using mobile solutions that enable officers to be present in the communities they serve, better informed as they respond, and more effective in collecting and managing information at the scene. Realising these benefits also depends crucially on integration of data, allowing advances such as use of online interactive portals to collect information or take statements.
The second thing is grow the core.
Amid the focus on transforming the core, it’s all too easy to forget that it’s also vital to expand it. This involves using digital to increase the operations and activities within the core, while also continuing to do the core mission well. For public safety leaders, this isn’t about taking on more activities, but making sure they can react to increasing citizen expectations and new threats and challenges.
Clear examples here include cybercrime and policing the growing virtual world. cybercrime has now surpassed all other forms of crime—and public safety agencies need to ensure they can provide the core policing functions of response and reassurance but in the virtual world just as they do in the physical one. Another example is ensuring public safety agencies can process and manage the fast-growing volumes of digital forensic material. All of this requires agencies to think about the how they use new capabilities such as analytics/artificial intelligence, digital automation/robotics, machine vision, and digital interaction/user interfaces.
This third factor—to scale in the New—is particularly tricky.
Most leaders can see the new ideas that will drive higher value in their organizations. However, the really difficult part is scaling these new ideas. In many ways, this is down to the ability to embed innovation into the organization to take the ideas from concept to fruition at scale.
This is a key challenge for public safety organizations—one that demands new approaches and partnerships. The goal in public safety is not to scale a New business in this New digital age, but to increasingly execute a rotation from a more reactive model to a more preventative policing model, and using innovation and partnerships to deliver this.
Clearly, the concept of preventative policing is far from new. But what is new is the way the power of digital innovation enables a far greater focus on prevention, generating potentially massive benefits not only across the policing and judicial systems, but also out into welfare, social services and society as a whole.
The starting-point here is often delivering greater data-driven insights, with investment in cleaning, combining, and visualizing datasets opening up the potential to deliver new benefits. The resulting benefits can be maximized by using technology-agnostic platforms, working across multiple agencies, to help deliver new preventive intervention strategies. Providing the ability to leverage new digital and partner-enabled approaches to increase the focus on intelligence, targeting, diversion and problem-solving, and deliver a new preventative policing model.
The fourth and final element is the wise pivot.
This is about the speed at which an organization can scale in the New, by shifting investment from the more traditional core to activities in the New—which, in the case of public safety, is from a more reactive model to an increasingly preventative one.
This is very difficult for any organization. Go too slow, and you risk losing competitive edge. In public safety terms, this means falling behind the emerging threats, as your adversaries harness the power of the New quicker and better than you do. Go too fast, and you overreach and risk damaging your core activities—in public safety terms the ability to react and reassure.
For public safety organizations, there is an additional challenge in striking the right balance as there is also the critical need to do all of this whilst also maintaining legitimacy and public trust. Agencies must also continue to ensure not only that information is secure, but also that they have the right guidance and policies to help govern its use while retaining openness and transparency.
The most successful organizations are already doing all four of these things—the key being embracing the New and embedding innovation into the organization. There are also increasing examples of public safety agencies doing this across the globe. Whist there are clear challenges—this is an exciting time for those Public Safety agencies prepared to be bold and innovate in the New.