Weighing Integration Versus Specialization in Public Safety Application Software Acquisitions
One of the initial questions a municipality or consortium replacing its Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD), Records Management System (RMS) and Jail Management System (JMS) software must answer is the priority it places on total solution integration versus specialization at the individual application level, otherwise known as a “best of breed” approach. Reaching consensus on this issue internally, and then pursuing a sourcing strategy that leads to the desired outcome amid a changing public safety application software market, can be a challenging undertaking.
DELTAWRX considers an integrated solution to be a suite of multiple software applications that share common databases, geographic information systems (GIS) information and system administration tools, among other characteristics. These solutions typically allow data to flow across applications more seamlessly and with greater detail than can traditionally be achieved through interfaces to external applications, and allow users to broadly query and search for information, regardless of the application from which the user is working (assuming appropriate permissions are in place). Individual applications in integrated solutions often share similar graphical user interfaces, functional tools and logic, creating a more uniform user experience than what one would expect to find in a specialized environment.
Specialized applications on the other hand place an emphasis on providing feature-rich functionality in a given discipline, whether it is emergency communications, records management or corrections, and strive to provide the best possible user experience within that domain. Specialized applications are typically able to share data with other applications through an interface, although the level of detail, timeliness and accessibility of this data may be less than that provided by an integrated solution.
In addition to considering the merits of an integrated solution versus a best of breed approach at the functional and technical level, organizational issues may influence a municipality or consortium’s desired sourcing strategy. For example, obtaining a solution from a single vendor may require fewer resources to procure, implement and maintain over time, as compared to pursuing a best of breed approach involving multiple vendors. Furthermore, the use of a single vendor can increase accountability and minimize the finger-pointing that can occur should specialized systems be procured and implemented separately. That said, not all vendors offering CAD/RMS/JMS solutions under a single brand name are necessarily selling integrated solutions and best of breed vendors can always partner to streamline the contracting process.
Determining the emphasis to place on integration versus specialization is a foundation-level input into a CAD/RMS/JMS sourcing strategy. And with a solid sourcing strategy in place, a municipality has taken a great first step towards replacing its core public safety systems.
DELTAWRX has broad and deep experience assisting local government and public safety agencies with replacing their information technology systems. We are able to provide assistance in the initial planning phases of a project, throughout the procurement process, and over the course of system implementation. To discuss the merits of integration versus a best of breed approach, trends in the public safety information technology market, or services DELTAWRX can provide, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.