The Value of Strategic Technology Plans in Public Safety
I am on the board of a small volunteer organization and recently we were planning how to use our limited resources for the next two years. After an hour of planning, another board member, a professor of anthropology who had not said much, exclaimed, “You do this for a living? I would as soon poke a stick in my eye than do this!” Happily, for me, in her next breath she acknowledged the importance of having a strategic plan and its contribution to the organization’s previous successes!
This short exchange was eye opening. As someone who thoroughly enjoys the process of assessing an organization’s strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and challenges, business needs and resources and is excited about fitting all the pieces together with the vision and mission to identify strategic and operational goals, it had not occurred to me that others might be less than enthusiastic about the process.
Level of enthusiasm aside, the importance of strategic planning for public entities cannot be understated. It is an effective practice for guiding decision-making and budgeting processes and for keeping the organization focused on its mission while optimizing the use of taxpayer funds.
Just as important is planning for the use of technology to accomplish the strategic goals. Technology can represent a large portion of an agency’s budget, usually second only to personnel costs, and investments in technology should be made with a purpose.
What is a strategic technology plan? A strategic technology plan is a guide to how the organization will use technology to accomplish its goals. It should include strategic goals and objectives, as well as a roadmap for attaining the strategic goals.
How does a strategic technology plan help a public safety agency? Public safety agencies are complex organizations that do a lot of different things. Take, for example, a police department that writes reports, manages evidence, conducts investigations, registers repeat offenders, analyzes criminal activity, handles intelligence, provides crime statistics to a state organization, manages warrants, uses body-worn cameras and more. We could draw up a similarly long list for a fire department, corrections agency or communications center. Technology exists to support nearly every aspect of public safety operations and a strategic plan can help an agency work toward a cohesive technology portfolio that meets business needs, avoiding a piecemeal and disconnected approach to acquiring technology. A strategic technology plan can also prioritize investments to optimize the expenditure of taxpayer funds and guide decisions so that future technology purchases fit in with an overall plan.
Are there other benefits of strategic technology planning? Absolutely! The process of strategic technology planning provides a holistic and connected view of the organization. DELTAWRX considers more than just technology when assisting with strategic technology planning. We also look at the agency’s policies and procedures, human resource practices and staffing, organizational structure and culture to make sure they are aligned with the technology vision. If they are not, we make recommendations on ways to bring them into alignment. We also look at formal and informal business processes and identify ways that technology can improve the processes and organizational effectiveness.
Is strategic technology planning a one-time event? Absolutely not! Effective organizations develop a culture of strategic planning and continuous process improvement. Over time, opportunities and challenges change, as do available resources, necessitating periodic reviews and revisions of the strategic plan. A good strategic technology plan, like a good strategic plan, includes performance metrics. Regular monitoring of the performance metrics can provide clues as to shifting opportunities and emerging challenges and trigger a new cycle of strategic planning.
As a service to the state in which she lives, my fellow board member examines human remains to determine whether they are recent or ancient. Given the choice between getting lowered into a dark mine shaft to examine human remains and strategic planning, I would unequivocally opt for the latter!
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