5 Essential Factors to Consider when Selecting Your Next Records Management System
Choosing the right records management system (RMS) for your agency can be daunting. If you’re hoping to make the process less painful and more productive, you need to ensure you’re asking the right questions.
While there are countless RMS solutions on the market, they won’t all be the best fit for your agency. We’re here to help you select the best RMS solution for your agency and budget, without compromising on the essential features and functionalities needed to protect your officers and bolster your operational capacity.
In this guide, you’ll learn:
- The basic functions of RMS and advice on practical use
- Must-ask vendor questions
- Essential features your members need to stay protected and informed
- Information required to help streamline the selection and purchase process
Records Management Basics
Effective law enforcement relies on speed and accuracy – both from the members of your department and the information they require to do their jobs safely and effectively. There are no do-overs in this business, and timing is everything b-- emergencies wait for no one. It’s essential to supply your team with the right combination of tools and technology to get the job done right. Choosing the right RMS can be vital to helping you achieve that goal.
RMS are police databases that provide life-cycle data management for internal documents, such as case histories, incident reports, personnel files, and criminal intelligence repositories. Much li/ke any other database, an RMS solution organizes your processes and allows you to centralize, view, and analyze information quickly – without hindering comprehension.
Digital records management increases your capacity and enables your agency to:
- Obtain critical information on complaints, suspects, vehicles, and addresses, allowing you to quickly facilitate higher situational awareness
- Collect data from disparate information systems to gain 360-degree visibility into call details
- Manage resources and seamlessly transfer up-to-date information from operations to the field
- Conduct in-depth investigations and leverage departmental insights with intuitive analysis tools
- Record and store data for audit or further analysis
- Reduce errors and eliminate duplicate data entry requirements
- Generate, upload, and send clear professional field reports directly from the vehicle
- Maintain agility and support mission-critical functions during unpredictable events or system outages
Following are a series of questions to help you successfully choose the right RMS solution.
What Do We Need?
Before shopping for an RMS solution, you need to outline your agency’s needs and a list of clear project guidelines. It’s a good idea to solicit member feedback, and many agencies choose to include the program’s end-users in the exploratory process.
Start by assessing your current solution’s shortfalls and noting the processes that need improvement. Perhaps the current system is painfully slow or tends to crash without warning. Or maybe, the solution works as promised, but lacks the critical features needed to bring your department into the 21st century. These are all easy-to-address problems, but if you don’t take the time to identify them, you risk overlooking details that could help cut down on administrative processes or significantly reduce response times.
Your RMS should include features that streamline your processes and enhance efficiencies. For example, many agencies choose RMS solutions with mobile reporting capabilities. This type of program can help officers maximize their productivity by reducing the time spent on paperwork and significantly improving the quality of their reports.
Another must-have element of RMS is regional information sharing. Having access to your neighboring agencies’ records affords your officers a more comprehensive view of criminal activity in your area and allows for a higher degree of situational awareness. In the future, this feature will become increasingly prevalent as the law enforcement community moves to break down data silos and engage in joint efforts to prevent crime regionally.
In addition to mobile reporting and regional search capabilities, you should consider the following features:
- Predictive analysis
- Evidence management
- Uniform database search
- Case reporting
- GIS mapping
- Asset tracking
- Employee scheduling
- Jail administration tools
- Cloud hosting/storage
- CAD integration
How Much Can We Afford?
Now that you’ve ironed out the details and settled on your list of must-haves, it’s time to crunch numbers. When deciding on your budget, it’s important to think in terms of gains versus losses. For example, how much can you save as opposed to what you’re spending now?
Clous-based solutions offer a multitude of advantages. Cost savings on infrastructure and maintenance alone can more than make up for the yearly subscription price. Consider the amount of storage taken up by in-building systems, as well as the utilities used to keep these areas up and running.
Aside from equipment costs, cloud software also allows you to shed expensive service contract costs and free up personnel while enabling 24/7 access to IT maintenance and support.
Additional advantages to cloud-based RMS include:
- Unparalleled data security
- Guaranteed system up-time
- Disaster recovery management
- Automatic software updates
- Anytime-anywhere data access
- 24/7 system monitoring
- Vendor-managed data compliance
- System-generated reports
- Managed data hosting
- Predictable annual costs
Does This Solution Address Our Existing Issues and Account for Future Demands?
With budget and criteria out of the way, it’s time to evaluate systems. This process can be daunting, as there are numerous RMS systems on the market. Customization is a popular buzzword among providers. Yet, if you look closely, you’ll see that highly configurable systems look relatively the same from agency to agency. If your requirements change in the future, will your vendor provide dynamic front-end reconfiguration to help manage your growing demands?
The same rings true for claims of futureproofing. All cloud-based solutions offer updates; however, many companies charge an additional fee for this service. Add in the cost of upgrades, and you could be looking at a sizeable bill. Rather than pay extra for a newer version of the same software, look for a solution provider that includes both regular updates and total platform upgrades in your system’s annual cost.
Remember, when evaluating the solution’s strengths and weaknesses, it’s imperative to leave no stone unturned. After spending all this time on planning and fund allocation, the last thing you’ll want it a hyped-up version of ordinary and a lingering case of buyer’s remorse.
When assessing RMS solutions, make sure you and your vendor agree on the exact definition of these words:
- Mission critical
- Future proof
Is the Solution Provider a Good Fit?
Aligning your mission with that of your service providers may be easier than you think. When meeting with vendors, it’s imperative to consider the company’s background and reputation. Though the company may work with agencies your size, they may cater more to larger departments.
Being at the bottom of a list of priority customers is the last thing you’ll want if you run into issues with your RMS platform. Another problem with this type of provider is that due to limited market exposure, they may be more inclined to upsell features that won’t work well for your department. Rather than hiding behind fancy presentations, make sure your vendor can supply you with a list of customer referrals in similarly sized departments.
Equally important is your vendor’s understanding of law enforcement. Does your account manager and software development team really understand the job? If not, you may have a difficult time explaining why certain functions are critical, and why issues cannot wait days to be resolved. While these factors may seem trivial, the difference between knowledge and understanding can have a dramatic impact on your agency, officers, and community.
At the minimum, your service provider should be able to supply you with straightforward and satisfactory answers to the following questions:
- How many of your customers mirror my agency’s size and capabilities?
- How long has your company been in the software business?
- Does your company employ former public safety professionals?
- What features do you include with this service and which options are considered add-ons?
- What level of training and support does your company provide its customers?
- How will we migrate my existing data to this new solution?
- How long does the average set up and deployment process take?
When Should We Take the Next Step?
The best time to evaluate your resources is before you need them. Of course, if you’re dealing with an emergency replacement, time may be a luxury you can’t afford. However, barring any extenuating circumstances, you should begin planning your RMS purchase 6 to 12 months in advance. Doing so will ensure you have plenty of time to gain the input of your staff and anticipate any barriers to purchase.
Gaining the necessary buy-in may take some time, so consider meeting with your preferred service providers early. Aside from answering any questions you may face from the purchasing department, a responsible vendor should take strides to help you assess your current issues and develop a plan for improvement. Developing a relationship with a new vendor prior to purchase can make the process less painful and more productive.
If you’d like to discuss RMS solutions or learn more about how the right RMS can help streamline your operations and save you time, Omnigo can help. We’d be happy to assist you in finding the perfect software solution for your department.
For more than 20 years, Omnigo software solutions have been the preferred choice for law enforcement, education, healthcare, gaming, hospitality, and corporate enterprises. Currently, Omnigo’s solutions are used by over 2,000 customers in 20 different countries. At Omnigo, we’re committed to helping customers secure their organizations’ property, control operational costs, and ensure the safety of the general public.
We believe our customers deserve the best support available to protect their people, assets, and brand. We also understand how challenging it can be to protect the community without the proper resources. We’re here to arm users with the best tools in the industry. With a team that includes former law enforcement, first responders, and other public safety professionals, we’re uniquely qualified to understand exactly what our customers need to protect their community.
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