Industry voice: Chris Doutney, executive director, Civica Digital, explains how a national Office 365 platform will provide savings and operational benefits, and contribute to the modernisation of policing
UK police forces have endured a perfect storm over recent years. Their funding was cut by 18% in real terms between 2010-16 – a figure confirmed by the National Audit Office – while they have been faced with a series of new threats to public safety in areas such as cyber crime, terrorism and hate crime.
They are facing up to the challenge, with the Policing Vision 2025 strategy and National Enabling Programmes laying the groundwork for a transformation in which technology will play a central role in delivering cost savings and major operational benefits.
It is not all about specialised IT systems; as with other public services, ‘off-the-shelf’ IT platforms offer immense potential for police forces. A study by Forrester Consulting, commissioned by Microsoft, found that the Office 365 platform can provide net savings equivalent to a total of £2.3 million over three years for an average UK police force.
There are plans for a national Office 365 platform to be built under the Enabling Programmes, with a team working on the design and a future procurement to find a national implementation partner. It will provide the core platform along with a licensing deal with Microsoft for police forces; but they will each be responsible for how it is configured locally, integrated with other applications and used in a change programme. This is where Civica Digital can be a valuable partner.
The approach promises savings in several areas, including technology, mobility, control and compliance, business intelligence and real time communication. This liberates money from technology to push into the frontline of policing.
On a broader front, it can support a wide range of applications and functions, especially when combined with Microsoft Dynamics 365. This provides scope for police forces to reap the benefits of better information findability and management, extending to:
- Mobility, enabling their officers to access and update information on the move.
- Business intelligence, providing the insights to prevent incidents, support strategic planning and preserve public safety.
- Real time communication, making it easier for their officers to talk and share information with each other and, when necessary, officials from other agencies.
Equally important is that the platform can provide a range of operational benefits, helping to streamline several processes that are crucial to policing.
These include sharing information with other agencies. At the moment it is largely a manual process, with police officers and other officials taking laptops or printed materials to a meeting point. Office 365 provides options to set up online collaboration areas with tools such as Yammer and OneDrive, along with the security protocols that ensure that only the appropriate people have access to specific information.
There are similar advantages in supporting collaborative working within the police, including collaboration between neighbouring forces. The features in Office 365 can be valuable tools in an investigation that is spread out geographically or for operational teams dispersed to different locations.
Mobility and rationalisation
Office 365’s support for mobility can also enable officers to stay in communities, based in locations such as council offices, coffee shops or libraries, reducing the amount of time officers must spend at police stations while at the same time improving police visibility to the public. The rationalisation of the police property estate is a major element of forces’ plans to save money, and technology will be the major factor in making this possible.
It can provide a channel for managing projects and tasks, setting out pre-planned responses with details of the required resources, prescribed actions and any relevant reference material. This is a significant element of policing, not just in crime prevention initiatives but in managing crowds at big events or responding to civil emergencies.
Similarly, Office 365 can be used on a more routine basis for tasking and briefing, to ensure effective distribution of intelligence information together with the ability for updates to be easily shared collaboratively throughout the day.
It can also provide a common repository for online forms. National sets are available, but police forces can also develop their own local versions where needed for deployment in Office 365 such that they are made easily available to officers and police staff.
Challenge in change
It is possible to manage many processes within Office 365, which will lay the groundwork for the rationalisation of applications, reducing the complexity and cost in managing software systems. But the change involves its own challenges, which is where an experienced partner can be a great asset.
Civica Digital has extensive experience, notably in its current engagement with the Home Office in developing the Office 365 platform for records management and collaboration. It can help to steer a police force towards replacing existing systems, using Office 365 to collaborate effectively, and achieve compliance with data protection legislation. Among its achievements with the Home Office has been the focus on out of the box Office 365 functionality, heavily leveraging the new Advanced Data Governance framework in Office 365 to support information review, retention and disposal.
It has also worked with forces such as Surrey and Sussex Police in building a new Intranet. And it can transfer skills to a client organisation, ensuring that at least one, possibly more of its employees work with its own team to understand the alignment of the platform with the processes. This can lead an organisation towards long-term self-sufficiency in the field.
The national platform for Office 365 will provide a starting point, but police forces will have to adapt it to their own priorities and carefully manage the introduction of change to ensure officers and police employees understand how the benefits can be realised. It will also be an evolving beast owing to the evergreen nature of Office 365: even after local implementation it will change and mature, providing more benefits and supporting the modernisation of policing. It is about better processes, keeping more officers on the beat and ensuring they have all the information they need at any time.
More information on how Civica Digital can help police forces optimise their investment in Office 365 can be found here.
Police leaders and Civica Digital discussed ‘Making digital policing a reality: When to bespoke and when to commoditise - driving benefit from core commonality’ on the 19th April. Watch the on-demand video below:
On the panel:
- Ian Bell – CEO, Police ICT Company
- Simon Parr – Business change lead at the National Enabling Programmes (Ex chief constable, Cambridgeshire Police)
- Jules Donald – CIO Essex / Kent Police
- Chris Doutney - Executive Director, Civica Digital
Image (amended) by Andrew, CC BY 2.0 through flickr