A question: how different are you?

So you’ve hung out the shingle, you’ve hit a decent number of files per month. What is it that keeps them coming back for more? What unique proposition keeps you in business?  Your uniqueness is a key to your survival and growth, it’s a good idea to enshrine it in your case management system before you lose it in the day-to-day. If you don’t, you’ll keep paying the price.

Let’s talk about the core of your organization, about ensuring your repeatable uniqueness is captured in your organizations heartbeat: your operations, your outreach, your business process, your case management system, your team leaders, your operatives and your back office need to ensure what your clients expect is what they get.


Polar BearUniqueness is a key to survival, look at nature: every species has unique characteristics for gathering food and surviving, sometimes in the most extreme environments. Without it, it’s just a numbers game and you probably do not have the numbers (ie $, people) to match it with your big competitors. This uniqueness is most important on the uphill climb to size and volume.

Operational DNA

Operational DNA: Your Investigation team has it.

Operational DNA: Your Investigation team has it.

Every Investigation Manager we’ve met has a very clear idea how they want their operations working, who says what to whom, who does what to whom at which stage.  Lists are ticked,  repeat cycles of client updates whether, weekly or whatever are followed with consistency. Updates to investigation reports are fired off with clarity, consistency and regularity to clients to keep them posted.

All good Investigation Managers also need to track their current workload and capacity and make sure the fires are stoked and running hot (but not too hot) for their investigators. Their unique approach to delivery and expectation management requires that their paper, people and software fit like a glove. They cannot easily bend their unique proposition to the market if their underlying systems will not bend with them. Therein lies the problem. Not all people and software are adaptable.

You’re Marines now. You adapt. You overcome. You improvise. Let’s move. Four minutes!

Gunnery Sergeant Tom Highway, Heartbreak Ridge

Problems with inflexibility

What hinders your operational DNA and is it a big deal? I think so, I’ve seen it throughout my career in lots of diverse businesses:  300 year old merchant banks, elevator companies, insurers, TV stations and of course Investigation units. It’s the same story: If your operational needs cannot be easily adapted into your software you have two basic choices:

  1. Hire more people, pay additional hours to manually adapt outside your case management system with paper, spreadsheets, and unnecessary process.
  2. Get your case management software provider to change the code to allow for your unique requirements.

Let’s drill into these a bit:

Polonious won a Silver award for BPM excellence in 2009

Polonious won a Silver award for BPM excellence in 2009

Solution 1 – Hire more: The problem with the first path is also a bonus for us when we encounter it. It’s common is all our new clients. The adaptations develop a life of their own, you hire people to maintain spreadsheets, paper forms, hold meetings to work out things that the system should do for you, spend hours writing special needs spreadsheets and reports for individual clients. Essentially, all the things we clean up and give back to our clients in savings when we implement our investigation case management software. Case management software just doesn’t do your type of operation unless it’s really adaptable. You pay because of this. By the way, we know this stuff, we won an award last year for business process management in the insurance industry.

Solution 2 – Get the case management software changed:

OK, this is a good idea (if your software provider will do it, some adopt a ‘one size fits all’ approach – go figure). We think it’s better if the software just does it in the first place. We tend to solve most of our client’s needs with simple configuration choices and selections made by our subject matter experts Alastair and Rick. There are points where we find the software does need adaptation, we bring those changes on quickly with minimal cost to our clients and make them configurable, this means our future and past clients can benefit from similar needs whilst still remaining unique in their market. As they say ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’.

Some thoughts to leave you with

Richard Shepherd, our President of US Operations

Richard Shepherd, our President of US Operations

You and your team are definitely unique, that’s why your clients keep coming back to you, you do the sort of work they need. Our question is this: Should you be paying a penalty for this uniqueness?

If you’d like to call Rick to discuss, he’s been involved in investigation management for more than 20 years, he knows your challenges, can quickly get up to speed on them and has some great ideas on how to solve them.

Rick Shepherd 561.515.6040

About the writer

Stuart Guthrie has loved software since his first Apple II in 1978 when he helped write a star wars game.. His clients have included OTIS Elevator, Rothschilds Investment Bank, Insurance Australia Group, British Broadcasting Corporation, Mercedes Benz, Sims Metal Australia, Production Plus, Hartford Insurance Group and many others of all sizes.

Stuart GuthrieStuart is passionate about adapting software to fit business rather than the other way around.

In 2004, Stuart partnered with Alastair Steel to form Polonious and created market-leading software for all aspects of the investigation management industry from small PI firms to large insurance and government special investigation units. Stuart believes that innovation and new techniques will drive future success for Investigation Units and Polonious are leading that charge..