How to Keep Improving the Investigation Process without Killing your Staff

One of the keys to improving the performance of your team lies in improving the investigative process itself.

Improving the investigative process can  be burdensome for your team if it’s not handled correctly.  Communicating the new steps, training employees on the new steps and rolling it all out can take time.  This is harder if the new process is not part of your case management tool. This article explores how companies determine if a change is needed, how they implement the change and what ensures that the changes are embedded in your team’s best practice.

As we’ve mentioned before, great investigation management software needs the ability to map your investigative process directly into the software itself. This provides many advantages to investigation management teams:

  • It makes your approach to each type of investigation consistent. Your clients will love this.
  • It ensures you’re not missing things; Due diligence is done and metrics are recorded.
  • It makes training easier;  All your information is located in one tool, not spreadsheets, documents, hallway meetings or pieces of paper.
  • It’s a focal point for improvement. As you identify weaknesses in your investigation process, you can refine it and relay it to your team.

Old methods work OK but software that maps to your way of doing things right and is flexible enough to meet your needs in the future is a better road map for making a good investigations team into a great investigations team. Make sure you consider this when evaluating Investigation Management Software.

As an example of this practice, there is a report in the Polonious Case Management System that  can be printed out and used as a discussion point for investigation process changes. The report identifies all key elements during the process:

  • Who is responsible at each step of the investigation?
  • What sort of entries are made that progress the investigation and gather the critical data?
  • What process steps does an investigation flow through?

Here is an example of our current report:
Screen shot 2009-11-12 at 11.25.30 PM

Most Investigation Units that do not have this capability in place end up with an informal, people-managed process that is prone to several key problems.

  1. It’s difficult to track. If you’re not recording every step of the process as a natural part of completing the investigation, it’s difficult to improve the process based on empirical data.
  2. It’s difficult to make consistent. People are people – they forget things, sometimes they even ‘forget’ things accidentally if you know what I mean. It’s better that the system helps them choose the best path for them and the investigation unit. Ensuring consistent process ensures your ongoing success.
  3. It’s hard to analyze for weaknesses. This is a similar thing to tracking. If the data is not there, you are relying on anecdotal evidence to self-improve. This is hard to convey to your management that things need to change to improve capability.
  4. It’s difficult to improve. Explaining new process to people when the tool doesn’t help them is difficult and time consuming. It often involves many hours and several employees to straighten out the process and communicate it to the team which is a barrier to continuous improvement.

The steps for improving and communicating the investigative process should be:

  • Organize a management meeting after printing out the current process  eg: The surveillance process.
  • Highlight the deficiencies using the provided document, mark it up for change.
  • Hand it to your internal person who manages the software.
  • Test the new process.
  • Print out the new process and hand a copy or alternatively email to the team for a briefing.
  • When you are ready, implement the new process in the one consistent tool.

I hope this article has been helpful in working through some of the techniques and problems with investigation process improvement and communication. I’ve tried to highlight why it’s important to be able to change your processes and the sorts of tools out there that can make a difference in this important area of investigation management.

All the Best

Stuart Guthrie

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