Zen and the Art of Investigation Management – Out of Order

It doesn’t matter how enticing the gumballs in the machine look, any child will tell you that after putting a coin in and turning the lever, the failure for a gumball to fall out is the end of the attraction. It is clearly ‘Out of Order’. Are you?

Many of the Special Investigation Units and Investigation Firms we work with don’t particularly like it when we compare them to a gumball machine but the analogy is fair. Your customers, whoever they are, expect that they will get a timely investigation that will facilitate a better decision making process.

If you don’t they will stick an ‘Out of Order’ sign on you and find another gumball machine.

There is one exception that comes to mind and that is when they use you to justify a delay. You may be adding some value, but is it the lowest and most replaceable value you could aim for.

I know some readers are thinking ‘high quality investigations take time’. Yes, some do, but any time that is not directly attributable to actually investigating is simply a waste of time. There is often more benefit in delivering the majority of a case early and tidying up later. Face it, investigations are never really exhausted, they are an endless return on investment decision. If you show the value early, getting extra budget or an increase in staffing becomes a much easier position to support.

For any investigation organization faster product delivery will improve client relationships, reduce work in progress and free up resources from administration tasks proportionally.

For investigation firms there is another real reason to reduce their product delivery time and that is that delivering early will significantly reduce their working capital. See this prior blog re exactly that.

Lastly information is most valuable now and becomes less valuable in time.

How do you achieve that with Polonious Investigation Management Systems?

Lets start by breaking down the process into its three most basic phases;
1. Intake
2. Investigation
3. Delivery

The goals are;
* Shorten the time from intake to investigation.
* Identify investigation features that lead to an early close of the investigation, then close it.
* Shorten the time from the completion of the investigation to delivery.

1. Accelerate intake.

Spend the time to review your current process and what can be improved, how can you reduce the people invoiced, how can you make it more linear so there is less movement back and forth between involved parties prior to allocation and action.

If you are manually intaking cases then consider using a webform so your clients can enter some if not the majority of the case information and attach documents for you. Secondary benefits are the customer immediately gets a case number and knows action has started.

If you can consider the benefits of using web services to enable users to send referrals directly form their system to yours. There is an investment here depending on the third party systems but the gains are substantial and the ROI significant. Some of the largest investigation firms in the US have gained significant business by following this path.

If you receive your instructions in a consistent format consider importing it directly into Polonious so the data is auto populated. Again think investment and ROI.

Next break down all the processes that need to be completed prior to the investigation commencing.
Confirmation, additional information, searches, research, scheduling and allocation. If possible make it linear and group actions so that one particular person’s or division’s actions are completed together so they need to action the file as few times as possible. If it is not linear and there are several processes then consider splitting them into related processes so one does not delay the other.

2. Accelerate Investigation.
Identify the steps to be taken. Make it linear and reduce passing responsibility back and forth

Manage investigator workload, they are your little gumball machines and each can handle different case loads. Monitor your investigator quality reports and note variations based on case loads. In time you will find the correct case load not only for most investigators but individuals.

Identify case end points or events and when one occurs close the case out. One of our longest standing customers introduced systems to close out investigations of genuine claims in half the time they had previously which greatly improved the relationship with their claims department and lead to better customer service and more referrals.

Identify delays early and if possible report at this point. Deliver to your client everything you have that will assist them now and inform them of the delay and your plan to complete the investigation once that delay is over. If you are 80% done then invoice it, put it on hold and follow up later. Do not delay the delivery of 80% for a possible 20% that may never be available.

If you have identified a wealth of evidence that will help your case, deliver what you have now and continue on with a client that is excited to be involved.

Build reporting into the investigation process. If you collect what you need for your final report during the investigation process then reporting can be the press of a button away. No need to review it all again and collate the evidence. It’s done, proofed and ready to go. See this blog for ideas of how to do just that.

3. Accelerate Delivery.
This can be one of the most unnecessary delays in the investigation process. Identify the steps to be taken. Make it linear and reduce passing responsibility back and forth.Collect the data you need to deliver during the process.This should be the shortest phase of the process. If it isn’t review the first two phases.Start again and work through it until delivery is right.

Run your milestone reports and identify where you are spending your time, where the bottlenecks are and focus on those areas until they are no longer a constraint.

Automation is a great ability that we bring to the table but if it is more people you need in a particular area then hire them.

Nothing will constrain you and your organization more than slow or late delivery.

If you are a Polonious user information on all these configuration abilities are available on our user group and if you are not a member please join us.

email: support @ poloniouslive . com

About the Author
Alastair has more than 29 years of experience in the law enforcement and the investigation industry and has guided the rollout of the Polonious Investigation Management System to over 50 organizations across the globe. Our customers have varied business processes and requirements from large insurance carriers with hundreds of investigators and adjusters to small forensic teams. Each now has a customized solution to meet their needs.

Alastair Steel, Dip.Crim. is the co-founder of Polonious.
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