By Gaylon Grippin, Public Safety Consultant and Colorado State Patrol Captain (retired)
A valid concern expressed by many public safety executives is that it can be difficult to locate reliable providers for solutions. Most people in an executive position are continuously approached in person, via email or on the phone by providers looking to offer their services. With this myriad of sales pitches coming at you, how can you identify which ones are trustworthy? Sifting through the options can be a challenge.
According to Buck Mims, with the National Public Safety Group, a list of seven questions can start the process of narrowing down potential candidates:
- Who are you currently doing business with in, my state?
- Please provide your state customer list, not a reference list
- How long have you been in business?
- Have you been acquired, or are you looking to be acquired?
- Why should I take the time to look at your products?
- How old is your technology?
- Do you offer a client/server or a cloud-hosted or cloud-native option?
- Did you build the system or purchase it and rebrand it?
- Do you offer a complete package of CAD, RMS, JMS, and Mobile, or if not, who do they partner with? (For example, some don’t have JMS, so they partner with a JMS company)
An alternative to doing your own research is to hire a consulting firm like the National Public Safety Group. Janet Burke, also with the National Public Safety Group, lists of seven questions that a professional consultant would examine for a proposed vendor. A quick look at them shows that there’s some comprehensive ways to help identify reliable vendors:
- Does they offer an on-premises solution? Is it in the cloud, or is it a hybrid of both?
- Specific to Public Safety Software Solutions, do they offer a complete package of records, CAD, mobile field reporting, and jail? Or is their specialty one or two of the core products. If they have one or two core products, ask if they can be integrated with other vendors. If so, what vendors have they integrated with recently - then check that information out to ensure it is accurate
- How does the vendor look financially? Have they been bought and sold numerous times? Are they constantly laying people off? When did they last sign a contract?
- What all do maintenance fees cover? Upgrades, updates, new functionality?
- How often is the software updated? How often are bug fixes delivered? What does the service level agreement (SLA) look like for customer support?
- When the software is updated, does it require everyone to be out of the system and the system to be down for several hours, or is it seamless and happens on the backend with users being unaware?
- How do they train agencies? In-person, train-the-trainer, virtual-only, and how often does an agency get refresher training?
There is a bit of overlap between the sets of questions, but the consultant list is much more detailed. Of course, Janet mentions several other points to consider. One of these involves the use of implementation delay contracts. These help to enforce the meeting of contract deadlines by using a financial incentive. Other considerations include referrals from other clients, the ease of making changes and the ability to integrate with other provider services.
Obviously, to do a complete overview of a provider can involve quite a bit of time doing the legwork and research. It might be money well spent to save the time and frustration and hire the work out to provide the best results. After all, getting the biggest bang for the taxpayer buck should be a priority, as well as making meaningful changes to your public safety agency’s services.
Gaylon retired as a Captain from the Colorado State Patrol in 2020 after 30 years in the profession. He worked throughout the State of Colorado in all functions of patrol. He has his Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Administration, with a specialization in Organizational Leadership. He now works as a public safety consultant with NueGOV.