5 mistakes to avoid when choosing a software provider
By Madeleine Roe
Researching vendors to fit your agency’s public safety software needs can be a daunting task.
You need a system that fits your budget without sacrificing your agency’s ability to serve the community safely and efficiently. In addition, you may be feeling the pressure to find a system that will meet your agency’s needs not just today, but also decades down the road.
Fortunately, you can save time, money, and your sanity by learning how to avoid five mistakes agencies commonly make when choosing a public safety software vendor.
Mistake #1: Failing to purchase a flexible, fully integrated software system that can be tailored to meet your agency’s needs
Plainsboro Police Department Chief Guy Armour knows how valuable having a fully integrated system can be, especially if it saves money in the long run. His department went through several different public safety software vendors that offered a lower up-front price tag but required expensive interfaces to connect disparate system components. The result was time and money wasted by testing different systems that simply didn’t work.
The department recently opted for a public safety software system that required a bigger initial investment but offered everything his agency needed in one integrated system.
Armour said that the agency will save money in the long run on redundant hardware expenses plus licensing, maintenance, and administration costs for multiple databases. In addition, the system allows the agency to decide which components and modules they need now, while giving it the ability to add additional components as the agency grows.
Money isn’t the only thing that can be saved by choosing one vendor. Multiple vendors can also mean confusion about who is responsible should a problem come up.
“When we have technological issues, we’ll be saving time because we know the solution will be to call one maintenance number to fix any type of problem that may arise,” Armour said
Mistake #2: Not understanding the vendor’s upgrade process
The world of public safety software is constantly changing and advancing. If your agency is required to pay for software upgrades, you could find yourself straining the budget to stay on the cutting edge of technology, or even worse, stuck with an older version that’s no longer supported.
Mistake #3: Investing in a software system but not receiving the training needed to use it effectively
Lastly, don’t forget about customer support. How accessible is help? From online resources to live help over the phone, you should have access to a level of customer support that meets your agency’s needs.
Mistake #4: Purchasing software only to have the vendor go out of business or discontinue the product line
You should also ask if a vendor exclusively produces public safety software. By choosing a vendor that focuses solely on public safety software, you can be confident that the company is dedicating 100 percent of its resources to creating innovative and reliable products that your agency can use.
You should also ask how many versions mature a vendor’s software is, which can speak to its reliability and stability. It is also an indicator of how invested the vendor is in its product. The more mature a product is, the more time and money a company has put into testing and developing it.
Mistake #5: Implementing a software system that does not allow you to share data within your agency or between jurisdictions
“Criminals don’t have jurisdictional boundaries, so we have to work together to catch them,” he said.
Being able to securely send and receive data between agencies has the ability to transform public safety tactics from reactionary to more proactive, intelligence-based policing, which increases efficiency and productivity.
At the end of the day, just remember that choosing a public safety software vendor is a difficult task, and your agency should take the time to find one that fits its specific needs. Keeping these five things in mind and asking the right questions will help you avoid costly mistakes while ensuring that your agency gets the best public safety software system for its investment.
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