Police Skills and Business Analysis...and other things that seem mismatched

Inspector James Brown, Toronto Police Service  

Would you like mushrooms with your coffee? 
Do you want your parka before jumping in the pool?
Can Police Officers do process mapping or other business analysis tasks?

On the surface, these questions may not make much sense. However, having front line police officers trained in business analysis skills is exactly what the Toronto Police Service undertook as part of its largest and most ambitious technology and change management program that started in 2007.

The Toronto Police Integrated Records and Information System (IRIS) project envisioned moving the Service from a multitude of siloed information system applications to an integrated information environment. However, it wasn't necessarily the technology installation that was so critical for the Service, but rather the change management commitment that would bring about a huge cultural shift, not only within the Police Service, but within all the justice and community partners that interacted with the Service.

As the Toronto Police started down the path of researching the needs and determining the scope of the project, the Service came to the classic fork in the road and one they had confronted before. The question was: Who will build the RFP to secure the professionals required to elicit the requirements? After all, in the past the organization had always hired an outside consulting firm to undertake this work.

However, since financial resources were tight, Police Services decided to look at some alternatives. Could they get it cheap? Could they use students? Could they make this a research opportunity? These are all questions that were examined during the process. In the Services' experience, many consulting firms had been engaged to undertake needs assessment and needs elicitation. The outcome was generally a significant investment in time and effort to help the consultants understand policing, and then a short period of time to write the high level requirements.

So, how about if the Police Service were to train front line police officers who have an intimate knowledge of their work environment, to become business analysts? This may not be as farfetched as it looks on the surface. Front line officers have training in examining detailed and complex environments; they are skilled at being able to take disparate pieces of information and coalesce them into a cohesive thought or concept; they are practiced at making detailed notes, and they have interviewing and elicitation skills. As a result, the Service moved forward with an initiative to provide business analysis training to a group of front line uniformed police officers along with civilian support staff, in partnership with their training service provider, the International Institute of Learning.

As the training started to evolve, the affinities in the work started to emerge and they could start to draw parallels. Needs elicitation equated to interview skills; documentation and traceability equated to court preparation and disclosure; process mapping equated to crime mapping; business process analysis equated to major crime investigation, and so on. As for change management, communications and training, these are all core requirements of the Service and skills required for uniformed officers.

Now, this all required flexible and creative training delivery, and the Service was fortunate to secure Maureen McVey, now Head of Learning and Development for International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA), as the business analysis trainer. During Maureen's training, evaluating needs for product chain development morphed into sexual assault investigative process; IT requirements for a grocery chain morphed into property and evidence control and continuity for guns and drugs; and use case scenarios for software development morphed into fatal accident scene reconstruction.

Throughout the process it became clear the police officers brought strong business analysis skills to the table which simply had to be repurposed from their current focus. More importantly, the enhancement of these skills through the business analysis training provided skills that were required long-term for the Service and re-useable skills for the officers.

Now, the desired outcome of the effort was not to produce senior business analysts who could easily move to the banking or insurance sector, but rather that the Service would create a cadre of specialists who understood the business analysis process and the associated terminology. The hope was that through securing a small number of senior business analysts, this in-house team could act as a force-multiplier, thereby augmenting the capability of a small group of senior BAs who could lead, direct and engage the uniformed officers, and that would lead to knowledge and skills transfer, allowing the uniformed officers to increase their capacity. 

In this way, the Service believed it could achieve its goals for both technology implementation and change management in a cost effective way, utilizing existing internal resources to their maximum efficiency, while developing internal capacity and skills required for the continued growth and evolution of the Service.

Today, the Service is moving forward with its IRIS project. A team of uniformed officers continue to elicit needs through the configuration phase of the project, as well as mapping the As Is and To Be states. After completing a comprehensive Target Operating Model, they are now engaged in completing the myriad of Final Operating Model documents that will be required for training and internal governance, all done with the support of a very small number of external senior BAs who are supporting and directing the team.

The Service believes this has been an excellent exercise, one that draws upon the knowledge and skills of front line practitioners to ensure the users who are most impacted by the technology and change are the ones who have the strongest representation in the process analysis, design and system configuration. This is a process that has built upon the skills of the members, while providing them with new skills that will continue to help and support the Service.