‘Ignore simulation technology at your peril’ warns former chief constable

Former Derbyshire Chief Constable David Coleman has warned police forces that overlooking the role of process simulation technology could hinder their chances of meeting government performance targets.

May 21, 2008
By Paul Jacques
Neil Corbel

Former Derbyshire Chief Constable David Coleman has warned police forces that overlooking the role of process simulation technology could hinder their chances of meeting government performance targets.

Mr Coleman, now associate director at Lanner Group, specialists in business process improvement (BPI), was speaking at the launch of Lanner’s latest PRISM software at a National Police Improvement Association (NPIA) meeting in Coventry earlier this month.

Key decision-makers from 17 of the police forces in England and Wales gathered for the launch, and to discuss best practice and understand the latest developments in the simulation field.

According to Michael Schrage, author of Serious Play: How the World’s Best Companies Simulate to Innovate, simulation technology will become as commonplace as spreadsheets or email.

Forces can simulate the implications of different business decisions and understand any process, however complex, by enabling officers to safely test policing changes and develop evidenced-based justifications – not unlike popular simulation games such as SimCity.

Business learning benefits include strategic thinking, financial analysis, market analysis, operations, teamwork and leadership.

Several presentations from police forces, including Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, demonstrated the substantial benefits they’d achieved as a result of successful simulation projects.

Nottinghamshire Police, for example, which serves a region of over 800 square miles with a diverse population of more than one million people, was trying to meet the challenge of delivering high service levels to the public while meeting national and local performance targets.

It is now driving improvements in call handling and incident response operations with simulation software, allowing it to identify areas for improvement and re-tune existing processes in order to achieve these improvements.

Ernie Brummitt, head of performance analysis at Nottinghamshire Police, explained: “In a sector which is subject to stringent ?nancial and service targets, it was imperative that we deployed the right tools to help us maximise the return on investment (ROI) of this project.

“PRISM can drill down into the processes we are currently using and highlight bottlenecks which previously inhibited our ability to maximise resources and provide an excellent service to the public and our of?cers. Its ability to map out scenarios based on multiple dynamic variables in order to build a business case is invaluable.”

Delegates agreed that process simulation can drive major cost savings, improve productivity and de-risk decisions on business process improvement across a variety of police departments from call handling, through to arrest and custody procedures.

Despite this a number of police forces agreed that tighter budgets had led them to overlook the long-term savings and benefits of simulation technology. Others admitted to an unfounded perception that simulation technology is difficult to use.

Mr Coleman said: “Several police forces showcased how process simulation technology can save both money and time. However, some forces are currently focusing on controlling their short-term costs at the expense of the long-term benefits and cost savings that simulation technology could be delivering them. And, potentially at the expense of meeting their government performance targets.

“More work is needed to educate senior members of police forces that simulation technology is simple to use and has potential to pay for itself many times over in the first year.”

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