The Met

Company: TeamwareCustomer: The MetSubmitted by: MCC InternationalDate: March 2000Gone are the days when a few constables could manage the disturbances of the city of London. The Metropolitan Police was established in 1829 and today employs more than 40,000 people to keep the 800 square miles of London’s metropolitan area safe.

The fabled sleuths of Scotland Yard have changed with the times as well: over the years, Met Police has looked to new technologies to help improve its effectiveness – be it wireless communications in 1922, 999 service in 1937, or an intranet in 1998. Today, an intranet is an important crime-prevention tool for the Met Police, and its internal intranet communications are supported by TeamWARE Office.The Metropolitan Police, the division of the UK’s police force charged with London, recognises that policing is a business based on information exchange. However, the increasing complexity of crimes and criminals, as well as the need to integrate with international authorities in many efforts, makes efficient exchange of information a challenge. The Met Police’s borough-based policy of recent years also challenged the centralisation and organisation of information.The organisation needed a system to ensure that both information access from boroughs and information flow up to the centres of command were co-ordinated and efficient.

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In the early 1990s, the organisation began to explore the use of groupware and Internet technology to achieve these goals.When the Met Police began its exploration of groupware tools in the early 1990s, it found very few systems that would meet its needs. Lotus Notes was considered, but it wasn’t available on Unix platforms, and in 1993, the Met Police chose TeamWARE because of the functionality it offered and its cost per user. The Met Police deployed it on a limited basis, and in 1995, it reconsidered the groupware deployment as part of a larger intranet-based information strategy.An independent consultant was hired to evaluate the organisation’s groupware options.

The advice of the consultant, in addition to reference site visits of other TeamWARE customers, including the Helsinki Police, convinced the Met Police that it should continue on the TeamWARE path.TeamWARE was deployed in a phased approach, starting with the central offices of the organisation out to the boroughs as part of the Met Police’s Operational Technology Information Systems (OTIS) environment. Today, more than 30,000 Met Police employees at 200 sites are users of OTIS and TeamWARE, and that number is expected to grow to more than 40,000 by yearend 1999.Although the Met Police recognises the importance of training officers to use the system, it “can’t afford taking policemen off the street to train on groupware.” Applications are designed with a standard look and feel so that they are intuitive and easy to use, and an interactive online help section is provided for all of OTIS.In addition to online help, trainers are trained at each location, and they are expected to train peers at a 1-10 ratio to keep employees updated on the system.

New recruits to the force are expected to be IT aware, which should further reduce training time.The Met Police’s system provides users with a customised window that enables it to access the tools and applications appropriate for its job. TeamWARE Office is the primary communication application, and it is an important technology component of the Met Police’s “hot-spotting” strategy, which focuses on proactive crime prevention. Crime reports from boroughs are transferred via email to headquarters, and all prisoners are booked and processed via TeamWARE Office, enabling users at any branch to ID and potentially match related crimes and perpetrators.In the future, the Met Police expects to make greater use of the workflow functionality offered by TeamWARE Office and take advantage of the mobile and Web functionality provided.

These plans are part of an overall technology strategy that includes intranet expansion to share information with other agencies and national police organisations, integration of digital camera and mobile computing technologies, and deployment of kiosks for greater visibility and accessibility.The Met Police’s intranet has enabled the organisation to provide a global framework for information management based on a set of simple, easy-to-use tools. The initial goal of office automation has turned OTIS and TeamWARE Office into a basis for operations with a strong audit trail and the flexibility to adapt and improve over time; the goal also made the Met Police’s intranet a model for the United Kingdom’s national strategy for police information systems. The system offers the following specific benefits:Improved information circulation. Integrating prisoner bookings and reports into a central system and enabling officers to search those systems have increased officers’ ability to ID potential “hot spots” and share that information within the 200 branches of the organisation.Improved audit trails.

Searchable electronic records of bookings and all reports have greatly reduced paper flow within the Met Police and also improved the quality of the organisation’s records.The Met Police’s IT department recognised the importance of putting the solution before the tools. As the IT manager said, “Often IT initiatives come from individuals who take initiative, and sometimes they fall away after the individual leaves.” The organisation focused on providing tools for users, not the perfect system.The organisation’s focus on groupware as a tool to help it solve a specific problem ensured that the system was intuitive and easy to use, a key for groupware success considering the wide range of IT experience and comfort levels within the organisation. The popularity of the system has inspired users to propose improvements and new applications that make OTIS and TeamWARE even more effective tools.

Additionally, the system is open to integration of new technologies and applications as they develop; this feature will keep the Met Police on the cutting edge of crime prevention.