Peak Performance

The Problems (and Promise) of Tech Solutions

Excerpt from Peak Performance
June 7, 2016

As I write in Peak Performance, our rules in Peak are not perfect. You’ll probably find exceptions in your own work. But one of our biggest guiding principles is to find innovations that don’t require a technology-centered solution. One big reason for that -- apart from the cost -- is that it takes too damn long. The implementation timeline can be much longer than simply eliminating unnecessary steps within the existing technology.

Let me give you an example. Sergeant Bobby Waidler is a police officer who moved from New York to Denver to take advantage of our weather and outdoor recreation opportunities. (In other words, the good life.) Sgt. Waidler is one of more than 500 officers who work the streets every day in Denver. At the end of his shift, Bobby and others hand write an officer log sheet into their log book. The process takes about 15 minutes for each officer.

To put it bluntly, that process is a huge pain in the neck. But even though Bobby and plenty of other officers have discussed how big a pain it is, the cumbersome legacy process has continued. Even more frustrating is the fact that, throughout the day, the officers already must enter each incident into the city’s Computer Aided Dispatch system, or CAD.

What if Bobby and the 500 other officers could just stop hand-writing the officer log sheet and simply type everything into CAD? Seems really simple, right?

When Bobby came through the Peak Academy, he wrote up this innovation and submitted it to his commander. Then we made a huge mistake. We thought this was a simple fix. We thought, “Just stop hand-writing the log, and this entire thing will go away!”

What we learned was that not everything was being typed into CAD. And the commanders all over the city would look at the written log sheets to ensure officers were contacting all kinds of residents. We learned that most of the warnings were written in the log sheet but the actual citations were in the CAD. And if the officers switched everything over to CAD, the department would want to add a number of other bells and whistles into the system at the same time, in order to allow the data team to perform large-scale CompStat analysis.

In fact, the issue of officer log sheets had been on the tech department’s to-do list for years. But it’s super complicated and time consuming. Our technology team will deserve an award for finally putting this innovation into practice. When they do, it will be worth the hard work. Think about this innovation for a second. More than 500 officers would each have 15 minutes of their shift back to perform patrols. That means active police work would increase by more than 2,000,000 minutes a year.  (Right now, the officer log sheet innovation is going through user testing. Its full deployment should happen by the third quarter of 2016.)

It’s an extremely impressive achievement. But it’s also a major investment of time and resources that has turned out to be anything but simple.

That’s why Peak tries to stay focused on non-tech-centered solutions. It means innovations the city can actually implement relatively quickly, with minimal investment. Big wins are important, but we love focusing on the details

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