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  • Incident tracking

    I'm wondering if anyone is familiar with incident tracking software that is applicable to a gated community. The HOA is looking for a software program that is all inclusive. In other words, a program where not only can incidents be tracked, but searched by a number of entry fields. They are looking for a program that will handle incidents, citations, evidence logs, etc.

    Any info would be appreciated.

    Thanks

  • #2
    ReportExec is one.
    Some Kind of Commando Leader

    "Every time I see another crazy Florida post, I'm glad I don't work there." ~ Minneapolis Security on Florida Security Law

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    • #3
      I apologize that for the long post here, but as you frame the question there are many issues to consider and you have some hard spade work to do if you want to do this right. It isn't a matter of dialing up the "Acme Incident Tracking Software Company" and ordering their product. What you want, as you express it, is a great deal of capability but the details of each capability you describe are what you have to nail down. What should this thing really do, and what should it look like...exactly?

      As a way of getting your feet wet with respect to the issues involved in your question, here's a demo of a product called Form Stream that is very educational about features you might want in any product of this type that you might look at: Form Stream Demo .

      There's a lot of software out there, of course, and their features differ widely so that it's very important to start with a needs analysis in order to identify at least the following:

      1. "Mandatory" capabilities for the system...what are we trying to accomplish and WHY? You really need to have a very firm grip on the business reasons for implementing this software...for instance, are you just trying to automate some existing processes, or are you looking for capabilities that will give you a competitive advantage? If it's the former, which processes, and how can they be automated? If it's the latter, you need to identify exactly how this system will give you the edge - for instance, "To enable us to provide clients with incident reports that they can access via the Internet within x time after the incident." Another might be: "To provide operational efficiencies by enabling us to analyze calls for service by time of day and geographical area, thereby giving us a price advantage." Always try to express competitive advantages in terms of what they will do for the client - better, faster, cheaper service, for instance - not just the advantages to your own operation.

      2. "Desirable but not mandatory" capabilities...

      3. Legacy (already in-place) software issues and constraints...

      4. Legacy hardware issues and constraints...

      5. Information security issues and constraints.

      Obviously, it is usually highly desirable, if the company has already made a significant investment in legacy systems, to enhance their usefulness rather than to scrap them and reinvent the wheel. If you don't already have a database, mobile data terminals/computers, etc. so much the better - you can start from scratch without any legacy considerations.

      With this list in hand, you need to create the project parameters:

      1. What is the budget for this project?

      2. Who is going to manage it?

      3. Who else will be on the project team? Include representatives from the various user groups!

      4. What are the critical milestones for the project from inception to implementation?

      5. What are the time frames for each of the milestones?

      Even for small companies, implementation of software with the capabilities you're discussing DOES involve a project mentality, and this means project management...you don't just shoot from the hip and go "buy something" that you think is slick or that you heard the ABC Security Company is using. Use software like Microsoft Project to manage even small projects.

      One thing that I've noticed when working on projects like these is that people sometimes tend to focus too much on the database "subsystem" in the overall system. Experience has shown repeatedly that the data-gathering (reporting) and data-querying/retrieval subsystems are far more critical than the database itself. These form the interface between the user and the database and are the biggest determinants in how easily and how accurately information is gathered, and also how easily and intuitively the information can then be searched and retrieved. Spend time getting the reporting/retrieval interface right and let that drive the database design rather than the other way around, or you'll probably regret it.

      For instance, you might have noticed that Form Stream, mentioned above, is very much focused on the interface:

      1. Converts existing paper forms to electronic format. You can also obviously customize and create new electronic forms. For agencies that have made a significant investment in designing their paper forms, this is very important.

      2. Ties the electronic forms to the database so they can be prepopulated with information when they are "opened" by the officer to be filled in - for instance, automatically assigning a case number, incident codes, etc.

      3. Provides for the electronic form to be completed in the field and then submitted even over low-speed wireless connections.

      4. Provides for intelligent data-checking within the form itself to prevent the wrong type of information from being entered in a particular field. For instance, does the information entered into a phone number field "look like" a valid phone number? Does it have a valid area code and prefix? Is the entry in a gender field either an "M" or an "F"? Is the individual's height within a valid range? Is a mandatory field filled in? Invalid data is rejected automatically and the form itself cannot be submitted if a mandatory field is left blank. This kind of capability, incidentally, is absolutely on the "mandatory" list above if you hope to maintain any semblance of integrity in your database.

      5. Provides for the form to be approved by a supervisor if need be, and then processed automatically and immediately. It is thus reflected in the database in "real time".

      6. Provides a standardized query/reporting function to enable remote retrieval of information.

      When you look at these capabilities, you can see how you might want to look for similar abilities in any product you consider.

      Of absolutely huge importance, IMHO, is that the product be based on XML. This is a universal meta-language that basically adds the capability of turning a document into a set of pre-defined data fields that can therefore be recognized by software and processed electronically. Of course, it also provides the necessary features to permit specification of the document presentation as well (font, bolding, tables, etc.)

      By way of contrast, HTML - the basic language of Web pages - only provides presentation capabilities...in other words, how the document will look. You cannot (easily) identify specific data items within an HTML document.

      XML is "configurable", so anyone can develop their own XML document data fields and presentation specifications. However, it's not quite that chaotic because various industries such as healthcare, the banking industry, etc., have developed their own "official XML versions", so to speak, in which everyone in that industry agrees to use certain well-defined data fields (called a data set) for exchanging information because all systems, for instance, use a 15-character alphanumeric field for the case number.

      The justice system is no exception to industry-specific XML development. Here is a reference to the Global Justice XML page:Global Justice XML Data Model.

      If you watched the Form Stream demo, you will have noticed that it's based on this particular Global Justice "version" of XML - not just "generic XML". However, even "generic XML" is so powerful and useful in adding "data" capabilities to forms that I wouldn't consider any product today that was not at least based on "generic XML". I'd seriously prefer one specifically based on the GJ version of XML because I see an increasing likelihood of the need for and the desirability of being able to exchange information - particularly intelligence - between public and private agencies out over the future.

      I was interested that Form Stream appears to support a "payment module" whereby an electronic form can be tied into a third-party (credit card) payment handler. This might have a number of intriguing uses in our field - payment of parking citations, for instance, or for services that might be charged on a per-incident basis, such as a fee levied for a false alarm response, or a special for-fee service like an individualized business security survey, a monthly charge for a "distress alarm" home service, etc. I haven't personally examined the details of this feature with respect to Form Stream and there are many ways of skinning that cat if you use a different product, just as long as you can execute a payment-handling "script"/program and have an account set up with a card-payment provider.

      Lots to think about! Whatever you do, don't make a hasty decision. Think it through and do the hard work of developing specifications up front. Better still, for something like this that appears to form a significant information foundation for your company, I'd engage the services of a consultant for at least long enough to help define the critical issues noted above and, even better, to assist in creating a proper RFP/RFQ to give to the many different vendors you'll find out there. Such an RFP/RFQ should not only specify the characteristics of the software you need, but also things you might not think of like user training, maintenance, scalability, etc...and that's where the consultant can really save your bacon.
      Last edited by SecTrainer; 12-23-2006, 11:25 AM.
      "Every betrayal begins with trust." - Brian Jacques

      "I can't predict the future, but I know that it'll be very weird." - Anonymous

      "There is nothing new under the sun." - Ecclesiastes 1:9

      "History, with all its volumes vast, hath but one page." - Lord Byron

      Comment


      • #4
        PPM 2000 is offered for your consideration. The system affords consolidation on most DOS seamlessly as a software management tool; incident tracking, report writing, investigation management, trend analysis, parking management, lost and found control, key control and activity logging.
        With this system you can justify your security budget, the buzz acronym ROI or return on investment which seems to warm the cockles of their hearts.
        PPM 2000 offers training and on site support which is a lot better than going through page after page of an instruction manual most often written by engineers for the benefit of other engineers.
        They provide a free demostration disk which will ease your concerns.
        Visit their website http://www.ppm2000.com
        Regardless of which system you choose, it is only as good as you make it. No system can read your mind. There are prompts that prevent you from entering data in the wrong place. The system is as idiot as they can make it. But remember always, "Garbage in, garbage out."
        Enjoy the day,
        Bill

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Bill Warnock
          Regardless of which system you choose, it is only as good as you make it. No system can read your mind. There are prompts that prevent you from entering data in the wrong place. The system is as idiot as they can make it. But remember always, "Garbage in, garbage out."
          Absolutely. The minute you start using any system, as the laws of entropy predict, it begins to deteriorate as people inevitably begin to enter flawed or incomplete information...and there are also potential system gotchas as well. No matter how fancy the system, it can become virtually worthless in a very short period of time if it's populated with garbage, and this is often the biggest reason that systems like this disappoint their users.

          Even something that seems as simple as a street address can cause problems. For instance, can the system recognize that "Ave" is the abbreviation for "Avenue" when you make an address query? Good! Now, what about "Ave."? AVE? AVE.? etc., etc. Either you have to control all of these variables when the data is input, or the query engine will have to recognize that they are equivalents when people are querying the system.

          An entire record - or numbers of records - might be omitted from a query, for instance, if the system either did not initially restrict the data entry and/or cannot handle the various possibilities of data expressions. If the name "Johnston" had been entered as "Johnson", or "Smythe" as "Smith", etc., and there is no provision for handling misinformation or for doing a "fuzzy" search on name sound-alike spellings, you soon find yourself with what amounts to a very fancy collection of garbage.

          ...and the problem, incidentally, isn't really so much "garbage in, garbage out", but "garbage in, GOSPEL out" - or believing that the misinformation that we retrieve from our garbage input is actually good information. We take it on faith (we almost have to, many times!), act on it, and then learn that our information is wrong.

          Incidentally, if you watch the demo in my previous post, you'll note that much is made of the elimination of the "data entry" step. In fact, the step isn't eliminated...it's moved out to the field instead. Here, a very interesting question arises as to whether the officer is really the proper data entry clerk in terms of his typing and spelling abilities, which may be rotten, the distractions in the field, the time pressures of other calls, etc...and you might want to ask whether you really do want to eliminate the step of having data entered by highly-skilled people who are dedicated to just doing data entry, given the critical importance of this step in terms of the value of your whole system. An alternative would be to have the officer complete the form but then to route it to a "data editor"...someone who scans the data form for potential problems, fixes them...and then releases it to the database. Yes, either option (data clerk or data editor) adds cost, but I've seen how some officers type, and how badly some of them spell...and the thought of that junk going into a database just doesn't bear thinking about.
          Last edited by SecTrainer; 12-23-2006, 11:51 AM.
          "Every betrayal begins with trust." - Brian Jacques

          "I can't predict the future, but I know that it'll be very weird." - Anonymous

          "There is nothing new under the sun." - Ecclesiastes 1:9

          "History, with all its volumes vast, hath but one page." - Lord Byron

          Comment


          • #6
            I'd like to thank everyone for their input. I suspect what I am looking for is the same software system we had in LE where everything, and I mean everything that occured was entered into one program. I could search for a multitude of information in the one program. I'm skeptical that such a system exists in the private sector. Let me say that I am not responsible for security in the community but only volunteered to assisit (mistake?) .

            In any event I will research the iformation that you have provided, and again offer my appreciation for your input.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Spyyman
              I'd like to thank everyone for their input. I suspect what I am looking for is the same software system we had in LE where everything, and I mean everything that occured was entered into one program. I could search for a multitude of information in the one program. I'm skeptical that such a system exists in the private sector. Let me say that I am not responsible for security in the community but only volunteered to assisit (mistake?) .

              In any event I will research the iformation that you have provided, and again offer my appreciation for your input.
              SecTrainer:
              The demo does show in great detail the movement of data. It also explains as does the ppm 2000 the problems with spelling and other erroneous data and the training level of personnel entering data.
              Spyyman now has a snapshot of what can and does go wrong when careless data clerks are at work.
              I was a security specialist/inspector for a military agency. When checking ammunition records, many of my cohorts would check the records given to them by inspected agency. I tried to go to the original tally provided by the shipper. Trouble loomed when there were major discrepancies. I was instructed not to write it up. I didn't, but before leaving I had a guest visit my hotel/motel room. The CID, AFOSI or NIS carried the ball from there. The results were most interesting. Some entries were simple mistake others were attempts to cover up theft.
              Enjoy the day,
              Bill

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Bill Warnock
                SecTrainer:
                The demo does show in great detail the movement of data. It also explains as does the ppm 2000 the problems with spelling and other erroneous data and the training level of personnel entering data.
                Spyyman now has a snapshot of what can and does go wrong when careless data clerks are at work.
                I was a security specialist/inspector for a military agency. When checking ammunition records, many of my cohorts would check the records given to them by inspected agency. I tried to go to the original tally provided by the shipper. Trouble loomed when there were major discrepancies. I was instructed not to write it up. I didn't, but before leaving I had a guest visit my hotel/motel room. The CID, AFOSI or NIS carried the ball from there. The results were most interesting. Some entries were simple mistake others were attempts to cover up theft.
                Enjoy the day,
                Bill
                Bill,

                I understand what you are saying about careless data entry clerks. I was the Lt. in charge of the crime analysis bureau for a time, and that was our major problem. Fortunately for me I went back to commanding the detective bureau and didn't have to concern myself with data clerks.

                But I do appreciate the input from you guys.
                Last edited by Spyyman; 12-23-2006, 05:10 PM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Spyyman
                  Bill,

                  I understand what you are saying about careless data entry clerks. I was the Lt. in charge of the crime analysis bureau for a time, and that was our major problem. Fortunately for me I went back to commanding the detective bureau and didn't have to concern myself with data clerks.

                  But I do appreciate the input from you guys.
                  Spyyman:
                  At and in this forum we try to help each other. There is more than enough work for all of us. As SecTrainer pointed out the system can suddenly go down for no apparent reason. There is always an answer and in many instances we don't want to know or hear it. Why? We might have to correct the problem. A 2000-volt surge can do a number on system. If there is sufficient damage to fry everything, it just lays there like a beached whale. If we can reboot, damage done may corrupt the data and another hit will cause it to fail. Power failures along with other electrical anomalies cause mischief. Some Einstein forgot to exercise the batteries in the UPSs. To compensate for his laziness, he or she will pencil whip the forms. It goes on and on.
                  Enjoy the day,
                  Bill

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Careless Data Entry

                    It's going to happen. Find a system like the one McDonalds uses for order entry. It's about as fool proof as can be for good reason.

                    Note: I said fool proof; not idiot proof.
                    Security: Freedom from fear; danger; safe; a feeling of well-being. (Webster's)

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                    • #11
                      Once again I would like to thank each of your for your input. This is indeed a user friendly forum, and it's refreshing to encounter so many people who are willing to help.

                      Thanks again everyone.

                      P.S. I found a program that I think will work great for the HOA. It is called the IRINDEX Program, and thanks to one of you, I found it.
                      Last edited by Spyyman; 12-24-2006, 12:55 PM.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        IRINDEX might be one option among many, many others. Frankly, it doesn't look very professional to me, including the "home" website URL itself. The pricing is also highly suspicious, meaning that it's much too low to encourage me to believe that it's a well-supported, professional software product. I would urge you PLEASE not to avoid the hard work that I have recommended you do just because you find a cheap product.
                        "Every betrayal begins with trust." - Brian Jacques

                        "I can't predict the future, but I know that it'll be very weird." - Anonymous

                        "There is nothing new under the sun." - Ecclesiastes 1:9

                        "History, with all its volumes vast, hath but one page." - Lord Byron

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Maybe he doesn't need a "Rolls-Royce" system when a "Chevy" will do.
                          Security: Freedom from fear; danger; safe; a feeling of well-being. (Webster's)

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            As I said previosly, being retired from LE, I am familiar with excellent incident tracking systems. The problem I have is that the HOA Board of Directors isn't willing to spend a great deal of money for a premium system, and as Mr. Security said, our needs aren't that great. Personally I just like to be thorough.

                            You guys have been a great help with your suggestions. Eventually, if and when the BOD decides to implement a new system, I'll touch bases with you again and let you know what they chose.

                            There is a world of private security experience on this forum, and it is generous of each of you to share it.

                            Thanks

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Spyyman
                              As I said previosly, being retired from LE, I am familiar with excellent incident tracking systems. The problem I have is that the HOA Board of Directors isn't willing to spend a great deal of money for a premium system, and as Mr. Security said, our needs aren't that great. Personally I just like to be thorough.

                              You guys have been a great help with your suggestions. Eventually, if and when the BOD decides to implement a new system, I'll touch bases with you again and let you know what they chose.

                              There is a world of private security experience on this forum, and it is generous of each of you to share it.

                              Thanks
                              Spyyman:
                              Tout the ROI aspects of power conditioning and UPS. When the system crashes due to an unexpected power outage and it becomes necessary to reload, how much time and man-hours will it take to upload and verify the veracity of the data. Also mention that verification will be time consuming especially if you have no hard copy to crosscheck the data. A UPS will preclude sudden power losses and fill in gaps in the electrical service provided. Consider renting a power analyzer and operate it for one week at 24-7 and check the readouts.
                              Just a couple of suggestions I've learned the hard way having been on both sides of the fence.
                              And, welcome to the world of private security where poverty row does exist along with some forlorn federal systems I know of.
                              Enjoy the day,
                              Bill

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