The future of investigations - today

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

What is investigation management?  Let's assume that an 'investigation' is an environment where exploratory work (as described in The Case Management Mirage post) is undertaken. Management, by its common interpretation, is ensuring the efficiency, effectiveness and quality of some form of operational or business activity. So therefore 'Investigation Management' is the craft that produces the 'efficiency, effectiveness and quality of exploratory work'.

(A) Increasing Investigation efficiency

So how do we increase the efficiency of an investigation. Let's assume that we can define an efficient investigation as acceptable ratio of investigation input variables (Resources [R] and Duration [D] ) to the investigation output variables (investigation outcomes [O] or results). Or put simply

R + D + O = E where E is efficiency of the investigation.

So to increase the efficiency of an investigation we must adjust one or more of the investigation variables. Assuming that each variable is independent of the other, a decrease in resources used, a decrease in duration of investigation or an increase the investigation outcomes (favorable results) or any combination would theoretically result in an increase of the efficiency of an investigation. Now it does not take a masters in business management to know that adjusting one variable will have a natural "cause & effect" on the others. If we 'cause' investigation resources to be reduced, the likely 'effect' is that the duration of the investigation will increase if the same investigation outcomes are to be maintained.

To counteract this effect we must adjust the manner in which the investigations are undertaken and managed. For example to increase efficiency by using less resources, those remaining resources must be strategically applied during the investigation to optimize allocation, implementation and use of the available resources. This 'strategy' will be an improvement in the "investigation management methodology".

(B) Increasing the effectiveness of investigations

The effectiveness of investigations is characterized by the quality and impact of the investigation 'outcomes' or 'results'. For example an effective criminal investigation may be where all elements of the offence(s) are proven or negated and a reasonable or relative penalty has been achieved. An effective incident investigation is where all causes and root causes of incidents are identified and suitable, economical and justifiable preventative action (and where appropriate disciplinary action) has been implemented. Administrative investigation where all the alleged misconduct has been proven or negated and justifiable disciplinary action has been taken. Other forms of effectiveness may be where the impact of the investigative outcome acts as a deterrent to others or prevents other undesirable,incidents for reoccurring.

Examples of Investigations which have failed to achieve or have had limited effectiveness may be referenced as those where the elements of offence have not been proven(criminal), the root cause of incident not identified (incident investigations), misconduct not exposed or suitably dealt with or a variety of other desired outcomes where not achieved. To simplify , the "objectives" of the investigation where not achieved. If the desired or acceptable objectives are not achieved, then the investigation is not effective.

There are undoubtedly investigations where these objectives where never achievable due to factors out of the control or influence of the investigating agency. But for the most part, objectives of investigations are often not achieved as a result of the manner, quantity and quality of the evidence obtained and the substandard resulting outcomes.  The evidence gathering and recording strategy that was applied during investigations is often the  underlying characteristic of ineffective outcomes . Hence here again we see that the potential to improve the effectiveness of an investigation lies within a strategy of improvement to the "investigation management methodology".

(C) Increasing the quality of investigations

For this discussion, the reference to quality of the investigation is focused on the quality of the evidence gathered and recorded. This 'quality' is defined by a number of factors. The lawfulness of the methods use to access and seize the evidence, the integrity and continuity of the evidence from seizure to presentation in proceedings, the design, delivery and importantly the interpretability of evidence based briefs and reports, and the relevance and value of the evidence to the investigation objectives (e.g. Elements of the offence).

As was previously suggest when analyzing efficiency and effectiveness, the quality is often determined by the manner in which the evidence was collected and handled. The methodology of evidence identification, assessment and handling will have direct impact on the quality of the investigation on its conclusion.

Therefore to increase the quality of investigations we must ensure that the component of the "investigation management methodology" directly attributed to evidence management is also improved.

Investigation management methodology

If the common characteristic (or dependency ) of the efficiency, effectiveness and quality of investigations is the "investigation management methodology" then clearly this methodology should be the area where innovation or strategies for improvement should be targeted. Here the previous discussion (Blog Post - The Case Management Mirage) of 'transactional work' versus 'exploratory work' becomes important.

Transactional work is better equated with organizational processes and in turn the relevant Case Management System (CMS) in place. Whereas exploratory work is the craft of problem solving and operational activity. Focussing on processes and focussing on problems produces two quite different patterns of thought and action. Process improvement is a "managerial method" for improving the agencies processes and is where most CMS are focused. Whereas problem solving is an "operational method" for working on the harms or more importantly the characteristics of those harms which impede exploratory work (investigations) from achieving the desired standards. This fact returns us to previous original hypothesis (Blog Post - The Case Management Mirage) as to why many case management systems (process management systems) fail to have a positive influence on the efficiency, effectiveness or quality of investigations. It's because the CMS is focussing on the transactional work associated with investigations and does little or anything to support or improve the outcomes of the exploratory work being undertaken during an investigation.

To truly have an impact on exploratory work undertaken during investigations we must improve the investigation management methodology. Once we find a better investigation management methodology then it needs to be locked into an investigation management system (IMS).  This is where good 'Investigation Management' technology comes in. Investigation Management Systems (IMS) are management environments for exploratory work specifically designed for the exploratory nature of investigations.

Investigation management applications or systems offer a collaborative approach that can help you reap the benefits of automation in environments where people, information, and process collide. An IMS needs to improve workflow, improve investigator productivity, and reduce cycle times in your investigations without trying to force the exploratory nature of investigations into a transactional structure (as is often the case in traditional CMS).

Designing an Investigation Management System

The design of successful investigation management system must have the three following characteristics
1. It must address the common characteristics of the harms which exist within exploratory work associated with poor investigations.
2. It must be intuitive and have clear supportive qualities to the investigator to ensure their committment to its use and implementation.
3. It must be provide a consistent, central and  strategic investigation management methodology and deter or remove individual silos of investigation management practices.

The design of an effective Investigation Management System (IMS) should not be based on micro managing every possible risks that could occur in an investigation.  Its about analysisng the causes of those undesirable investigation outcomes (harms), focussing on the harm concentrations, understanding their characteristics and inventing effective solutions.  This design concept will be explored in more detail in an upcoming post title "Designing an Investigation Management System". A key concept in this discussion will be the concept of identifying the "character of harms", a regulatory craft writtten by Professor Malcom Sparrow. 

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