Keeping Your CAD Cutting-Edge
In the implementation phase of getting a new computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system, you configured your system and prepared your servers. Then you moved on to make necessary integrations that ensure different types of software can talk to one another. You should feel good about your progress so far: You’re now in the home stretch!
We all know, though, that nothing changes as quickly as technology. So how do you ensure that your CAD is current and working as hard as it can for your organization?
Now’s the time for those three tracks (configuration, provisioning and integration) to align. You’re ready for end-user training. Depending on the vendor you choose and your preferences, you have a number of options for training—the last step before you go live:
• In-person training
• Virtual live training
• Video (recorded) training (in our case, this is done via the Logis Learning online portal)
• Training for “super users,” who in turn train up other staff
• Hybrid training, a combination of super user and video-based training
As you upgrade your CAD over time and hire new team members, you’ll want your CAD partner to offer ongoing training options, too. Similarly, as your vendor introduces solutions—such as a new call-taking interface that streams live video—you’ll likely want your telecommunicators trained when you add those tools, too. Be sure any CAD partner you choose offers this type of ongoing support.
Your business is not static so your CAD shouldn’t be either. You should expect your software partner to issue periodic updates and also to develop and offer new services or products that you may want to take advantage of. At Logis Solutions, we require at least a once-yearly update to our software, but our hope is that our clients will always want to keep their software current with our latest functionality. With that in mind, we typically issue an update every fall and spring; other vendors may follow a different schedule. To make any software updates or upgrades as simple as possible, we create a series of easy-to-follow videos for each release and share them with both current customers and those who are considering working with us. That way, everyone knows what to expect and has the latest information about what our software can do.
We do this not just to let our clients know about what’s new, but also to get them excited about new tools and modules (how many of us maximize all the things even our smartphone can do, after all?). In this way, we hope to keep the potential of the Logis IDS (or whatever software they’ve purchased) fresh in their minds so they use the tools we’ve created, which are expanding all the time. The upgrade process itself should be easy and well-defined. At Logis, we follow a clear process in which our customers know what to expect of one another and of us, as well as when key deliverables are due. Most upgrade cycles run about six weeks from deploying to test to upgrading production.
It’s essential to know that at the end of this process your down time for any upgrade should be measured in minutes, not hours. Our end users experience, on average, fewer than five minutes of down time with an upgrade, during which time they still have view-access to everything happening in their system.
When you implemented your CAD, you configured it. You decided on the specific business rules and processes you wanted your dispatch system to follow—what’s right for your organization or agency. But configuration is rarely a one-and-done situation.
To ensure the software is working as hard as it can for you—meaning your organization is more efficient and cost-effective and your dispatchers are handling the exceptions while the system handles the many “typical” requests for assistance—it needs to be configured in ways that reflect the reality of your business. And that’s probably changing all the time, in small ways and sometimes in big ones. Your CAD needs to flex along with your organization.
Here’s an example: Let’s say you get a wheelchair call and the dispatcher decides to put it on a BLS ambulance. But the system gives you a red “X” because according to the business rules configured for the system, that shouldn’t automatically happen. The dispatcher has overridden the rules and the “X” is an indicator of that. There may be legitimate cases where you want that to happen—one-off scenarios like that aren’t a problem. But when we walk into a communications center and see a lot of red “X”s, that’s usually an indicator that a configuration needs to be optimized. Put another way, if your team needs to override rules often, it’s something to pay attention to. That’s when you should ask your CAD partner to step back in to work with you to optimize your configuration. You may want to keep some situations as manual processes, but you might want to consider other options that allow a process to be automated.
Another example: Let’s say an EMS or fire dispatcher has to routinely intervene in response to recommendations and make manual changes. This can be a symptom of a response configuration that may need to be reviewed for accuracy or the triggers that select the appropriate responders. You’ve probably figured out by now that one of our mantras at Logis is this: The end user should, as much as possible, be dealing with exceptions to the rules. Configure the system wisely so it can take care of the rest.
Analytics & Reporting
Access to real-time analytics is a critical part of your CAD. This data helps answer key questions like where and when to position resources, using predictive analytics that get smarter the more data your system processes. That gives you real-time decision support. As an example, if a weather report says it’s likely to snow tomorrow and you know that will slow driving speeds for your entire fleet by, say, 25%, you can adjust your capacity appropriately.
At a minimum, your vendor should offer you the ability to access analytics and run reports in a variety of tools, such as Power BI, Tableau or SQL, for example. Ideally, that data is working hard for you every day to automate decision support and improve factors like time on task, deployment of resources and recommendations for response. Back when you were selecting your dispatch software, you probably talked about the dashboards you wanted and the kinds of reports you need to generate, as well as how often and for whom.
Working with Your CAD Vendor
When you started looking around for the company you wanted to work with to get your new CAD in place, you were probably so anxious to get on with the process that maybe you didn’t think a lot about what life would be like after your dispatch system launched.
But a vendor’s track record in managing their relationships with customers is critically important. Before you sign on the dotted line, get answers to specific questions about how they support customers, whether that means you need something fixed or you want to optimize your CAD, add more functionality or train up your staff.
If it takes six months to get an estimate on the cost to add a new feature or weeks to resolve a support ticket, that’s an obvious red flag.
If you’re ready to start a conversation about your own “CAD of the Future,” we’d love to talk.