Strategic Planning

strategic-planningIn the criminal justice and public safety realm, reliable information is essential to make informed, appropriate, and effective decisions—whether it’s a cop on the beat, a judge at sentencing, or a 911 center supervisor. When developing technology solutions to obtain and share justice information, organizations should carefully plan their efforts—particularly when information will be shared across agency and jurisdictional boundaries. 

Having a clear strategy, and aligning operations with that strategy, is a hallmark of successful justice and public safety technology initiatives. At the center of effective strategy is a strategic plan, which helps provide a clear picture of where you want to be within that public safety technology discipline area at a defined point in the future. The strategic plan will identify desired outcomes that can help drive critical decision-making guidance for all the projects undertaken to move a strategy forward. SEARCH has helped dozens of local, tribal and state justice agencies and jurisdictions develop strong strategic plans through targeted assistance and development of resource materials. 

A strategic plan focuses on a defined period of time, and with technology projects it is best to limit that window to a two- to three-year planning horizon. The plan should clearly articulate all the elements of an organization’s strategy, including:

  • An overview of the public safety technology discipline area, to include an explanation of the purpose behind the strategic planning process; history, to establish a shared understanding; the need and elements of the discipline area; who depends on and uses the system within your target audience; and current vision, mission, and roles.
  • The current reality, a “Where are we now?” statement that helps define the current capabilities and environment, both technically and operationally. Current reality can include policies, business processes, organizational structures, information standards, agreements, and technologies.
  • A gap analysis that assesses the current reality and identifies specific projects, investments, policies, and agreements that are necessary to close the identified capability gaps.
  • The desired outcomes – Where do you want to be, how do you get there, and how do you know you arrived successfully?
  • What opportunities exist – What successes can we achieve along the way? Every road is paved with opportunities. What are some of the “low-hanging fruits” that can be achieved as you implement your plan? Finding opportunities for early and continual successes along the way help you feel accomplished and keep you aligned with the desired outcomes.

A strategic plan, like any plan, will gradually become obsolete if its owners do not regularly review and update it. This requires a robust and effective governance structure and a commitment to revisiting the plan.

SEARCH recognizes that strategic planning for justice information sharing programs requires a slightly different approach.  It must focus on building a shared vision among all stakeholders in the greater information sharing enterprise. Therefore, we developed an Enterprise Strategic Planning methodology to use when assisting jurisdictions and stakeholders.

Additional Resources

Need advice on strategic planning for your agency’s or jurisdiction’s effort? Want resource materials? SEARCH is here to help through a variety of tools, resources and publications: