Because government fraud investigations are handled differently from agency to agency, it’s difficult to find a piece of software that “checks all of the boxes” for a specific investigative team. Consumer-grade case management isn’t configurable enough to handle all of the different paths a case could take on its way to closure. On the other hand, systems designed for business process management or enterprise resource planning are too expensive and time-consuming to configure and launch.
For some teams trying to find a streamlined system that can handle all of their needs, a custom solution (or an “in-house” solution) can sound attractive. This software can be built to match the team’s specific needs. It won’t be bloated with unneeded features. It’s not designed for some other market but shoehorned into government investigations. And you won’t be in line with dozens of other customers when waiting for a feature your team needs to be added to the product.
Some agencies deploying custom or in-house software are initially very pleased with their systems, and some are never satisfied. But at some point during the software’s lifecycle, many agencies get hit with one of these three problems, each of which can create big problems requiring quick (and sometimes panicked) resolution.
Hollow promises go unfulfilled
With a commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) product, most of the features you need will already be incorporated into the product, and you’ll be able to see them in action before buying it. In most cases, you can even ask other agencies who are already using the product to provide input on how it is working for them.
Custom and in-house products don’t exist until they’re built, however. So while a developer may have confidence they can build software that meets all of your needs, there’s no guarantee that they ever will. And the more time and money you sink into getting the product to meet your needs, the harder it is to abandon the product if it never quite gets there. The outcome is often that the investigative agency is forced to change the way they work in order to accommodate their software.
The agency becomes a permanent beta tester
One of the great things about software with hundreds or thousands of users is that bugs are found before or quickly after a product’s release, and they’re generally patched before most users ever encounter them.
Unfortunately, if you’re a product’s only user, you’re going to be “finding” plenty of bugs with each product update – and waiting until the developer can dedicate resources to resolving them. There may never be a point where your agency feels confident in both their system’s stability and the completeness of its feature set.
The developer stops supporting the product
For in-house systems, the developer is likely someone in the agency’s IT department, or someone on the investigations team with experience managing an Access database. For custom systems, the developer is often between one and three people within a consulting company hired by the agency to build the product.
Either way, a limited number of people understand how your custom software works, and those people have many other things to do each day besides support your software. This means you’re only ever a few steps away from having no product support.
Ideally, the primary resource maintaining your software is only one of many people familiar with that software. Ideally, this resource would also give plenty of notice before retiring or leaving the agency.
But nothing ever seems to go ideally. And when custom software suddenly becomes unsupported, it can become a problem very quickly. Custom case management solutions are often reliant on other software packages to function. Because of this, they need to be updated as that supporting software is updated in order to continue working correctly. When that doesn’t happen, the software can stop functioning – and due to the duration of the acquisition process at some agencies, the investigations team can be left without functional case management software for a year or more.
To learn how COTS case management products like WingSwept’s Case Management and Tracking System (CMTS) can help your investigative team manage cases reliably and efficiently, call us at 855-667-8877 or email us at Team_CMTS@MyCMTS.com.