Most government agency investigative teams use software to track, manage and report on their cases. Some of these systems are built in-house or designed by a business process software company. Others are built specifically for investigative case management. While investigative-focused software is most often the best fit for the needs of government investigative agencies, each of these options can help to make sure the proper processes are followed and that they’re completed on time.
To save money, some smaller teams skip buying case management software and instead use Excel to track their investigations. It can be a tempting option, especially if you only perform a few investigations each year; there’s no new software to learn, and there’s no risk of buying software that doesn’t deliver on promises. But if investigations are an important function of your agency, Excel is a risky choice.
Here are six advantages of case management software over Excel when it comes to ensuring that investigations and data retention are handled properly.
#1 – Ensure consistent processes
An Excel sheet can list the steps of an investigation process, but does little to ensure those steps are followed. Case management software presents investigators with the next step to be taken on an investigation, one step at a time. Case management software can also be configured to require supervisor review and approval at important points in an investigation before further data entry is permitted.
#2 – Control case access among users in one system
If your team is using an Excel sheet to track investigations, individual team members either have access to the whole sheet or to none of it. If you have a case that is highly sensitive, you’re not going to be able to hide that case from specific team members unless you store it in a different location, defeating the purpose of centralized case management.
Case management software controls access to cases based on each user’s permissions. Users without access to a case won’t be able to see any information about it, and no information associated with the case will show up in any of their search results within the system.
#3 – Manage file storage
Excel sheets can link to evidence or case reports, but it can’t make sure they aren’t moved during an IT overhaul. The last thing you want to see when you’re ordered to provide evidence from a years-old case is “Sorry, we couldn’t find your file!”
Case management software manages document storage, ensuring that evidence and investigation reports stay with the cases they support. Documents are not stored on traditional network file shares where files are commonly reorganized or relocated.
#4 – Manage file versions
When multiple investigators contribute to an investigation report, it’s important that each investigator is always working in the most recent version. And when final reports are forwarded outside of the investigative team, it’s important that they are actually the final report, and not a draft report. Excel doesn’t warn a user if a file has a newer version than the one being accessed.
A case management system can be configured to handle both of these problems. Investigators can “check out” files, ensuring that two users aren’t updating a file at the same time. It can also delete draft versions of reports once a final version is approved, ensuring draft reports aren’t accidentally forwarded outside of the agency.
#5 – Adhere to retention guidelines
Most agencies have requirements for how long they retain documents, and many agencies require that documents be archived or deleted after that period of time. By the time those deadlines come, the odds are high that someone will forget to do this – your team members might not have even been at the agency when the investigation was conducted!
With Excel, you’ll need to handle this manually. A case management system can be configured to automatically ensure documents are retained according to applicable laws or agency guidelines.
#6 – Export reports and case data quickly
Most investigative teams periodically have to report case metrics to their supervisors or oversight bodies. While Excel’s Pivot Tables allow basic information to be reported, sorting data in new or highly granular ways can be difficult or impossible.
Case management software can quickly generate reports on granular data, even if it’s the first time that the user is requesting data to be structured in that format.
If you’ve been using Excel and would like to see how much more efficient your investigative team could be with case management software, call us at 855-667-8877 or email us at Team_CMTS@MyCMTS.com.