The Met is finally out for MiPS: an integrated case, custody, intelligence and investigation system. Three bidders will fight it out, and the rest of the sector should watch closely. Here are six points for the police ICT community to bear in mind as the procurement unfolds.

Delayered gratification

This is high risk stuff, at the sharp end of technology-led transformation. The MPS wants the MiPS solution to “facilitate the end-to-end management of tasks with minimal supervisory oversight”, so that it can increase the numbers of personnel supervised by each manager. It presages a significant change in management practices for operational policing, relying on an aggressively paced software roll-out. MOPAC (under completely new management, presumably), the Met Fed and the London-centric media will be alert to indications that “minimal oversight” isn’t working. The new system will be closely associated with the new operating model, and therefore under intense scrutiny.

If they get it right, chief officer teams across the country will look at similar reforms, supported by their core policing systems. But if the new operating model fails, it could retard investment in digital workflow across the sector. Fingers crossed all round.

Game of thrones

Scale and clout makes the Met a kingmaker in the police systems market. Much rides on the outcome for CIOs from other forces, and for centralised police information sharing and IT procurement.
Northgate – doing best recently when big forces and collaborations go to market – will be undisputed leader if it wins MiPS. The Athena and Connect forces might worry in the short term about Northgate’s development resource, but in the medium term they would certainly benefit from their supplier’s investment in new modules and features, and from the development of mobile ecosystems to support the platform.

While Niche has numbers on its side, it has appeared reluctant to significantly revamp its core product. As collaborations and partnerships between Minerva forces develop they may well outgrow their vendor and look elsewhere. Should the Canadians decide to go all out to win the Met deal, though, there will be a clear migration path for Niche clusters. In contrast, a win for Capita PoliceWorks or for Accenture’s AOPS would mean that clusters of forces currently using Niche would have two next-generation systems with marquee English policing customers to choose from.
So this procurement will do much to establish who the champion is, and who the challenger is, in a market which finds duopolies easiest to manage, but needs co-operation all round on standards for information exchange.

If the three finalists are AOPS, PoliceWorks and Connect, that’s two Oracle platforms against one Dynamics platform. Home Office digital folk and the Police ICT Company will have to mull over the long-term prospects for licence negotiations with each of the platform giants depending on market share. Dealings with MS might be particularly complex as the firm could well try to bundle Skype and other assets into a Mephistophelean sector-wide offer. But these considerations are unlikely to perturb the MPS.

Mobile is optional, because it isn’t

As you’d expect from a procurement so long in the making, there are comprehensive lists of functional and technical requirements. But not all of them feed into the scores and weightings used to evaluate the solutions, although the bidders’ responses to the excluded elements will affect negotiations.

Perhaps the most initially surprising of the excluded elements is mobility. Although it’s a functional requirement according to the negotiation schema, the mobile aspects of the solution are relegated to the delivery evaluation, and most of them are unweighted. Only entity creation, search, federated search, stop-search and briefings get a score, while the fourteen other mobile requirements are unweighted. Why?

After all, the MPS has been absolutely clear that mobility is central to its digital policing vision. The buildings estate will be cut by two-thirds, and officers will be equipped to carry out all operational administrative tasks on mobile devices. A cut-down version of the desktop experience on a tablet won’t be good enough; simple, intuitive apps that anticipate workflow and eliminate rekeying are required.

Which, paradoxically, is why the procurement treats mobility as explicitly optional. There’s a parallel mobility programme running alongside MiPS, and this is more likely to be the wellspring of the MPS mobile policing platform than anything the current contenders can come up with right now. There are searching questions (with chunky evaluation weightings) on enterprise architecture and SOA: these are the aspects of MiPS which will most concern the mobile programme leads.

Nul points

The other functional requirements excluded from the scores and weightings are also interesting. TfL systems, JARD, Interpol I-24/7, QAS AddressSearch & Nametracer, Rapid DNA and the current breath testing and custody imaging assets all drop off the comprehensive list of other platforms for which integration is required. Some POLE management aspects relating to duplicated nominals are also unevaluated (which will annoy competitors to Niche).

And of the Future Business Areas, where vendors get the opportunity to pitch for adjacent policing requirements, only bodyworn camera integration, public access, end-to-end property management, foreign national notifications, and property barcode scanning get a weighting. There’s no weighting for homicide, kidnap, road safety management, digital forensic management, complaints management, troubled families, extended CRM, CHISes or a number of other areas. Presumably this provides a good guide to where the MPS is satisfied or otherwise with its current applications, rather than the importance of the business areas; it’s reasonable though for alignment with the elusive Common Platform Programme to be unweighted!

Migration migraines

Legacy data is usually one of the toughest challenges in implementing new records management platforms, and 20 years of potentially vital information is spread across the Met’s disparate application estate. The procurement has a sensible weighting to data migration within the service transition section, but there still seems to be a scope for the Met’s tower model to be tested.
Data migration for the MiPS provider will supposedly be limited to the information in CRIS, CRIMINT, COPA, Merlin, NSPSIS Case & Custody and other systems, which is live “at the time of cutover”. Some of this transfer will be automated and some will be manual, and it’s up to the MiPS provider to spot records which require cleansing in the source system. It’s understandable that the MPS wants to limit the extent to which old data is sucked in, but definitions of “live” may be fraught; it will be tougher to establish what data is current on CRIMINT than on the custody system. The distinction between live and historic will be blurred further if the implementation is phased – and surely it will be. Whether the phasing is by borough or by module, the cutover date would become a cutover period, and the data migration task all the more complex.

Meanwhile the MPS – rather than the MiPS provider – can dump information from the legacy assets into the new system as “historic information”, accessible via historic record searches. There’s little in the functional requirements about how this historic data is accessed and presented, and complexities might not surface at the negotiation stage – or even until after handover. The competition winner, the outgoing application vendors, and perhaps the new AMS and SIAM tower providers could all get a chance to shine, with one fewer bum to kick should AOPS or PoliceWorks be selected.

Is this as good as it gets?

The core policing system represents about 40% of a force’s digital capability. The MPS has been mulling over this investment for years, and even though it has reconciled itself to COTS, much survives from the original conception of an enterprise architecture with fully flexible and configurable workflow applications, surely the most ambitious IT strategy ever devised within policing. So it would be surprising if there was any aspect of digital maturity which the requirements schema omits.

The maturity markers for the Digital Policing Review are currently being finalised with stakeholders from policing and industry. Anyone from the sector is very welcome to get in touch and request a copy of the current Terms of Reference, especially if they are happy to contribute to the research process! Comparing against the MiPS requirements, a few differences of emphasis emerge. For many of the respondents we engaged with, digital maturity was expressed in terms of the configurability and flexibility of these tools. The ideal system could easily adapt workflows and automated processes to new vectors of threat, harm and risk, to new partnerships with other agencies and private sector partners, and to new sources of structured and unstructured data. This has been carried forward into our list of digital maturity markers.

And these ideals are certainly consistent with MiPS. For instance, there’s healthy weighting on the ability for police personnel to reconfigure workflow. But because the requirements schema also includes line after line of prescriptive process requirements, bidders may well focus on hitting as many of the required template workflows as they can, rather than on proposing a solution which is as futureproofed as possible for unexpected requirements and data sources.

It’s understandable that the MiPS team feel that it’s necessary to set out 57 required steps to be incorporated into a MISPER investigation, or 58 steps that the system will need to enable when dealing with a mental health sufferer. After all, they have spent the last year or so interrogating suppliers on their capabilities only to be told, too often, that all things are possible; they are to be forgiven for demanding absolute clarity on what bidders will bake into their offerings. It would be a shame, though, if this procurement’s admirable precision and detail diverted attention from the need for digital flexibility which the Met was first to identify.