What empowers case investigations? Clear, concise and current data that takes the form of accessible records easily leveraged by assigned staff members. As noted by Next Gov, however, many federal agencies struggle to meet these record-keeping goals: Just 15 percent of organizations surveyed said their records and information management (RIM) policy met agency needs, while only 28 percent said they had “the necessary tools and procedures in place.”
The result of sub-par records management? Evidentiary data becomes fragmented, duplicated and apparently unrelated to other necessary pieces of investigative information. While better policies can help eliminate large-scale management issues, addressing the role of effective evidence handling requires a new approach to investigation management software.
Change and Collaboration
According to eWeek, one key RIM challenge lies with the changing nature of technology. For many companies, the trend away from paper documentation to virtual recordkeeping introduces dual problems: alteration and ownership. When employees can leverage the cloud to easily download, copy or change documents, record managers are often forced to spend their time monitoring access and transport permissions to ensure that valuable evidence isn't mishandled. In addition, the use of public compute resources poses the issue of data ownership — are content creators or infrastructure providers the “real” owners of documents, images and other media? Ultimately, effective management depends on collaboration between record experts and IT staff to ensure critical case data is always protected.
Dealing With Duplicates
Even well-trained RIM staff and IT professionals struggle to meet evidence management demand, thanks to the continuing use of legacy or “archaic” software tools. Several common scenarios often occur in these companies. First are hard-working investigators starting new files but forget to search for any cross-referenced or related cases. The result? Duplicate data. Next are employees who execute multiple searches but return negative results thanks to weak data relationships or because data on the original file was entered incorrectly, leading to the creation of a second (or third or fourth) unnecessary case file.
What does the ideal investigation management software look like? Data standardization is critical — all case-related evidence must be entered and recorded in the same format for easy access and retrieval. It's also important to leverage tools that automatically “clean” data for poor entry values and create solid links between relevant pieces of evidence, helping investigators easily match old and new case files and increase solvability. In the long term, this kind of improved standardization and storage provides easy tracking and audit of files — critical if companies are subject to an audit, compliance review or legal challenge.
For companies looking to improve solve rates and reduce loss, two key areas must be addressed: First is the effective management of technology to ensure total control and visibility of existing evidence records. Next, organizations require investigation management software able to standardize file formats, clean existing data, and eliminate the time sink of duplicate records.