The police force of the Netherlands is undergoing a huge and radicaltransformation. Until now, the police has been strongly decentralized, with many local, independent forces each responsible for their region. To improve efficiency and street safety across the country, this will change and a single National Police force will be created.
In line with this reorganization, a major project has been launched to improve the web presence of the police. All regional websites that exist now for the various police offices will be replaced by a single web environment.
So how do you manage a web project of this size and complexity, with 17 million Dutch citizens eagerly awaiting the release date? Read on to discover why these 3 elements were critical to success:
- Define clear objectives
- Find the right partner
- Apply the principles of Agile software development
Objectives and timeline for the project
The objectives of the project can be split in two categories: operational and technical.
The key operational objective is the introduction of a single ‘Digital Police Office’ for all Dutch citizens. The purpose is not only to make all interactions between people and police more efficient, but also to involve the population directly in the crime-fighting activities of the police.
The technical objective is to implement a single Content Management System (CMS) that will store all relevant content and deliver it to the multiple channels that the Digital Police Office supports (from TV to website, tablet and smartphone).
Ron de Milde is the Programme Manager responsible for the creation and implementation of this innovative Digital Police Office. Ron is leading a diverse team of 40 people with many different skills, ranging from communications specialists to IT professionals and developers.
The project started in September 2011, when Ron’s team was formed and the initial analysis started. Only 8 months later, in May 2012, the complete platform is undergoing final testing, ready to be rolled out as per plan! No small achievement, given the size of the task at hand…
Transforming more than 400(!) local websites into 1
All regional police websites will be migrated to a single web environment. This is a daunting task for Ron and his team: There are currently more than 400 active websites, built on a variety of web content management systems. The objective of the project is to migrate all of these into a single content management system.
The screenshot below gives you a sneak preview of the future home page (www.politie.nl):
Another project challenge is that the current application landscape around intranet and extranet is fragmented, resulting in a limited content and information exchange. The expectation is that a central web content management system will improve the content exchange between regional police offices and will simplify the management and maintenance of the system.
The Digital Police Office – also on your smartphone!
A key objective of the project is to engage online with the Dutch citizens and involve them in fighting crime. For instance, citizens can help the police solve cases by sending photographs or videos from the crime scene, using their smartphone. They will also be able to report a crime online, from their mobile or from home, without the need to visit a police station. Social media features will be used to gather citizens’ input and solve cases quicker.
Clearly, mobile delivery is a big part of the value proposition. The public will be served local information from a single nationwide content platform. The mobile applications will be location-aware, allowing citizens to see information about the local police personnel, quickly retrieve contact information for the nearest police station, and see any local news, missing persons etc.
Other features of this innovative ‘Digital Police Office’ include:
- A personal page with a secure login based on digital ID technology
- A mobile-friendly editing tool, for editors to update content while on the move
- RSS feed
- Online condolence register
Under the hood: A single content management system
Hippo is a Dutch CMS specialist and the provider of a modern CMS product, based on open source technology and particularly popular in the Dutch public sector.
The National Police selected Hippo CMS as their preferred environment because of its scalability and appropriateness for the complex needs, including security, of the National Police along with the benefits of central management of applications and content.
An important strength of the Hippo CMS is that it is well designed to store content once and deliver to multiple channels, in such a way that these different channels support and complement each other. For instance, a user may see a TV special announcement about a missing person, and then consult more details about the case – or just replay the announcement – on a second screen, for instance a tablet.
A key success factor: bring the team together
The experience of many J. Boye members in our various groups with big, ambitious projects like this is not always positive. Very often projects fail to deliver against the high expectations of the various stakeholders and the end users.
Ron was very much aware of this risk and took a number of steps to reduce it. The key success factor has been to work in the spirit of agile software development, using the Scrum methodology with sprint sessions and daily stand-up meetings. Bringing the full team physically together in one place was a major contributor to success: the frequent face-to-face interactions between communications and IT people helped to avoid any misunderstandings about requirements and made quick decisions possible. As Ron de Milde puts it:
Daily stand-up team meetings are a great way to focus on the activities for the day and get any potential roadblocks cleared (Ron de Milde, Programme Manager)
In a world where virtual teams are becoming more and more common, it's an important reminder for all of us to see the benefits of face-to-face discussion in action!