When you hear the word ‘consolidation,’ the first things that come to mind are somewhat negative: shutting down call centers to create a single larger one; saving money by using fewer staff, fewer systems, and reducing overhead; and so on. While on the surface, the main purpose of consolidation might be to save money, consolidation is actually one of the best ways to improve operations. By that I mean - you can utilize resources more efficiently and more effectively, while improving service to the public.
Consolidation doesn’t have to be a bad thing. And it doesn’t have to involve physically moving people from one smaller location to another bigger one. For example, virtual consolidation is one way to improve operations without reducing staff. Virtual consolidation means you have one large virtual center and multiple sites connected via a private network, sharing the same IT resources. All are part of the same organization, adhere to the same policies and follow the same procedures. The savings comes from eliminating duplicate efforts and systems.
An example from the commercial world would be the company I work for – NICE Systems. NICE’s U.S. headquarters is located in Rutherford, NJ. But we also have offices in Denver, Dallas and in the Silicon Valley, as well as hundreds of employees working from home, myself included. We are all connected through the NICE private network. We all follow the same organizational work policies, and use the same IT systems to manage our time, file expense reports, etc.
In Public Safety, virtual consolidating allows multiple PSAPs to consolidate via the same network, which potentially means they can share CAD, GIS, Radio, Telephony, and audio recording technology, as well as other 9-1-1 operation systems. Can you begin to see the operational benefits now?
The beauty of NG9-1-1 is that it will enable PSAPs to achieve virtual consolidation far more easily. Imagine multiple sites in a county or region sharing an ESInet. Those same sites could also readily share their 9-1-1 operation systems, and share information with each other during and after major incidents.
So, what can PSAPs gain?
Here are just a few of the benefits:
- They could save money by combining funds to purchase systems that accommodate the needs of multiple sites at a fraction of what it would otherwise cost to purchase duplicate systems.
- With shared systems and common operating procedures, participating agencies/sites could improve response and interoperability, because coordination and collaboration would now be that much easier. In essence, even if they’re separated by distance and physical boundaries, virtual consolidation puts everyone on the same page.
- Public service could also benefit from a more balanced load-sharing approach between sites. Fewer calls would need to be transferred. For example, PSAP A could automatically receive calls that would have normally been directed to PSAP B, if PSAP B 's call load was at capacity.
- In addition, budget-constrained PSAPs could also share IT, training, quality monitoring resources, etc., rather than having to each fund their own independent resources.
If you’d like to learn more, I invite you to attend an educational session on “Consolidation do’s and don’ts” which NICE will be presenting at a number of upcoming public safety conferences, including Michigan NENA, Washington APCO, NENA National, and others.
You can also email me at Diamond.firstname.lastname@example.org for a full schedule of upcoming sessions, or with any questions.