Have You Defined Your Information Stakeholder Model?

By segmenting and understanding the full spectrum of information stakeholders across the jurisdiction, corrections agency CIO’s can better meet their needs and drive improvement for the agency.

Recently I wrote about the importance of having a well-defined information strategy to support both macro-administrative and operational-facility needs of the corrections agency, and to have such a strategy in place before embarking on an expensive process of modernizing the offender management system (OMS). It was also identified that a core element of that strategy was definition of the agency’s information stakeholders, including a clear understanding of the different, and often unique, needs of the various constituencies.

As a vendor which is fully committed to the global corrections market, we attend numerous conferences and workshops which are focused on driving improved outcomes for offenders, reduced recidivism, and greater overall performance of the agency. One of the most frequent topics at such gatherings relates to the secure, efficient sharing of information among the various parties engaged in correctional outcomes and maintenance of safe communities. Since our purpose-built OMS is the source of much of the data and information those stakeholders seek, we find it valuable to discuss best practices in the creation of strategic, sustainable models for satisfying those limitless information requests.
At first glance, definition of a model of information stakeholders for a corrections agency seems very straightforward. Line staff, supervisors and managers at the operational-facility level and across community corrections locations require all manner of transactional information related to a single offender or various offender groupings. Safety for the officer and offender alike depends on ready access to accurate, real-time information, and satisfying the specific needs of these stakeholders is mission critical. Indeed, such requirements have been key drivers in the creation of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products for offender management.

Yet for the typical corrections agency, given the breadth and complexity of the business challenges they must address, the range of stakeholders and their information needs extends well beyond operational staff. By understanding each member of the stakeholder community and documenting their various and specific information requirements, the CIO has a much better chance of contributing the right information at the right time to help with decision-making, reporting and analysis.

Consider a few examples. Executives within the agency require insights to help identify opportunities for operational efficiency and to reduce recidivism. Driven by legal and public safety mandates, stakeholders across the justice and public safety spectrum, such as law enforcement, courts, and investigative services, require numerous, diverse reports and data extracts on both a scheduled and ad hoc basis. Other external parties, such as non-profit organizations committed to help offenders transition back into the community, or academic researchers seeking to identify evidence-based best practices for offender rehabilitation, require a completely different type of information, with varying frequency.

Creation of an Information Stakeholder Model can provide greater clarity and manageability of the endless information requests that fall to the CIO’s team. A number of important questions are addressed by such a model and serve as a framework for establishing processes and priorities in addressing the information requirements of all stakeholders.

      1. Internal or External Stakeholder. Perhaps the most important criteria in the model is a determination of where the stakeholder resides in the community of information consumers. Is the individual or group situated within the corrections agency, such as an officer, supervisor, IT staff member, agency executive or offender? Or, is the individual or group outside the organizational boundaries of the agency, such as a court clerk or manager of a halfway house?
      2. Stakeholder Type. Having first established location, it becomes important to categorize the stakeholder by type. There are multiple approaches to this process, but defining the role and the intended use of information helps to establish frequency and priority of information needs. If the individual or group is an internal stakeholder, is their role classified as staff-level, supervisory, managerial or executive? Is the nature of that role operational/transactional, and is thus a role shared by many, or is it more of a secure-investigative role, which would require a high degree of information access and confidentiality?If the role is external but within the defined justice and public safety arena for a given jurisdiction, is the primary focus of the role on a specific process, such as a court clerk managing collection of pre-sentencing investigations? Or perhaps it is a cross-jurisdictional reporting function, such as a justice department analyst tracking demographic and descriptive statistics related to offenders across the full correctional system.If the role is fully outside the justice and public safety arena, but focused nonetheless on addressing the overall mission of corrections, defining the stakeholder type becomes even more important. Does the individual or organization need specific details about an offender? If so, how will confidentiality be maintained? Does a non-profit organization managing the community service obligations of an offender require the ability to contribute data into the OMS? If the consumer is a university researcher, what process is in place for efficiently providing desired data extracts, and what boundaries are in place governing its usage?
      3. Data Governance Team. One critical aspect to consider while building your information stakeholder model is the creation of a data governance team. Such a team, based within the agency, is comprised of two key roles:
        1. Data Owner: Responsible for defining and managing the data changes, aligned with operational procedure changes. The data owner is accountable for all data, its associated business rules and security of one or more operational units.
        2. Data Steward: The data steward performs continuous monitoring of the data standard, and data/information exchanges, and takes necessary actions in case of misalignment or errors.

        Typically, the data governance team is comprised of internal members of the agency who are SMEs of a specific operational unit(s).

      4. Data Standards, Formats & Dissemination. As part of addressing the broad range of needs across all information stakeholders, it is important to understand specific requirements related to data standards, data formats and optimal methods for secure dissemination.
        1. Data Standard. Different consumers inside and outside the agency not only require information for different reasons, they typically require it in different formats with a pre-defined data standard. In some jurisdictions currently, there are increasing efforts for correctional agencies and practitioners to standardize the definition of the data, and to improve the interoperability of data exchange across various intra- and inter- systems.
        2. Data Format. As the data standard(s) become common across agencies, it also becomes important to consider whether the stakeholder requires static, formatted reports or if a CSV or similar file type needed? Does the recipient have a need to further manipulate and investigate the information? For agency executives seeking to measure and track performance against various operational objectives, are dashboard tools necessary to deliver the right level of visualization?
        3. Dissemination. What requirements do individual stakeholders have regarding access to information? Does the consumer have a self-service need, such as a member of a data analytics team within the agency? Within very tight limitations, many agencies now provide self-service information access to offenders so they can check account balances or review their weekly schedule electronically. Is it acceptable to use a ‘push’ approach, essentially a predefined distribution process to inform a recipient based on a set schedule or event trigger, such as victim notification as an offender readies for release? What security protocols are necessary for various levels of detailed information? Must the information be disseminated via secure FTP or is there an internal portal available to authorized consumers to access information at their own convenience?
      5. Information Frequency. Every member of the information stakeholder list, whether individual or group, internal or external, will have different frequency requirements for the information they seek. For some, it will be on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis. For others, it will be real-time, hourly, daily or by shift. For others still, there will be no defined frequency – the required information will be sought on an ad hoc basis.

This is but a brief sample of the types of questions and considerations that go into creation of an Information Stakeholder Model for the corrections agency. In doing so, the intent is to help the CIO establish a model which drives efficiency in the satisfaction of information requests and which recognizes the dynamic nature of such a stakeholder community – members will always be coming and going, and having a defined approach to categorizing new members will help to ensure both efficiency and security.

Combined, these questions and approaches can help the agency – and the CIO’s organization in particular – to effectively address the never-ending requests for information about a specific offender or offender populations, or challenging questions about operational efficiency and improving offender outcomes. Further they can provide substantial help in defining requirements as part of an OMS modernization.

In a future post, we will also write about the creation of a dedicated data reporting and analytics team – an approach some proactive agencies are now taking to ensure both reporting accuracy and analytic sophistication, and to provide the agency with far deeper insight into its information assets.

© 2017 Abilis Solutions. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Ken McGovern

In his role as senior advisor to Abilis, Ken provides strategic advice to the executive team by leveraging his extensive correctional industry knowledge gained over more than 10 years. As vice president for marketing and sales for Abilis for nearly five years, Ken was instrumental in the company’s success in securing new corrections agency contracts. As an active member of the Corrections Technology Association (CTA) and the International Corrections and Prisons Association (ICPA), he regularly engages with corrections business and technology leaders on their approaches to address long-term agency challenges.

Ken has more than 25 years in enterprise software markets, with emphasis in marketing, sales, product marketing and corporate strategy. He has an MBA from the University of British Columbia and a BA in Political Science and Economics from the University of Arizona.

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