February 22, 2023
4 Steps for Successful Mission-Critical Operations Centers
Government agencies looking to establish their own MCOCs should learn from those who have gone before them.
For some state and local government public safety agencies, technology is more than a tool to respond effectively to incidents. Advanced solutions such as video surveillance and data analytics can help agencies predict risks and proactively address them.
These tools can be particularly powerful in mission-critical operations centers (MCOCs), which collect data from a variety of sources for analysis while enabling communication and collaboration to improve situational awareness and decision-making.
In fact, data is becoming an essential resource for public safety agencies. According to a survey of public safety professionals, 44 percent say data analysis is a “very important” aspect of their work. Agencies looking to build out an MCOC or upgrade an existing operations center should consider these four steps, which can optimize their efforts.
1. Clearly Articulate the Mission
Agencies often struggle to communicate with many parties involved in the buildout or upgrade of an MCOC, including vendors, partners and internal teams. Often, this is because the vision of the new center has not been properly articulated and documented. This is particularly important for budgeting, when decision-makers must be convinced that investments in an MCOC will see a sufficient return. Agencies that succeed in achieving their MCOC goals are often those with a plan and with the ability to promote a concept.
Modernization efforts for MCOCs often arise when a center’s existing capabilities do not achieve the desired outcomes. Upgrades may be tied to planned events that will attract a large number of people, such as a national political convention or large sporting event. New centers are often driven by the need to change how strategic, operational or tactical efforts are applied to an agency’s mission or to respond to societal changes that affect agency operations. Regardless of the goal, agencies must articulate the costs and benefits of an MCOC and spell out how the center will impact agency success. Well-thought-out strategies win the day.
2. Assess the Current Situation and Envision the MCOC
As they prepare for an MCOC buildout or modernization, agencies should consider a variety of factors, including human resources and other resource availability, physical space requirements and current technologies used by the agency. Agency leaders should also examine the technology infrastructure to determine capacities and weaknesses that may hamper the introduction of new technologies. Assessing the infrastructure can identify areas where automation or other technological improvements could alleviate system capacity tension, optimize the use of tech resources or reduce operational costs.
Agency leaders should also research current and future market trends related to spatial engineering services and new technologies. This research should help leaders to describe the center’s current or planned initial concept of operations. As they envision the operation of a modernized MCOC, agencies should consider the impact to existing operations.
3. Plan and Design the Center
Effective planning is essential to the success of a new or upgraded MCOC. Agency leaders should use planning tools such as 3D rendering software and engage project management staff early in the process.
Plans for an MCOC should include a minimum viable product as well as a long-term roadmap that accounts for expansion to the concept of operations over time. This should get the project started despite budget limitations and position the agency to take advantage of digital transformation opportunities in the future.
For example, we recently worked with a small Florida police department to establish a new real-time crime center. Budget concerns limited the scope of the original project, but strategic deployment of existing technology tools enabled the department to get the project off the ground. The roadmap includes plans to replace an aging video management platform as well as adding license plate recognition and video analytics. The department will have to convince elected officials to expand the budget for these additional capabilities, but it will do so with a center that is operational and that can provide anecdotal success stories and quantify the impact that the center has made in reducing and solving crime.
4. Implement the Technology and Optimize Operations
As they move forward with plans to build out or modernize an MCOC, many state and local governments rely on outside experts for help. Implementing and integrating the different technology tools that make up an MCOC can be a significant challenge for IT teams without experience in these projects. And once a new center is up and running, optimizing operations is an important step.
A trusted partner can provide the expertise and experience needed on these complex initiatives, filling any gaps in skills and expertise among in-house IT staff. For example, CDW can bring expertise in security, data centers, cloud computing and other areas, as well as experience in handling similar initiatives for other agencies. Our expertise includes solutions specific to MCOCs, including networking, audiovisual displays and software.
Story by Houston Thomas III