For many public safety administrators, chiefs, and shift commanders, ensuring correct staffing can take up a big portion of their time. Managing daily staffing, vacation, sick day, and overtime requests can be complicated and time consuming. But when your department has been using the same scheduling software for years, how can you tell that you need new staff scheduling software? We’ll delve into a few of the key warning signs that your scheduling process is outdated and you’re due for an update.
1) Your Software Hasn’t Changed
Sometimes, public safety agencies like specific software products because they’re used to them. Your staff knows how to use it, the interface is familiar, and your custom settings are in place. It can be daunting to think of switching your information to a new system.
However, with the way technology improves so quickly nowadays, departments need to expect software that changes with the times. Department scheduling software should be dynamic.
Ideally, your software should become easier to use over time and adapt to meet new needs.
If your software hasn’t been updated in five, 10, or even 20 years, you’re probably missing out on new capabilities that can cut down on the time spent scheduling and help your commanders and administrators improve efficiency.
You wouldn’t expect your staff to use out-of-date equipment or gear to manage and respond to incidents, so why would you let your scheduling stay stagnant?
If your department scheduling software hasn’t changed its functionality in the past few years, and you’re still running into the same bugs, then you have a clear sign that your department needs new scheduling software.
2) No Mobile Capability
Like the iconic 2009 iPhone commercial once said, nowadays “there’s an app for that.”
The modern first responder is busy. Firefighters, police, and EMTs are often on-the-go. They might need to make or respond to last-minute shift changes when out on calls or away from the station or hospital.
If your scheduling software requires changes to be made from a specific computer at a physical location, then it’s inefficient, and it’s also making things harder for your staff.
In addition, many current scheduling tools on the market make it difficult for commanders and first responders to communicate. Mobile scheduling systems allow your staff to communicate instantaneously about any immediate needs, changes, or messages that might come up during a shift.
That’s why many first responder software providers are switching to web and mobile-based scheduling programs. This way, your staff, commanders, and administrators can submit and approve staffing changes instantly from any device no matter where they are.
3) Lack of Integration
Department scheduling is only one piece of the puzzle that public safety administrators need to juggle. For example, commanders in a fire department need their crew staffing to integrate with Personnel Accountability Reports (PAR), incident command software, records management systems, payroll, training, and more.
It’s important to make sure that your data is the same across different channels. When you add data manually across different platforms, it can be hard to maintain consistency. A common issue occurs when multiple people try to edit a roster and only some of the changes are synced.
If data integration is beyond the capabilities of your current provider, then it’s time to consider new department scheduling software.
4) Customization Issues
Your union has rules. Your department has business rules. Do your staff bid on vacation days based on seniority? Randomization? Some combination of both?
When do your shifts start/end? How do you decide who can take on overtime?
Department staffing programs often rely on several main scheduling templates. The reality is that departments need a staffing system that can adapt to its individual rules. If your union contract changes and your old software requires customization and professional services to incorporate the new rules, you’ll have a problem.
Don’t let that happen to you. Make sure that your department scheduling software can be customized and scalable to meet your needs. If not, then it’s time for something new.
Overall, staffing is one of the most crucial elements of responding to an incident. If you don’t have the right staff on call, then your department won’t be able to respond effectively.
While it can be hard to switch and learn the ins and outs of a new software platform, you’ll save time, money, and stress in the long run when you update your department scheduling software.
If you take the time to research and identify what your department needs, you can find a provider that will boost efficiency for years to come.
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Sanjay Kalasa is the president of Adashi. He is also a current active volunteer firefighter/EMT at the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department in Maryland.