We’ve all been there and seen it. The cluttered offices, files stacked on desks higher than the average person can look over or walls lined with old and dilapidated file cabinets containing case files from eons past. For some of us, this is just the normal working environment and for others it’s like an episode of Hoarders that drive the OCD among us up the wall. What happens when an old client comes asking about that one case you did 5 years ago? What happens when you need to review a case file from an investigator that no longer works with you? How do you manage the task of keeping your files organized so your team or potentially an auditor can easily reference the firm’s past cases? Are you still stacking files on top of the pile, filling the filing cabinet or praying each day that you don’t have to dive into the sea that is your case history?
Thankfully, due to the advancements of technology, the investigations field has seen several improvements. Not only in the way we conduct our field investigations but also in how we organize, collaborate and communicate. Now I know this may not be the most exciting thing to discuss, but online or virtual case managements systems are great tools to help in these specific areas. These aren’t necessarily new tools but they are invaluable to todays Investigator. Benjamin Franklin once said “The best investment is in the tools of one’s own trade.” We’ve seen this in how we conduct surveillance and research but are we also applying this principle to how we handle our administrative functions? A good case management system can make the nightmare of multiple filing cabinets a thing of the past.
“The only difference between a mob and a trained army is organization”
– Calvin Coolidge.
I think every one of us would admit that the more organized we are, the more effective we can be. A case management system is the primary tool we can use to stay organized when facing an insurmountable caseload. Accessing historical records, preparing for an audit, or preparing a final report for the client become significantly easier and more professional when you’re organized. I use an online case management system every day and use it to reference multiple cases in a day. This task would be almost impossible without the use of our case management system.
“Great things in business are never done by one person; they’re done by a team of people.”
– Steve Jobs
Whether a solo investigator or a firm that employs a team, collaboration is key to success. You may be fine with the stack of folders on your desk, but it makes collaboration with others difficult, especially when collaborators need to access files as well. Having a central and organized location where case files can be accessed makes it so you are not the single point of failure. If you’re away and not accessible, the investigative work doesn’t stop. Your team can easily access files and get updates on cases without having to first go through you.
“I’m a great believer that any tool that enhances communication has profound effects in terms of how people can learn from each other, and how they can achieve the kind of freedoms that they’re interested in.”
– Bill Gates
Having a centralized location where your cases are being managed from, communication with the team and your clients can happen and where documents can be stored makes it so you have the room and freedom to grow. We all want to have more success and effectively service our clients. When communication is streamlined, your team becomes more effective and your clients more satisfied. A good case management system is useful as a communication tool. Your team and clients can get case updates and access files without having to work through laborious email chains or make multiple phone calls. When communication is streamlined, your operation will see more success.
There are several case management tools available, and I’d encourage you to find one that works for you and your team. We’d all rather be in the field, doing the work, but we cannot neglect the need for good organization and administration. A case management system makes this a much easier task and worth the investment. For the veteran investigators, I would implore you to make it a point to migrate old case files into an organized database and for new investigators, set good precedent by using a case management system to avoid becoming quickly overwhelmed.
David Johnson serves as Director of Operations for Satellite Investigations. He has a BS in Criminal Justice from Southeastern University. He also served in the US Army and is a retired member of the Army Special Forces unit, seeing time at various international locations in support wartime and peacetime operations