Why User Feedback is Essential to Public Safety Software Development


Working in the public safety industry where every second counts, you need a reliable and innovative software system that provides the tools and capabilities to get your job done right. This means that you also need a software vendor who understands that the best way to update and innovate software is by listening to the people that actually use it. Gaining feedback from customers about products and services is vital to both the design process and a company’s ability to serve the public safety industry. Armed with this insight, software designers and developers can not only improve products, but also the overall user experience.

A user’s opinion is a critical resource for improving the overall user experience and adjusting updates as needed to fit the unique needs of customers across the board. An important factor developers consider when creating or updating software is usability, or how easy it is to use a product to perform prescribed tasks. User-centered design incorporates the end users’ concerns and advocacy from the very beginning of the process and establishes that the needs of the user are crucial to any future software decisions. Users can then test the usability of the product or service and share their views or concerns with the development team.

Gathering and implementing user feedback is vital because agencies understand their overall goals as well as the nuances that are important toward accomplishing those objectives. End users also know what problems are the most pressing or occur most frequently, which helps development teams prioritize which features should be reviewed or enhanced.

For more than 35 years, the Spillman Flex team has been utilizing this user-centered design thinking to ensure that the products delivered truly solve the real day-to-day problems our users face. Innovation comes not only from the development team, but also from continual customer feedback. This is why our customers are encouraged to take an active role in the evolution and enhancement of our software solutions. Our most valuable solutions come from feedback solicited from customers regarding product direction, new product development, and industry trends. Collecting feedback shows our customers that we value their opinions and are dedicated to creating the best possible experience for the agency’s personnel. Approximately 80% of Spillman Flex product enhancements are a direct result of customer recommendations.

One example of how we gather customer feedback is our Product Ideas page. The Product Ideas page on MySpillman is an online forum that offers year-round voting and gives each user ten votes for each forum, with a maximum of three votes per idea. Of course, the smaller the scope of a project, the quicker turnaround for implementation. This page allows users to provide Flex enhancement ideas as well as vote on ideas entered by others. This page also fosters greater collaboration with product managers and other customers by streamlining feedback on particular enhancement ideas to ensure understanding for each party involved. The product team can look at the ideas that receive the most votes and make an effort to incorporate them into subsequent releases. This, in addition to surveys, site visits, focus groups, and an annual users’ conference are some of the critical ways we engage with our customers to ensure their voices are being heard.

Some examples of enhancements that came about because of user feedback include the following:

Mobile Evidence Data Entry

The Mobile Evidence feature allows an officer out in the field to create an evidence record from a property or vehicle record. This makes the process much easier for Flex users because the information only has to be entered once, freeing up time for the officer and allowing them to spend more time out in the community instead of back at a desk filing reports.

Updated Zones for Multiple Units

Previously in Flex, the CAD Update Zone command only allowed for a single unit to be entered into the CAD system. After customers submitted feedback on how that process slowed down their dispatchers’ workflow, our development team assessed the situation to determine a better course of action. Now, Flex allows users to streamline shift changes at their agency by entering multiple units at once.

New Mug Shot Cameras

With advances in technology, Flex users needed an IP-based camera to use when booking inmates. This project provides a selection of cameras that work in correspondence with the Flex Jail Management module for agencies that require an IP-based camera. Flex also offers complete integration between Axis Network Cameras and the Flex JMS by partnering with Axis to carry every model of the Axis Pan/Tilt/Zoom Network Camera. Having multiple options saves time and can help our agencies be more cost-effective.

Workflow Approval Subject Line

Two new settings were added to Flex that allow agencies to customize their workflow approval processes by showing more relevant information in the subject line. These changes help our agencies prioritize which records should be reviewed first and which should be submitted for further processing, saving precious time and streamlining the workflow process for end users.