Building Analytical Capacity: People Domain Curating the Right Team of Analysts

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How can police leaders determine who the right analyst is for their agency?

We don’t typically think of people in terms of resources – but the individuals we trust to carry out our organization’s missions are one of the greatest strengths we have at our disposal. It’s important to ensure that the analysts within your department are continuing to develop the skills they need to perform their responsibilities effectively and succeed in their roles. This is particularly true for police departments that are expanding their analytical capacity and seeking to find analysts who have the proper skill set required for each unique role.

But how can police leaders know which skill set they need to look for in new hires and which abilities each current employee needs to strengthen when they’re working to build their analytics team? 

IDEA Analytics is currently partnering with police departments across the nation to help them understand how to invest in their analysts professionally and curate hiring plans that expedite finding candidates with the right abilities.

Step 1: Understanding Who’s Involved

Relevant people internal and external to a police department are some of the first factors that IDEA considers during the Building Analytical Capacity program (™). It’s a common misconception in policing that only crime analysts and records departments are responsible for an agency’s data – which is why the IDEA team created detailed personas and content cards that describe the individuals and other elements that have a role in the data lifecycle. 

The people managing the data can be internal staff, but they can also be external partners as well. The IDEA team takes account of every person who can contribute to data management– a human-centered design that builds sustainable solutions and invests in the future. Acknowledging every person involved in data collection, processing of data, and protecting data, allows an organization to create intentional processes and streamline data development. 

The data lifecycle consists of five stages, and IDEA identifies who manages the data in each distinct phase. For example, the primary contributors to the first stage, Identify Requirements, are the Storyteller and Thinker. These personas refer to the leadership and visionaries of the agency. 

In contrast, in the second stage, Data Collection, the primary contributors are line staff officers and record staff, as they control data entry and record validation for data. For original data collection, analysts or supporting IT staff may be involved to create new methods to develop data (e.g., surveys, web forms) to address more details than a police report.  

These are just a few examples of stages and contributors. There are many more people and procedures involved that IDEA covers during this process. Each stage of the cycle is analyzed in-depth and presented in a unique, digestible way to help leaders understand the way their data moves within the agency.

Step 2: Assessing Skill

Determining who is managing your organization’s data during every phase makes it easier to understand which skills your respective analysts need to possess. Every individual employee will have varying levels of ability – so it’s critical to first determine each person’s unique strengths and weaknesses. 

IDEA accomplishes this by issuing a survey to agency analysts that collects information on their education, years of experience, and any certification classes they’ve completed. This helps our team understand each unique analyst’s exposure to different topics, processes, and procedures. 

For example, an analyst may not be familiar with the proper language or standards of their profession if they entered their role without a formal educational background in data analytics. When an analyst is willing to learn and adapt to new practices, their role develops to become more supportive of the agency as a whole. Beginning to understand who and what you have within your agency will allow people to flourish.

Another important part of this process is interviewing personnel and helping them make connections between data points. These interviews are conducted during site visits, which typically last around a week. The IDEA team sits down with roughly half of an agency’s personnel (which consists of lieutenants, officers, and many other people with different roles in the department), for 50-70 interviews depending on the agency’s size. 

Carrying out these discussions is also essential for helping IDEA determine where potential opportunities may exist. When our team returns from a fact-finding site visit, we conduct SWAT analysis across every division to discern where people believe strengths and weaknesses are inside and outside of the department. This gives IDEA a more complete image of where the department is operating well and where there is room to grow.

Step 3: Providing Tools and Training for Success

Outcomes from this phase of our program allow IDEA to realign expectations for leadership and staff. It also supports efforts in hiring new staff or planning for staffing changes. . Communicating openly about the way an individual’s position will evolve as the organization’s analytical capacity continues helps everyone be successful throughout the change. 

Occasionally, those who entered their role by virtue of simply being adept with computers may decide to resign as the analytical capacity of their job grows. However, if the employee chooses to stay in their position, IDEA provides them with a training path that helps them pivot and provides them with the tools necessary to succeed in their field.

IDEA works with around thirty analysts on a regular basis to guide them in understanding professional topics, developing their goals, and motivating them as they navigate through concepts that may be challenging to them. Each session also teaches analysts how to engage in proactive problem-solving and how to adhere to industry standards. Ultimately, the process will explore each individual’s needs and map out achievable steps for their professional growth and fulfillment.

Step 4: Determining Next Steps & Succession Planning

To determine what the right next step is for their agency, leaders must decide:

  1. Do I need to bring in mostly new analysts to fulfill my agency’s needs?
  2. Am I looking for a combination of developing current analysts and hiring new ones?
  3. Am I in a position where I can retain my current analysts and offer them training?

These questions are key in understanding how to kickstart your agency’s analytical capacity – but regardless of the answer, leaders always have to think about succession planning. No matter what they’re trying to build, leaders must position their agencies to avoid situations where they must go without necessary analysts for long periods of time.

Succession planning is key in many ways. One major pitfall agencies often encounter occurs when an analyst leaves the organization and gives a two-weeks notice. It may take the agency an extended period of time (sometimes as long as six months) to find and hire a suitable replacement.

This gap occurs in agencies that don’t have automated planning or other kinds of documentation about the work the previous analyst was completing. IDEA’s approach consists of standardizing through operating manuals and other processes to build a department’s ability to remain steadfast when an analyst leaves the organization. By routinely documenting the analyst’s previous work, leadership can pinpoint exactly what skills are required for the position and clearly present candidates with their expectations.

Another critical piece of succession planning is cross-training different agency personnel. If an analyst leaves the agency on short notice but other employees understand the basic best practices of the analyst’s role, those individuals can help keep the agency afloat analytically while leaders search for the right fit for the open position.


The people domain cannot be overlooked if you want to build your department’s analytical capacity. Mobilizing everyone involved with data management – from supervisors to external collaborators – is key to ensuring active growth and agency efficiency. Achieving this involves understanding which skills each position requires for success and providing your team with the tools to fulfill those expectations.

We call it the “people domain” because we consider every aspect of the data life cycle influenced by human beings. Our team determines who, why, and how so that your organization can better understand the way your people and information interact. This is the key to unlocking the untapped potential of your resources.

It can be intimidating and confusing to attempt these steps alone – which is why IDEA Analytics offers police departments a strategic partnership to simplify the process. To schedule an appointment with the IDEA team, click here.

Categories: Blog