The Ultimate Case Management Challenge
By Dorian Deligeorges
My Journey to Kaseware
The “James Bond” Intelligence Technology Fantasy
As I started my career as a new agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) over 15 years ago, I was thrilled by the prospect of serving one of the premier law enforcement agencies in the world. Like most of us, my perception of law enforcement at the time was shaped by movies, TV and books. As a result, I pictured nonstop action and cutting edge technology.
While kicking in doors and arresting bad guys sounded great, my excitement was particularly focused on the technological aspect of my new career. My degrees in mathematics and computer science, combined with my background as an information technology (IT) professional, had me champing at the bit to get my hands on the FBI’s amazing incident management, investigative, and intelligence tools.
Green Screen Reality
When I attended my first technology course at the FBI Academy in Quantico, I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. Unfortunately, by disbelief was due to the underwhelming fact that, like so many other law enforcement and security organizations, the FBI’s information technology capability was stuck in the past. Even in 2004, we were working with “Green screens” (see image on the right). The unintuitive command line interfaces and disparate data stores were not what I had envisioned at all.
As my career as a cybercrime investigator progressed, I grew more and more frustrated with the lack of effective software tools at my disposal. By 2005, the FBI’s highly publicized $170 million Virtual Case File (VCF) project had failed, leaving dedicated employees of the of the organization right where they had started five years prior.
The Sentinel Story: Part 1
In 2006, it seemed that there was finally light at the end of the tunnel. The FBI initiated the Sentinel project, a massive endeavor to bring the organization’s case management capabilities back into the modern age. The project involved hundreds of outsourced contractors as well as internal FBI personnel, a budget of over $400 million, and the full attention and support of top level executives.
Beginning in 2008, I learned through my field office that Sentinel was progressing slowly and seeking assistance. They were looking for candidates who understood both the needs of investigators and the “ones and zeros” of modern technology. My future Kaseware co-founders, Nathan Burrows and Scott Baugher, and I were eager to assist. Having a few years of special agent experience and strong IT backgrounds, we jumped at the opportunity to assess the situation and do our small part to steer the ship back in the right direction.
The Industry-Wide Case Management Problem
While we worked with the Sentinel project team at FBI Headquarters to understand their challenges and find ways to accelerate progress, we also explored existing solutions in the law enforcement and security space. What we discovered was troubling. The incident handling, computer-aided dispatch (CAD), records management (RMS), intelligence solutions on the market were typically difficult to use, built on outdated technology, grossly overpriced, and poorly supported.
A Poor Prognosis
And to make matters worse, the Sentinel project had needed several extensions. The project was in a dire state, going increasingly over budget, and FBI agents were seemingly no closer to having a usable case management system.
What I pictured when I imagined the FBI’s “cutting edge” incident management tools.
The reality of the FBI’s “cutting edge” incident management technology in 2004.
The Sentinel Story: Part 2
It was at this time that Scott, Nathan and I began developing an alternative approach to Sentinel. Though we initially functioned in an unofficial capacity “under the radar,” we developed a working prototype in relatively short amount of time. By 2010, we presented that prototype to leadership, which included then FBI Director Robert Mueller, and won them over. In just a few short months, the FBI officially stopped the original outsourced project and instead moved forward with our internally-driven project.
Rejection of the Status Quo
As a result, the whole project was restructured, and what was originally a 400 person team became 40. I assumed a leadership position with the project’s agile development team. Our team of quickly regained momentum. What drove us was our rejection of the status quo for law enforcement and security solutions, as well as the painstakingly slow pace of the government bureaucracy. Every single day, we followed the mantra of “build high quality software faster than people can say no.”
Award Winning Software
Against all odds, our efforts were successful. Our system cost a fraction of the original project and took significantly less time — as much as 90% cost savings and only one year to complete, according to some estimates. In 2012, our Sentinel system was deployed to FBI users worldwide.
The system was well received, won several awards, and, most importantly, provided an effective software solution for which myself and my FBI colleagues had waited all-to-long.
The Birth of Kaseware
For me personally, the Sentinel project proved to be both a rewarding and eye-opening experience. Inspired by the impact I saw the system had on global FBI operations, I decided to dedicate the next stage of my professional career to bringing similar technological advancements to the broader law enforcement and security communities … and thus Kaseware was born.
Built on FBI best practices and a new generation of technology, the Kaseware platform provides complex solutions in a simple, intuitive, and mobile friendly package. Kaseware offers ultimate flexibility and customization while eliminating data duplication and allowing information to flow freely through the incident, case management, and intelligence lifecycles.
Photo: Dennis Brack, Bloomberg, Landov
“The deployment of Sentinel is an important step forward for FBI’s information technology,” said then-FBI Director Robert Mueller upon the release of the new case management system.
Sentinel went on to win many awards, including the US Department of Justice FBI Award for Outstanding Information Management in 2012.
- A Decade and $451M Later, FBI Computers Just Now Working Together // Source: ABC News
- FBI’s Sentinel Project: 5 Lessons Learned // Source: Information Week
- Who Killed the Virtual Case File? How the FBI Blew More Than $100 Million on Case Management Software It Will Never Use // Source: IEEE Spectrum
- FBI Announces Deployment of Sentinel // Source: The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation