NSW Police wants huge internal social network


news The New South Wales Police Force has flagged plans to deploy a sizable internal social networking platform, as it moves ahead with plans to better serve the information needs of its 17,000 police officers and 4,000 civilian administration staff.

In a request for tender document issued this week, the organisation wrote that previously, internal communication had been conducted via “traditional means” — a monthly internal magazine distributed to all police stations, an intranet, which remains a “valuable source of reference material” but has “the normal limitations”, and email, including a whole of organisation system named “Nemesis”. However, the organisation wrote, it recognised the value of next-generation platforms.

“The working group recognises the potential value and benefits of using an internal social network to complement the current internal communication platforms,” NSW Police wrote. “While not all police officers are users of social media in their work or private lives, there is a growing recognition within the organisation that social networking platforms provide police with a very powerful communication tool.”

“This is demonstrated by its use of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to communicate with the public. A corporate Facebook page was established in March 2010 and now has 130,000 fans. In 2011/12 Facebook was rolled out in all 80 Local Area Commands and some specialist commands. These local pages have a combined total of 140,000 fans and growing. This decentralisation / franchising of Facebook pages has seen police officers who were previously uninterested or sceptical about social networking become converts to the phenomena.”

The force’s IT department recently ran what it described as “a short-term trial” of an “Innovaion Forum” on its intranet, allowing staff members to comment and vote on ideas put forward by any staff member. The results were positive. “Without any internal communication or promotion, the Innovation Forum was heavily subscribed,” the force wrote. “There is strong potential for the healthy adoption of an internal social network by NSW Police Force staff.”

In its tender documents, the organisation detailed the objectives which it wanted to achieve from deploying such a social network.

These included the ability to communicate and drive corporate strategies and reduce information silos, as well as providing employees with a means to connect and share information with others with common interests and expertise; including a level of social interaction. It would also lead to increased employee satisfaction and retention, allow ideas to be put forward and voted on, share corporate and employee news, and even collaborate via tools such as wikis.

“We will remain a hierarchical organisation, and the chain of command will always be integral to the running of our organisation,” the tender documents stated. “However we require better sharing of information right across the organisation – across the organisational chart and up and down the chain of command. This will lead to the improved communications, transparency, trust and empowerment of employees.”

In any police force, security will also remain important, and NSW Police’s tendering document also reflected the need for controls around mitigating the risk of “internal confidential conversation and information to break out into the external environment”.

It’s highly encouraging to see a highly hierarchical and stratified organisation such as the NSW Police looking for an internal social networking tool. This kind of platform will, I believe, prove highly useful to the force in the long term, as it breaks down silos and helps the organisation to become a great deal more communicative, open and transparent than it currently is.

I do suspect that the organisation may find it difficult to nail down precisely the platform which it will deploy. Lots of readers, when reading about internal social networking, will straightaway think of the poster child for this platform — Yammer. However, Yammer is hosted overseas and, I envisage, will not feature the granular control and flexibility which NSW Police is looking for here. Some Delimiter commenters have previously highlighted the fact that rival internal social networking vendor Socialtext has had some success in the South Australian State Government — perhaps this is one solution NSW Polcie could look at. I’m sure there are many more out there.

On a side note, I hope whatever platform NSW Police chooses, that it pays for all its licences this time around. Otherwise it could get involved in another highly embarrassing court case ;)

Image credit: Cop Richard, royalty free


  1. Policing is often controversial.
    Interesting piece on ABC News yesterday about Target and social media. How Target’s social media was flooded with highly critical customer feedback, particularly of it’s children’s clothing. One ‘social media expert’ claimed companies would have to reassess and maybe reign back their social media activities to avoid public humiliation in future.
    Weird then, that The NSW Police might be about to step into the lion’s den.

  2. I know this has been implemented in numerous large organisations, for internal comms only, so it can be done.

    Two things though – 1. It needs to be easy to use, without complex URLs or interfaces, 2. It needs buy-in by all to be successful – sharing by all.

    Note to Renai: Typo 2nd last paragrpah, “NSW Polcie”

  3. It will be interesting to see if, like most IT things, the Police cock this up as well.

    Been to their website lately ? Expired SSL certificate which they knew nothing about until I told them… You have to wonder…

  4. It is certainly possible to have a vibrant internal social media culture. Our company has deployed one Jive site for internal use and one that can be shared by customers as well as Confluence. The Jive site is very open with non-business related content as well as more focussed information. Anyone can create an internal blog or start a group.

  5. There are plenty of enterprise social networking (ESN) solutions available for NSW Police to consider… Microsoft’s Yammer, Socialtext and Jive have already been mentioned, but there is also VMWare Socialcast, IBM Connections, SharePoint + Newsgator, TIBCO tibbr and even Drupal Commons. While I doubt they’ll meet NSW Police’s requirements, open source solutions like Elgg and Status.Net (a Yammer-style microblogging platform) are also a cost effective options to consider too. I actually don’t think NSW Police will have a problem picking a platform, rather it will be a question of deciding which functional and non-functional requirements are most important within their budget as none of the ESN tools are exactly the same.

  6. I look forward to this being rolled out, then quickly and quietly shut down as they realise the impact sharing what *should* be compartmentalised information has on their ongoing investigations.

    Beyond the very basic staff information type stuff, this seems a hopeless fit within an organisation which *should* be maintaining information silos. How many people will be warned off when star force type staff start setting statuses like “bed early, busy day tomorrow”?

    I have no experience with policing though at all, so maybe I am quite missing the point. Maybe they really do just lack a method of posting general information around to staff and getting feedback on procedures and the like.

  7. Goo to We (www.mangoapps.com) are a ESN vendor and would love to power NSWs social network. Have quite a bit of experience working with law enforcement here in the US.

  8. oops…last message got posted too soon.

    Good to learn that law enforcement is considering ESN to improve internal communication and collaboration.

    We (www.mangoapps.com) are a ESN vendor and would love to power NSWs social network. Have quite a bit of experience working with law enforcement here in the US.

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