POLKA, the Police Online Knowledge Area, is a secure online space for the policing community to share knowledge and collaborate on new ways of working. It was designed and implemented in response to the National Policing Improvement Agency’s challenge to overcome knowledge silos and foster collaboration within and, more importantly, across teams, forces and departments involved in policing in England and Wales. POLKA breaks down geographical boundaries and enables professionals to share information on anything from crime scene forensics to camera technology.
Understanding the users and how they used existing systems was crucial to the success of the initiative. Through a process of four-week sprints, Web Technology Group was able to deliver functionality that was shaped to the habits of existing users whilst integrating the legacy intranets and making the system accessible to less web-savvy users. Powerful tools to find the right information quickly or collaborate on new knowledge have meant that take-up has been high.
The system is now a principal platform for knowledge management, collaboration and communication within the Police community and is used by more than 50,000 individuals within 90 organisations including all 43 police forces.
The National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) set the challenge of unleashing the knowledge held within 70 extranets across the policing community. Could a system be created to remove the silos and foster further knowledge sharing, collaboration and problem-solving, not just within specialist teams and departments but across them?
The current owner of POLKA is the College of Policing and the system is intended to foster collaboration and act as a knowledge base. In order to deliver a platform and tools that support Police knowledge-sharing, Web Technology Group sought to gain a deep understanding of the requirements and how the existing extranets and collaboration tools were being used. This was crucial to ensuring that the technical platform selected would deliver the right end-user experience as well as the necessary content integration, management and security (IL3).
EPiServer was selected as the CMS platform with its social networking add-on Relate+. It was configured and extended so that existing communities could be migrated to the new platform with a consistent user experience applied but scope for each community to have its own identity. Each community also has its own content, image galleries and events calendars along with blogs and discussion pages for sharing information and ideas. Individuals can maintain a profile, write blogs, upload images and maintain personalised contact lists.
Web Technology Group configured EPiServer to deliver document management and sharing within a strict security model and the system was formally accredited to hold information protectively marked up to RESTRICTED level. POLKA allows documents and knowledge to be shared and found quickly – not only within communities but across communities using an extended taxonomy, search and messaging tools.
The ability to share knowledge was further enhanced with the implementation of the MindTouch open source wiki. It enables users to collaborate on drafting and publishing documents and was integrated with POLKA so that security credentials and restrictions were appropriately applied within a single sign-on framework.
Working with partner Vodafone (formerly Cable&Wireless Worldwide), Web Technology Group delivered an online collaboration system that supports problem-solving through access to specific professional expertise. As well as delivering new capabilities, it reduces costs by removing duplicated effort and consolidating 80 separate extranets.
Focusing on ease-of-use was key to engaging such a diverse skills base and encouraging collaboration amongst all levels not just the web-savvy. There are now over 50,000 registered users on POLKA making it the largest pan-government collaboration platform in England and Wales. 90 organisations are represented including all 43 police forces and it is accepted as a principal platform for distributing information in the Police community.
POLKA was awarded runner-up in the Digital Innovation category at The Guardian Public Services Awards 2012.
NPIA POLKA Online Collaboration Team Manager Kate Grady said: “Using POLKA allows geographic barriers and silos to be broken down and the conditional boundaries of rank and file within policing to be crossed in an open and transparent manner. A really important factor as criminals often know no boundaries!”