5 Must-Have Features of FTO Online Solutions

Find out what make-or-break features to look for when purchasing field training online software for your law enforcement agency.

April 17, 2023

Article highlights: 

Digital public safety solutions are critical in today’s world, especially when it comes to the foundation of every officer’s career: training. Law enforcement candidates today are more tech-savvy than ever, and they expect their agency to have modern, user-friendly technology. Inefficiency is the enemy of today’s recruits. They want to focus on the work they’re passionate about rather than spending time on redundant paper checklists.

New officer expectations aside, documenting training on paper just isn’t sustainable or scalable anymore. As policies and SOPs have expanded and evolved over the years, training has been more complicated and difficult to track. Getting it right is mission-critical – for the protection of your agency, the safety of your officers, and the safeguarding of your community.

In this article, we’ll highlight why an FTO online solution is important, the top 3 benefits of FTO cloud-based software, and 5 must-have features to look for in any solution you consider.

What is an FTO online solution and why do you need one? 

An FTO online solution is technology that helps agencies manage, track, and measure their field training online. Most FTO cloud software enables digital documentation, tracks trainee success, and keeps historical field training data.

Instead of relying on manual and paper processes, using an FTO online solution allows agencies to ensure compliance, attract today’s tech-savvy recruits, and operate with the level of excellence expected from law enforcement agencies. 

Top 3 benefits of FTO online solutions for law enforcement

  1. Save time and resources: Using a field training online solution allows you to eliminate paper and tedious report writing tasks. Software transforms your daily observation reports from long checklists into intuitive, fast forms that put the focus back on mentoring.
  2. Increase visibility: With FTO cloud-based software, you have more visibility into trainee progress and how well the program is preparing them for a career as an officer. Many solutions provide real-time dashboards, comprehensive reports, and automated alerts to keep you informed every step of the way.
  3. Eliminate subjectivity: FTO online solutions centralize and standardize your field training process, which helps you make sure reports, evaluations, and scores are fair and consistent. With technology, recency bias can be a thing of the past.

5 Must-Have Features of the Best FTO Online Software

Now, let’s take a look at the 5 must-have features of any field training solution you consider. The sections below will highlight what each feature means, why it matters, and a few questions you can ask when evaluating a specific solution for purchase.

Must-Have Feature #1: Advanced reporting capabilities

Advanced reporting capabilities in FTO online solutions are about more than just tracking a trainee’s scores. Reporting capabilities should provide you with the kind of data and insights you need to evaluate your trainers and the program as a whole, not just the trainees going through the process. 

Having access to advanced reports matters because a lack of data means you can’t properly analyze the success of your program and where there might be room for improvement. Let’s say you run a report on trainer performance and identify that every trainee assigned to a particular trainer is scoring low in their ability to perform crash investigations. With an online FTO solution, you have the ability to follow up and help that trainer improve their instruction in that area. 

As another example, if you run a report on program phases and see that most of your early exits are in phase 2, you can evaluate why phase 2 isn’t as successful and enhance your training process accordingly. Making your field training program the best it can be is easier with advanced reporting. 

Some questions to ask around advanced reporting when considering an FTO online solution include: 

  • How many reporting options do you provide?
  • What do those reports measure, and what information can I get from them?
  • Do you provide any custom reports?
  • Do you provide any dashboards? If yes, what kind of information is included in the dashboards
  • Can we perform comparisons by trainee and trainer? 
  • Can we perform a year-over-year analysis?

Must-Have Feature #2: Pre-built templates and simple configuration capabilities

When choosing FTO cloud-based software, it’s important to make sure it’s going to work with your current processes. Just about every solution available today has standard DOR forms available in their system – but do they have forms that fit the FTO program you use? 

Pre-built templates match the requirements of an established field training model (like San Jose, Reno, or Kellams). These templates should have pre-built phases, forms, workflows, etc. to help your agency stay on track according to the requirements of your particular training model. With a template that matches your program, you have an out-of-the-box solution that you can implement with just a few clicks.

In addition to templates, the solution you choose should support customization or configuration. Without this functionality, you could be stuck using forms and workflows that don’t match the way you handle your field training. In order to get the right processes set up, you would have to contact support or IT in order to have them build it for you from scratch. This takes a lot of time and effort. Configuration allows you to easily use the software in a way that meets your needs, without requiring outside support. 

Here are a few questions to ask about templates and configuration capabilities: 

  • What program templates do you have already built in the system? Be sure to ask about your specific program model to see if it’s fully supported. 
  • Are there standard forms we can configure if we want to create a hybrid program?
  • Can we configure forms, program phases, skills, and rating scales?
  • Do you support custom forms built from scratch? If so, is there any reporting available on the data from those forms?

Must-Have Feature #3: Forms and evaluations that inform each other  

Simply having digital versions of your forms and evaluations is still an improvement over shuffling pieces of paper around. But if you still have to click back and forth between documents and search for the right information to duplicate, has it really saved you time?

The best FTO online solution should allow forms and evaluations to inform each other to help save you time and eliminate duplicate work. When you grade an employee’s activity, that information should automatically inform their performance grade and add the necessary information to that day’s DOR. If not, then your FTOs are still doing the same amount of monotonous, time-consuming work – just on the computer instead of on paper. 

Ask these questions to find out if the FTO online solution you’re considering has this feature: 

  • When I complete an activity for a trainee, does that information automatically get added to their performance? 
  • When I complete an activity for a trainee, does that information automatically get added to the DOR? 
  • Are DORs and evaluations completely separate forms, or do they cooperate? 
  • Will we have to fill out the same information multiple times in a day?

Must-Have Feature #4: Connection with your CAD system

You live and breathe by what comes through your CAD system, so shouldn’t your software, too? When a field training online solution can connect to the data in your CAD system, you can save an incredible amount of time and effort. Information from CAD flows directly into the FTO software so your FTO doesn’t have to enter the information themselves. 

These time savings allow your FTOs to focus even more on the development and growth of their trainee instead of referencing the log to manually enter call information. Connecting to your CAD means the software takes care of the busywork for you. 

Here are a few questions to ask about CAD connections related to FTO online solutions:

  • Does your software include CAD integration? 
  • Do you have to fully integrate with our CAD system or can you connect in other ways?
  • How do you connect to our CAD?
  • What CAD information is pulled into your FTO software?
  • How long will it take to connect to my CAD, and will I be able to use the software in the meantime?

Must-Have Feature #5: Direct policy tie-ins to your training

Your agency’s policies govern everything you do. As part of their training, new officers must become intimately familiar with every policy and its significance to their work in law enforcement. Field training online solutions should have a way to tie each element of training back to the relevant policy or SOP. 

When a particular element of training relates to agency policy, it’s important to make that connection for officers and to document it in your field training management system. Officers get to see the why behind the way things are done, and you can prove training and acknowledgement on policies for the sake of compliance. 

Ask these questions when you plan to purchase an FTO online solution to see if you can connect your training to agency policies:

  • Does your solution connect to any policy management software?
  • How would I connect or link our policies to each training? 
  • Can I reference historical training data and the policy used at the time of training?

Field training online solutions for your agency

FTO online software is a great solution for any agency looking to save time and enhance their field training program. This kind of software is especially beneficial if it includes the 5 must-have features above: advanced reporting, configurable templates, connected forms, and integrations with policy management software and CAD systems. 

Interested in exploring an FTO cloud-based solution with a proven success record? Schedule a consultation with PowerDMS by NEOGOV to learn about our easy-to-use field training management solution, PowerReady, that helps agencies prepare officers for the next phase of their career.

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