Phoenix investigates StreetSmart SaaS

When Fred Boettger, general manager of Kitchener, Ont.-based Phoenix Investigations Group Inc., looked to upgrade his company’s network, he took his time. Between the sensitivity of the data Phoenix employees handle to the duration its projects remain active, Boettger felt his needs were very specific.

He spent days in his office, scouring the Internet and demoing product after product. Boettger put a lot of time into finding the perfect SaaS (software as a service) because, as he put it, “we’re in the investigations business, that’s what people pay us to do. We’re paid to be clear and concise and keep track of things and know things.”

Not only that, he said “when people called you, they expected you to be using cutting-edge technology.” Whether the image is conjured from heist movies or pulp fiction, he acknowledges an impetus to keep upgrading to the next best technology.

Before Boettger was shopping for a cloud solution, he remembers buying the first production cell phone at a former job (the size of a briefcase) and the first commercial video camera (for a whopping $16,000).

Today, the core of Phoenix Investigations business comes from process serving. “We might serve in between 8,000 and 10,000 people a year,” he said.

Needless to say, serving legal documents in this volume involves a lot of man-hours and a lot of paperwork. Boettger said moving to the cloud was a simple decision as, it could allow employees to access its database easily and from anywhere and, “if you can save some time, and give your client a better product, that’s obviously what you want to do.”

Once he found StreetSmart, Tarzana, Calif.-based InfoStreet Inc.’s suite of cloud apps for business, he was 90 per cent sure his search was done. The other 10 per cent came after his employees began playing around with the system.

As opposed to the old days, where employees worked on one investigation for weeks at a time, Phoenix employees work on location, in all different parts of Ontario, on a number of different projects at once. On top of that, no project has a fixed duration. “It might take 10 minutes, it might take two days, but they have a lot more assignments,” he said.

So, the fact that all of his employees, including the less tech-savvy ones, learned the system well enough to use it effectively for the last six months, without a tutorial? Boetter is calling that a win.

“Keeping track of everything you have done so you can report to your client effectively and concisely” is vitally important, he said.

“Some cases don’t go to trial for five, six years,” he said. That means that documents, video, and anything else pertinent must be available in their system for years into the future. Phoenix keeps a detailed record of every person they’ve ever served.

“If I serve you today with legal documents, I might serve you again in a year, two years, five years, 10 years down the line,” he said. In that event, Boettger said it’s nice to know things like who is prone to evade being served, who has a giant man-eating dog or who is a veteran hunter and gun nut.

Rick Chapman, managing editor and publisher at Softletter, an online software industry newsletter, said it’s no surprise a company like Phoenix would turn to StreetSmart and SaaS.

“If you’re doing surveillance…you might be in a situation where sometimes a computer gets damaged or broken. How are you going to access the database and update it? Buy another computer and reinstall the applications or go to a system where you’ve got a web browser and access the application via a smart phone?”

That’s precisely the thinking Boettger had and now employees of Phoenix Investigations can access their database through computers or company-provided iPhones, from anywhere in Ontario.

Boettger does acknowledge that StreetSmart might not be the only software that could be fit to his company’s needs.

“Yes, there’s other programs out there that can do a lot of these things, but not for the money we’re paying,” he said.

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