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Shortest Path to Success

Running a successful company that provides training for analysts in police and law enforcement agencies is more than just a job for the dedicated team at Shortest Path Training Ltd – it’s their vocation and their passion. Carol Jenkins talks to Michelle Fuller and Fraser Patrick about the ethos behind the company and their plans for 2022.

 

When Apple founder Steve Jobs said ‘the only way to do great work is to love what you do’, he could have been speaking about the team at Shortest Path Training Ltd.

The Cambridge-based company, has for the past eight years, been the official training provider for IBM Analyst’s Notebook and IBM iBase training solutions. Between then, the team has 130 years experience in either: using, selling, or training with the software. Its founder and director Janet Warner was herself a senior intelligence analyst at North Wales Police which means the company is very much run from an analyst’s perspective.

Michelle Fuller, Head of Sales and Account Management explained that the reason the team are so passionate about their work is because of their belief in the quality of the software and that they have a commitment to providing analysts with the latest training as well as ongoing support.

‘I love working with analysts. I’ve never met such a passionate group of people who always go the extra mile to lock up the bad guys and make sure the public are safe,’ she explained.

‘Our entire ethos is to be there for analysts every step of the way. My job is to support their sales requirements and to work with them to establish what their exact training needs are and then to provide a bespoke solution that is affordable for their respective budgets.’

Ongoing support

Her colleague Fraser Patrick, who is one of the training team, echoes this sentiment and tells us: ‘Our role is to support analysts on an ongoing basis and not to disappear into the night at the end of each course.

‘We always give everyone our contact details at the end of our courses. Almost every morning I spend time answering questions from analysts I’ve trained often months and years ago. We pride ourselves in keeping in contact with them and with supporting their work and I think that’s what sets us apart as a company.’

Prior to the Pandemic, courses were delivered either at the company’s premises or on site in forces. When the Pandemic hit, it presented the company with a dilemma when all training and meetings were cancelled. It prompted them to transfer their courses online, something they had never attempted before.

 

Online challenge

Michelle pays tribute to Fraser, Mark, Janet and trainer Holly Swann-Catlow for pulling together as a team and getting up and running with their online training in just two weeks.

‘I am so proud of them all for the way they got the training up and running within two weeks of the pandemic hitting. The concern was that we didn’t want analysts to be without access to training. We did everything we could to ensure all of our courses were available as soon as we could.’

Online training is now conducted combining Amazon WorkSpaces with Zoom.

Positive feedback

Feedback from analysts about the online training has been highly complementary with many of them commenting that it is just like being in a face-to-face classroom. Fraser is proud of the fact that the supportive training style of the team always attracts positive feedback and he emphasises just how important it is to lead analysts through the training with a series of questions rather than getting them to complete tests and exams.

‘We pride ourselves on being supportive and positive in our training style which we think sets us apart,’ he explained.

‘We are also unique in that we try never to cancel a course. Even if only one person is registered for it, we go ahead and provide one to one training. It’s all about valuing the analyst and recognising how precious their time is.’

Back to in-person training

Now that Covid restrictions have eased, the company is back to delivering in-person training but also continuing with its online offering. It recently trained analysts from several Eastern European countries via Zoom which allows you to have separate channels so that the trainer can speak in English, whilst interpreters in separate channels translate simultaneously into the required language, or languages.

Some forces have reported that they were unable to use Zoom for their training and Michelle wants to reassure any analysts who experience difficulties to contact her to try and resolve any issues.

 ‘If the forces or organisations have other solutions that would work for them then we will talk to them and see if it works for us. Our ‘can do’ spirit ensures that we will always work with our customers for a positive resolution,’ says Michelle.

Changes to Access for All training agreement

One important development that the company wants to communicate to customers concerns the forthcoming changes to the Access for All training agreement that was established between Police Digital Services and IBM, the providers of the i2 software. Over the past three to four years, forces were given access to some training for free and Shortest Path Training Ltd was subcontracted to supply the training on behalf of IBM.

While the software licensing aspect of the agreement will remain, the free training element will shortly be ending. However, Michelle is keen to emphasise that the company wants to work with forces to ensure they come up with an affordable plan for future training and that they shouldn’t be daunted by the cost implications of the agreement ending.

‘We are very aware of the cost implications of this change to the agreement and that costs are a real challenge for forces,’ says Michelle.

‘I would urge forces to contact me so we can provide an affordable way forward for everyone. We pride ourselves on providing a totally bespoke offering and we want to work with everyone to ensure we meet their individual training needs.’

Efficient and effective

Looking to the future, the company is constantly evaluating its offering to ensure it is relevant to the audience. It is currently about to launch its first iBase refresher course and now runs refresher courses and bite size learning for all its courses.

‘We are constantly exploring how we can deliver our courses in the most efficient and effective way we can in order to support our analysts on an ongoing basis,’ said Fraser. 

Michelle wants to extend an open invitation to all analysts to contact her to have a chat about their training requirements for the year ahead.

‘We are committed to developing ongoing relationships with our customers and we look forward to working with them on an ongoing basis.’

Contacts

Contact Michelle: you can email her at: michellef@shortestpathtraining.co.uk

Meet the Shortest Path Team: you can find out more about the team by going to https://www.shortestpathtraining.co.uk/about-us/

Meet Mark Fleet, Director and Trainer: You can meet Mark Fleet at The Investigator’s National Analyst’s online conference on December 8 and 9 when he will be giving a presentation updating analysts on IBM i2 iBase.

Det Ch Supt Martin Brunning