View from the Top

Some advice for new Statewide Interoperability Coordinators (SWICs)

Table of Contents:

Becoming a successful Statewide Interoperability Coordinator (SWIC) starts with defining success, developing a plan for success, and building a network to achieve success.

Building your human network requires you to be an extrovert. Improving interoperability is primarily a people thing; it’s about relationships—generally, the technology is on the shelf and can be purchased, if the financial means are made available.

You need to get out and about, and meet with people face-to-face. Do not become a voice that dials-in to participate in regional or local meetings. Make it a priority to attend the regional interoperability committee meetings and come prepared to update attendees on the state’s interoperability program.

When planning a workshop or conference, be sensitive to the tyranny of distance and be prepared to inconvenience yourself, not your attendees. Make a point to hold meetings and events within the remote areas of your state; localities will appreciate your effort to promote inclusion. All these actions build credibility; it demonstrates that you take them seriously and that your program is not for the state’s convenience.

As you engage your stakeholders, make yourself feel uncomfortable; push yourself outside your comfort zone. You will not only enhance your impact as a SWIC but will grow your abilities. If you are naturally an introvert, push yourself to engage individuals at the multitude of events you will attend. Seek out opportunities for public speaking or create your own.

As your program matures, you will need to create working groups, establish standing committees, and conduct conferences. These events will not only support your program’s strategy, but they also provide ample opportunities to develop your skills and increase your value to the public-safety community.

When interacting with stakeholders, stay above the fray. For starters, don’t gossip. To the complete opposite, become known as a trusted confidant.

People have perspectives, concerns, history and ideas they will want to share with you, because you are in a position to make things happen. For various reasons, folks are apprehensive to share their thoughts in a public forum and look to you as an advocate. If you establish a reputation as one who can be trusted, you will accumulate valuable insights that will help you better understand why the current state of interoperability is as it is. As you internally contemplate the information shared with you, you will develop your own opinions and list of priorities.  

However, be slow to voice your opinion. You may be somewhat of an outsider or looked upon as that “guy from the state.” Second, airing your opinion prematurely can stifle discussion amongst stakeholders. Encourage subject matter experts to debate the issue in your presence. The discussions will further educate you and possibly even lead to consensus, without you needing to weigh in. 

So, you’re thinking, “He never mentioned technology expertise.” You are right, because you will have ample technical expertise within your state to teach and advise you.

Becoming a successful SWIC requires focusing your efforts on coordinating the collective energy of your public-safety-communications community of interest to advance an interoperability program strategy that achieves a consensus based vision for interoperability. The principles that I have shared with you will help you to succeed. They start with defining success, developing a plan for success, and building a network to achieve success.

Congratulations on your opportunity to serve as your state or territory’s SWIC; you are embarking upon one of the most professionally and personally rewarding assignments you will ever undertake!

Tom Gagnon is the former statewide interoperability coordinator (SWIC) for Virginia and now serves with the U.S. Department of Defense. He can be contacted at gagnondfw@comcast.net.

 

 

 

 

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