How to write an investigation plan
The purpose of investigation planning is to focus the mind on the actions required to achieve the goals for the investigation. This article considers how to write an investigation plan.
This article helps explain the purpose of an investigation plan and how to write one. Attached is an example of an investigation plan in the form of a template. Follow the link to download our FREE Investigation Plan Template and learn how to provide accurate quotes and deliver top flight investigation plans to clients.
The purpose of investigation planning is to focus the mind on the actions required to achieve the goals for the investigation as set out in the Terms of Reference. I will write more on Understanding how to develop and write terms of reference for an investigation in a future article.
What is an investigations plan?
An investigation plan is a document created at the start of an investigation that sets out:
- the goal of the investigation (questions to be answered by the investigation)
- limitations of the investigation (scope)
- what evidence is required to reach the goals
- the potential sources of evidence/information
- tasks setting out:
- what evidence is going to be obtained
- how it is going to be obtained
- when is it going to be obtained, and
- who will collect the evidence
You can also include the anticipated time frames required for each phase of the investigation. This helps manage the expectations of all parties involved.
Who uses an investigations plan?
Investigation plans should be written and developed by a person with knowledge of the case and experience and training in investigations. Because they are used in the management of investigations they are at their most effective when written by the people running the investigation. This could be a single investigator or a senior investigator directing a team to carry out the actions in the case. If there is only one investigator working on a case, best practice would be for the investigator to write and manage the plan themselves.
If you are contracting to a client and they have already provided a plan to an oversight agency, the plan may not be sufficiently detailed to double up as an operational investigation plan. Both clients and investigators should be prepared to review and rewrite an investigation plan if the initial plan is not sufficiently detailed.
When do you need an investigations plan?
An investigation plan is meant to be an organic document used throughout the investigation. It is however, often only produced at the start of the process as a supervisory tool. When used properly as a self-management tool, investigators become thoughtful, efficient investigators whose work remains focused on the goals of the investigation.
They are especially useful when the investigation involves:
- a large number of different sources of evidence
- a large number of goals or allegations
- multiple investigators gathering evidence simultaneously, or
- there is a protracted timeline due to delays in obtaining evidence
Can I edit an investigations plan?
As an investigation progresses the plan should be revised to reflect the reality of the case and in addition to the above information, the new plan should include:
- List of actions taken to date
- Details of information obtained to date
- Answers to questions already established
- New goals or questions raised by the evidence to date
- Revised list of sources of evidence to be checked
- Action plan for how the remaining evidence will be obtained
How else can an investigation plan be helpful?
f you are responsible for budgeting or providing a costing for an investigation the investigation plan is a critical document upon which estimates of time and cost are based.
The better thought out the planning, the more accurate the cost estimate.
For more information on preparing cost estimates see my blog on How to prepare a cost estimate for an investigation.
Download our FREE Investigation Plan Template.