Key Takeaways from the 2023 Courts Technology Conference — Part 2
Posted on October 30, 2023 by Glenn Bischoff
This is the second blog offers additional takeaways gathered by MCP subject-matter experts who attended the recent 2023 Court Technology Conference presented by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC).
Court management is evolving rapidly, but there’s plenty still to do — During a discussion on data-driven decisions and planning, panelists provided dashboard examples and talked about how this information is used by court administrators to manage their courts. We were introduced to how the state of Texas is using dashboards to inform policy discussions and state level management concerning bail decisions and indigent defense. We saw how Pima County, Arizona, uses visualizations in managing case credits. We learned how the Oregon Judicial Department uses a statewide data warehouse and 35 public-facing and internal dashboards.
Key takeaways from this session include:
- Technology is evolving rapidly and enabling rapid evolution in court management
- Despite this:
- Courts struggle to compile these dashboards and analysis
- Despite the efforts and investments, the results can be fraught with errors
- Courts and judges lack cultural support and training about how to effectively manage with data
- Foundational work is needed:
- Clarity about mission — Court and information technology (IT) staffs need strategies and principles to guide their work
- Data governance — Court and IT professionals need to understand the electronically stored information they work so hard to maintain.
- Organizational change management — helping judges, administrators, and IT professionals use these new tools to meet the mission of courts
MCP has the privilege of working with the largest court in the world to implement decision-support dashboards. That court is effectively leveraging strategy, data governance, and organizational change management to cost-effectively manage by data.
Large technology projects require structured planning — During an educational session, representatives of the Oregon Judicial Department (OJD) emphasized the importance of structured planning to successful technology project transformation. Starting with a clear understanding of desired outcomes, the process should encompass robust project governance and a phased planning approach that includes requirements gathering, leadership identification, and proactive change management. Emphasizing lessons learned, they highlighted the need for a focused, empowered decision-making team that maintains open communication and understands the varied responses to change.
This strategy stands out for its integrated and phased methodology tailored for substantial technology projects. Drawing from practical experience, the OJD managed to weave a plan that seamlessly marries the technical aspects of large technology projects with a human-centric change-management process. Their approach reflects not just theoretical knowledge, but invaluable insights from real-world implementations, trials, and errors.
Courts nationwide should find this blueprint compelling because it provides a proven roadmap for technological transformation. Emphasizing human-focused change management ensures smooth transitions. Given its scalability, courts of various sizes can adapt this approach to their needs. As the legal world leans more towards digitization, adopting such tried-and-tested best practices becomes pivotal for enhancing efficiency and service delivery.
How to achieve much-needed data governance — A session examined on a high level the need for data governance and best practices for achieving it. Data governance is needed to:
- Reach and communicate organizational decisions around data
- Synchronize data entry and data management
- Develop and document long and short-term strategies around the data life cycle
Processes to achieve effective data governance include:
- Identifying the “use case,” such as missing information, collecting unnecessary information, correcting bad information, redundant data entry, data release questions, and an inability to use data to make decisions
- Creating a data-governance policy
- Creating a data dictionary so that data entries are standardized
- Prioritizing data quality — because bad data impacts lives
- Create standard/uniform processes
- Identify a way to report data-quality issues
- Address in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) how data will be validated and how errors will be corrected
- Include data validation in customer-management systems
- Use data visualization to better identify errors
Survey tool helps prioritize data requests — An online Qualtrics survey tool — which was adapted from a standardized data-request form — that is used to receive both internal and external data requests was explored during the conference. The tool merges with the Zoho project-management system to assist in prioritizing and tracking the progression of the request. Researchers fulfill all internal data requests; external requests are reviewed by the court’s operations and research leaders, as well as a data analyst, who collectively decide whether to fulfill the request, including how to prioritize it.
Lessons learned from case management system implementations — Speakers during CTC 2023 offered the following advice to any justice organizations contemplating a case management system (CMS) implementation:
- Effective change management is crucial. These are people projects, not technology projects. Have a dedicated change-management team
- Hire project and program managers, vendor-relations personnel, testers, and trainers — or engage a consulting company like MCP to manage the project. CMS implementations are challenging, and staff members can burn out quickly when they must do their regular full-time job and simultaneously manage the CMS project
- Go-live is not the final event, nor will the CMS implementation ever be perfect
- Go-live provides an opportunity to introduce efficiency and innovations but is just a dress rehearsal. A CMS is an organic, living system that needs to be tweaked continually
- Enlist SMEs to work with the vendor on the final product. Steal your best people to review requirements because they know processes best
- There isn’t one right way to do things — but implement the system in smaller chunks — e.g., by case type or functional case type — and develop reliable and repeatable methods
- Your relationship with your CMS vendor is like a marriage. Enjoy the honeymoon stage and make your heavy requests then. Are you communicating the correct way? You’re in it for the long haul, but if it is very clear from the beginning that it’s not going to work, it’s okay to end things
- Experience is built from our past mistakes, so don’t be afraid to fail
The soon-to-be-posted last blog in this three-part series will offer final takeaways.
To read more about the Key Takeaways from the 2023 Courts Technology Conference — Part 1, click here.