justice 2
Technology & Innovation

8 digital transformation learnings from the justice sector


The justice system is a foundational part of Australian society. Whether we’re talking criminal or civil law, the system should give people the confidence to go about their lives knowing they can gain access to justice if they need to.


It’s also traditional. With a long history and a respect for custom, practice and precedent, there are traditions that need to be honoured, respected and observed, while at the same time moving forward into a more digital era.


What can digital transformation in the justice sector teach us about how to make transformation work in any organisation or industry?


ReadyTech CEO Marc Washbourne’s podcast conversation with Michael Talbot offers powerful lessons. As a former NSW Deputy Secretary Courts & Tribunals, Michael has led a successful agenda of change and transformation in the state’s justice administration space. 


And as he reveals, the stakes of the justice sector’s digital transformation are very high.


“Fortunately most people don’t come into contact with the justice system, but for the many who do it ensures their rights are protected. If people can’t be confident in their personal lives or in the commerce of the country, the whole society can be affected.”


Read on for the eight digital transformation learnings or listen to the full conversation here.


 1. Stakeholders matter


There are many participants in the justice sector. They have diverse and sometimes competing objectives, even though they serve the aims of a single system. The justice sector also has its own special constitutional and legal protections designed to safeguard its independence.


This makes the justice sector a perfect example of an industry where stakeholders matter – and how you can work with them successfully.


When NSW began its digital transformation journey, a broad range of stakeholders were consulted and and key objectives identified. This meant everyone involved felt consulted and confident in the direction of travel. By gaining the support of different participants and maintaining it throughout the entire process, the state was able to ensure commitment from everyone involved, which resulted in a successful implementation.  


2. Choose champions


Champions are the individuals that carry a transformation project through their willingness to lead, at any level. They share a deep motivation for the future state. In the case of the justice system, change champions wanted to be part of a world-leading, modern system they could be proud of.


Identifying, recruiting and supporting change champions is what propels digital transformation projects from the realm of vision into reality.


Change champions were critical ingredients of the justice system’s digital transformation. Just one example are the future-oriented judges who were willing to embrace a digital future and provide leadership for more reluctant peers. They were able to overcome resistance through their example.


3. Understand inefficiencies


The justice system traditionally used a lot of paper. Often, the true impact of this - and other types of inefficiencies - aren’t clear. In the case of paper, this includes being error prone, which could cause people to be wrongly incarcerated or released early, undermining integrity and trust in the system.



For example, the community now expects everything they do in life to be intuitive and digitally available on the devices they carry.


There’s often a hidden cost to inefficiency that industries should try hard to understand.


If they stop seeking justice because it’s impenetrable and inaccessible, it creates a significant cost for the whole community. By standing back and taking a look at what all of the hidden costs of inefficiency actually are, it is possible to make a better case for using digital technology to improve things for the future.


 4. Outgrow ‘coral reefs’


Legacy technologies often grow from small applications to ‘monolithic processes built like a coral reefs’ over time, as new components are built or added to overcome deficiencies. In justice, technologies have often gone from being helpful to mission critical over time.


Taking the next step sometimes really does just mean outgrowing the past step by step.


Replacing 15 or 20 years of development in one go is usually beyond budget constraints and risk appetite. Instead, it’s about thinking carefully about where you need to be, and getting the required support to progressively bridge the gap between current and future state.


 5. Respect resistance 


Digital transformation never takes place without resistance to change. In the justice sector, there’ve been past cases of backlash against certain technologies, like video conferencing, as well as reactions from stakeholders whose livelihoods were threatened by automation.


Resistance is an expected manifestation of any digital transformation plan. 


Even the nation’s remarkable collection of judges have had their concerns, particularly around ensuring their role as judicial officers remains unfettered. The breakthroughs have come from respecting opinions and identifying and supporting change champions.


6. Leverage data


Data is often overlooked but has great potential. In justice for example, it could help judicial officers surface past punishments for certain types of matters to ensure consistency and integrity, or help manage the seasonal ebbs and flows of demand on the justice system.


Data creates usable insights, helping us understand the past, and better manage the future.


Another use of data could be helping lawmakers understand the impact of legislation. Using data, we can observe whether a change has occurred, or predict the impact of future changes in advance. Administrators likewise can make better forecasts of future needs.


7. Understand AI


Artificial intelligence has a supportive role to play in the future. In the justice sector, admin and case management are the first obvious use cases for AI, where it will help synchronise complex elements of the process, from juries, the prosecution and the defence, to courtrooms and witnesses.


AI could support the sector’s ability to deliver justice more efficiently and effectively.


While it is possible that AI could be utilised to reach outcomes in low value matters, it can only move at a pace the community will accept. It will be seen as off limits for serious matters, that require weighing of human motivations, mitigating factors and significant punishments.


8. Prepare to partner


Clients in the justice sector – like other industries - are less likely to build their own tech in future. Instead, they are leaning towards finding committed, long-term partners, who have the skills and experience to support augmentation and enhancements in their operations.


They want specialists with deep sector expertise to share their future vision and journey.


Justice clients opt for partners because they support change within budget and risk appetites, making change simple through configurable modular applications. Great partners also provide access to a community of users and allow clients to influence product development roadmaps. 


In an age where digital transformation is an ever-present reality - rather than a one-off project with a specified end-point – organisations and industries need to partner with technology providers so they can navigate, survive and thrive through change over the long-term.  


 Listen to the full conversation with Michael Talbot and many more on the Ready Podcast.