The Classic Conundrum – Creating a Modern Digital Justice Operation While Keeping the Old System Working
“I need to replace my case management system which is coming to or has passed its effective life and original design. Built on an old platform it is no longer economical to upgrade and maintain and it is now difficult to add functionality to match the increasing demands for digital reform and community expectations. The purchase of a modern system will require major capital funds that could take years to obtain. And if the funds can be obtained the risk to my current operations and the resistance of all the parties invested the current approach is causing me to lose sleep”.
If this sounds familiar then you will be pleased to know that modern digital reform does not require a “big bang” high risk approach. Sensible measures can be taken to manage within your budget and the appetite for change in your organisation. Approaches that add functionality and engage with the demands of your users as you progressively transfer from one platform to the other. Enabling you to secure the integrity, operational availability and performance of the case management system upon which so many rely.
Where do I start? The first step is to find a suitable commercial partner. In days gone by there was a philosophy that justice systems were so specialised, that we had to build our own. Those times are well past. Today a number of commercial partners specialise in systems for the justice sector. It means you can work with a vendor that has tried and tested applications already working in similar justice service operations. No need to reinvent the wheel.
But what type of partner do I need? They fall into two broad categories. Commercial Off the Shelf Services (COTS) and Platform suppliers. The latter offer a base upon which to build your own applications. Both provide a head start on the next wave of digital reform but each needs careful evaluation.
The COTS suppliers are specialist technology organisations. They have existing modular applications for each of the functional requirements of justice operations. While each justice sector organisation has its own unique requirements and work processes, they are all based around common principles. So the modules are designed to be adapted to the appearance and work requirements of the client. The advantage of these services is they have applications that are known to work and your organisation can achieve early-to-operation solutions rather than building them from scratch. You should also ask for testimonials from organisations that have used them for an extended period.
Platform suppliers are generally large technology organisations. They have material resources and expertise that provide the base from which your applications can be designed and built. They provide the confidence that a substantial organisation is backing the development which is usually designed just for your solution.
You are also looking for a supplier that appreciates the challenges and issues of your justice sector operation. Courts, Tribunals, Regulatory Authorities, Commissions, Defence and Prosecution organisations have a broad array of interested parties that need to be accounted for in the design of the technology solution. The partner you are working with needs to be aligned with and accommodating of those issues. You will want them to respond to these requirements in a constructive manner and assist with the change management for those parties.
The investment also needs to consider the long term or whole-of-life costs of the development. Not just its implementation. What will be the fees and charges and how can they be sensibly controlled? You need a supplier that has a mature attitude to commercial partnership and that works with you, not one that will hold you hostage to future requirements. The more bespoke your developments the more risk you face with the cost of maintenance and upgrades and the earlier redundancy of your investment as technology passes you by.
COTS suppliers will also be making investments in their product which is led by both client need and innovative solutions across the technology landscape; providing your operation with the capability to grow and adapt as your user requirements mature. They provide sustainability and durability to continue operations over the long term. Innovation in the justice sector can also be more readily acquired through engagement with the supplier’s community of users which share invention and transformation.
How do I make the change low risk at manageable cost? Your technology partner will be key to minimising the operational risk and cost of transitioning to the new solution. Modular applications which add or enhance functionality can be integrated with your existing system using Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). In this way your transition from the old system can be managed in digestible stages that match your operational capability and budget. No need for a big bang transformation with all of its hazards and expense. And you will have early operational solutions that will engage with and give confidence to your users rather than waiting years for what are often primitive first steps of a major new development.
What are the other key questions to ask?
- Does my potential supplier have off-the-shelf applications that can quickly support my operation or are they developing bespoke solutions?
- Can they support the progressive transition to a new development in a manner that matches our risk appetite around business continuity and cost?
- Is the solution configurable to support my evolving needs and are my people trained to be self-reliant to manage those changes?
- Does this partner have long term justice sector clients who offer testimonial support for their performance?
- Do their people appreciate the challenges and diversity of interested parties in the justice sector and the users of my solution?
- Is there a community of justice sector users from which I can gain knowledge of innovation and reform.
The various organisations of the justice system play a vital role in the life of the community. They need to provide their citizens and businesses with confidence that their rights and obligations will enforced through a system that operates efficiently and with ease of access to all, without distinction of class or location. Your technology partner is critical to achieving these ambitions and ensuring you have a sustainable and durable operation that exceeds the community’s expectations.