Recently I discussed the desirability of measuring court performance, and how Enterprise Content Management (ECM) with workflow can be expected to deliver dramatic improvements in File Retrieval,[1] the first of three parts of CourTools Trial Court Performance Measure Six (M6), Reliability and Integrity of Case Files.

The other two standards under M6 are Content Reliability and File Organization and Completeness,[2]  both of which (like File Retrieval) will be greatly improved through implementation of ECM with workflow.  But I now believe there is another important contribution these technology tools can make to court performance improvement that I had not previously considered.

51_ECM Support-Measurement

I recently read the Michigan Supreme Court SCAO Trial Court’s October, 2011 Trial Court Performance Measures Committee Report[3].  The report summarizes efforts in several Michigan trial courts to use CourTools.  I particularly noted the observations concerning the labor-intensive nature of obtaining the necessary data for the Content Reliability and File Organization and Completeness standards.

That’s the usual conundrum: As Bill Gates observed in the interview cited in the previous post, the value of measuring performance cannot be overstated.  And yet, there is a price to pay in the effort to collect the data.  And the tough question is always, “Is the juice worth the squeeze”?  In an era when everyone is struggling just to stay even with daily responsibilities, “non-critical” activities, like collecting performance measurement data, are in a losing battle to get priority.

The Committee Report notes that the Content Reliability tool

“… measures an extremely important aspect of the court’s work: whether the court’s files are accurate. This tool is labor intensive. For every file reviewed, staff must go through each file page-by-page and compare it with the ROA, determining if everything in the file is on the ROA and everything on the ROA that requires a corresponding document is in the file… [T]he person reviewing the files must be knowledgeable about specific types of court files in order to know what they are looking for and to be able to understand the codes used on the ROA.”[4]

Similarly, the Organization and Completeness of the Case File tool

“…  allows the court to ensure that its files are being maintained in accordance with statewide standards. It also ensures that files have the required documentation for each case type. However, it is a labor-intensive task that requires each file be reviewed page-by-page. In addition, all of the files pulled for this exercise must be refiled by staff.”[5]

In other words, these measure are extremely critical, yet they require substantial time by the most skilled and knowledgeable (and probably busiest) people in the court.  It’s a Catch-22.

It occurs to me that ECM with workflow is exquisitely positioned to not only improve Content Reliability and Organization and Completeness of the Case File, but ALSO to provide effective, low-impact methods to harvest the data needed to measure and manage them.

Consider: In a properly designed and implemented ECM system with workflow, all documents will necessarily be in the system, indexed to the Register of Actions.  Rather than have staff “go through each file page-by-page and compare it with the ROA,” the task can be automated — and not just for a small sample set of files.  Exceptions (errors), when found, can not only be reported, but routed to appropriate work queues(s) for both correction and review of what caused the error.

Likewise, “statewide standards” can be captured in workflow rules, and each electronic case file could be evaluated against those rules to assure Organization and Completeness.   Again, both reporting and process improvement can be built into workflow.

Thus, ECM with workflow has the potential to provide a double win: Improvement of the Reliability and Integrity of Files AND automating the measurement and analysis needed to manage them.

[1]Stuck in Traffic“, [insert date of post], [insert link to post]

[2] CourtTools, Trial Court Performance Measures, National Center for State Courts,

[3] Trial Court Performance Measures Committee Report,  Michigan Supreme Court State Court Administrative Office, October, 2011,

[4] Trial Court Performance Measures Committee Report

[5] Trial Court Performance Measures Committee Report


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