Authored by Paul Gorman, Account Executive, ImageSoft.

When I was a kid the best toys you could get were the ones that let you build things.  I had an erector set, Lincoln logs and, of course, the king of all building toys – Legos! Being a creative kid, I used to combine the three building platforms into imaginative places where Erector Set vehicles traveled through Lincoln Log and Lego Buildings.  It was never as much fun just having a single building set to play with — I mean who ever built a car out of Lincoln Logs?

Stalling Out with Lincoln Log Processes

Reflecting on the technical needs of today’s courts, we have two general theories of how to automate the justice process. The old theory stated that you picked a single, comprehensive solution and used that one product for all the Court’s automation/technology needs.  This strategy came up against the hard reality that not all the court’s technical needs are even offered by all vendors. Even more, those few vendors with comprehensive suites are usually weaker or stronger in different areas.  If you select only one product, you are knowingly making your solution weak in areas that are not that vendor’s specialty. 

In other words, you may find yourself trying to drive your court forward in a Lincoln Log vehicle.

Then comes the challenge of working with multiple vendors, which is obviously more difficult than dealing with a single vendor. The rationale for avoiding multiple vendors was largely predicated on an Information Technology Commandment that is so well known it might as well have been carved on stone tablets:  ‘Thou shalt not have custom integrations.’ 

I mean who can argue with one of the foundations of Information Technology knowledge?  We should all just drive our Lincoln Log cars and shut our pie holes about it, right?

“Indeed, Thou Shalt Have Custom Integrations!”

Kidding – Of course we’re not going to do that! The creation and adoption of data integration standards has dramatically altered this commandment as it relates to Court solutions.  The adoption has been so comprehensive that the component approach can be implemented with no more difficulty than having those multiple components supplied by the same vendor.  This has freed courts to select the best-in-class products from the vendor of their choice, while also remaining secure in the knowledge that the product is designed to integrate with their Court’s existing systems.

Broad categories of components include:

  • Case Manager: a traditional database driven by CMS software system
  • Document Management: ECM Document Management integrated to eFiling and CMS
  • Scheduler/Calendar: Court/Judge calendars integrated to CMS and ECM
  • Accounting/Financial System: Court ERP system integrated to CMS and ECM
  • eFiling: portal serving attorneys, litigants and public integrated to CMS and ECM often has eService as well.
  • eSignatures: internal and external electronic signature solution integrated to CMS and ECM
  • Online Dispute Resolution: portal based solution integrated to ERP, ECM and CMS.

This list goes on.

The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) Agrees.

Adopting the component approach serves courts with optimal flexibility by allowing for the selection of the highest quality solution for every component. Doing so equips courts with a truly incredible range of functionality provided from a community of vendors. And because courtroom technologies are constantly evolving, all at different paces, a component model approach allows the court to adopt the latest solution without having to replace every component in the process.

To gain an idea of the quantity of solution components available, NCSC has created a graphic showing the components. You can see the model and read the original blog, “Court Component Model – A Modular Approach to Court Applications,” here.

Closing Thought: Lincoln Logs Are Not Vehicles of Progress.

Courts operating on a single-vendor solution are missing out on the technical advances often provided by new technology solutions. Worse yet, these courts are forced to wait for adoption of the new technologies/solutions by that single vendor, and often miss out on the court industry’s best practices. In most industries, and this is certainly is true in the Justice space, innovation is most often delivered by smaller, nimble vendors using new technology and approaches. As crazy as it sounds, some vendors just aren’t incentivized by new technology and hardly ever upgrade their solutions.

When seeking to uphold their commitment to serving communities in the most accessible, secure and economical way, courts need to consider the component approach.

And, by all means, please avoid Lincoln Log cars – they don’t roll right and are too boxy anyways.

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