Some people are do-it-yourself-ers. My brother-in-law, for instance. He can do anything from replacing a bumper on a kitchen cabinet to gutting and completely remodeling the top two stories of a three-story house while still living comfortably on the ground floor. He’s good at it and likes doing it. And, being retired, he has the time.

78_who you gonna callNot me. Maybe if I were any good at it, I’d like it too. I, however, need a manual and video in order to grab the correct end of a hammer, and even then, I get it wrong about half the time. Yes, I have done do-it-yourself projects. I’d say my average is re-doing the project 2.8 times. That doesn’t count the times I eventually give up and either buy what I was trying to assemble or pay someone (or beg my brother-in-law) to do it.

Back in the 1980s, there really wasn’t anyone who was in the business of or selling products that worked well for court information systems. As a result, courts had to develop “in-house” capability in IT systems development and implementation. Many courts and court systems did a pretty outstanding job, all things considered.

As exciting as it was for those of us involved, the cold business fact is that IT development and deployment is neither a core purpose nor a core competency of the justice system. It’s way too expensive, and at best, courts are just able to get by. Fortunately, the wheel has turned; and today most courts either do the equivalent of going to Lowes or Home Depot, acquiring the necessary systems and attempting to assemble and deploy them themselves; or engaging a partner who has business expertise in that arena.

I’m not saying that no court can successfully go the Home Depot route. But my guess is that most are more like me than like my brother-in-law. I’m good at some things, home improvement is not among them. Courts may be very good at judicial processes; that’s a long way removed from systems development.

While I think there are some very good reasons why courts today should engage an experienced, well-qualified partner to assist in acquisition, development and deployment of paper-on-demand systems, I’m not going to catalog the reasons here. To those that try to go it alone, I say the same thing I do to my brother-in-law: “Good luck. I look forward to hearing how you did it.”

For those courts who are past the “Let’s do it ourselves” stage, I have a couple observations.

First, unlike “The Old Days,” there are already a number of products and product suites both available and in use. When talking with providers, courts will hear of a number of them. When they start to hear the same products suggested by multiple integrators, that’s a good indication that those components are “Best of Breed.” Likewise, when they see and hear of the products being successfully used by their peer courts, that’s another real good indication.

Second, it’s best to find a partner who knows the products, the business of the courts and perhaps most important, the process of helping the court and its stakeholders successfully plan and implement migration to paper-on-demand. Given the complexity, uniqueness and absolute need for quality and security of the court’s document-related workflow and processes, the partner should be able to demonstrate a history of creativity, trustworthiness, measurable valueadded and an understanding and improvement of the processes of the courts it serves.

When it comes to home improvement projects, I’d like to:

1)   Not smash my fingers,
2)   Not have to do it over,
3)   Have it done with quality materials that will last,
4)   Have it do what I need it to do (even if that’s a little different than anyone else),
5)   Be assured I’m getting a good return on my investment, and
6)   Have the confidence that whoever does the work is as good and trustworthy as my brother-in-law.

Courts should ask no less of their IT business partners.




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