A good number of court IT projects fail. I share my list as to what and why in this Court Tech Bulletin post for the end of February 2017.
1. Failure to understand the total court information environment. Registry/docket books look easy to automate as do file folders. The problem with looking at those systems individually is that there is a failure to understand that they work together in a symbiotic relationship with one another along with scheduling, task management, financial tracking, and document creation and management. I initially thought of the “five bubbles” model back in 1988, I believe that they are still applicable in creating a framework.
2. Failure to communicate. Fear of change is significant in judicial systems. Therefore, any project team that is introducing new technology must over-communicate what and why the automation is needed.
3. Failure to address the needs of the judiciary. There are have been literally hundreds of projects that have benefited the clerical function and even the public, but not judges. Why? Fear? Lack of imagination? The technology is here and has been proven. It is now time that all parts of the court organization including judges benefit from IT.
4. Cost. There is sometimes just not enough money available to do the project correctly. So the project timeline is extended so that by the time the system is complete it is either obsolete or no one remembers what it was supposed to accomplish. I have also seen projects narrow the functionality so much that the system fails to meet the court’s operational needs.
That said, I have also seen projects fail to use a strategy of adjusting by using less expensive approaches such as open-source or by borrowing existing systems from other courts. Not invented (or purchased) here is a conceit that courts sometimes cannot afford?
5. Poor acquisition strategy. In 2012 we ran a CTB article on this subject in cooperation with my good friend and Federal Magistrate, Curtis DeClue. We share it again here.
6. Lack of time for implementation. New systems come with a steep learning cycle for the court organization. Therefore, in our experience , t takes a minimum of two implementation cycles to get the system right. The first cycle is used for orientation so that judges and staff better understand what the system can do, and how it does it. Ideally the court then runs a second implementation cycle is done to take advantage of that knowledge and make the system sing.
7. Vendors as a business failing. I don’t have an answer for determining whether a vendor will fail as a business? I have worked on projects that have done all the due diligence reviewing financial reports, performed reference interviews, reviewed the technology with experts, and still the vendor has failed. If someone has a good way of addressing this, please share below in the comments section.
8. Not asking for help from courts and experts who have done it before? Judges and court staff are great at sharing their experience. But I often find that courts sometimes seem embarrassed to ask for help. Don’t be!
So that is my list. Please share if you have items to add in the comments below. I know that everyone will appreciate it.