Experiencing June’s Justice Summit in Grand Rapids as usual felt like drinking from a fire hose. Sadly, I have yet to master the trick of sitting in on three sessions at once, so will have to content myself with reviewing the materials and watching the videos of the sessions I missed when they are posted to the conference website.
I chose to follow the Case Management track, which Jim McMillan set up with his keynote on current developments in utilizing the plethora of data flowing from all forms of Electronic Content Management systems to enhance Case Management and Decision Support. From the fire hose I came away with, among other things, the following observation.
The justice system, often led by the courts, is approaching or at a “tipping point” in the management of information. As I listened to how modern systems incorporate, integrate, and internally leverage the three traditional informational pillars – Case Metadata (Case Tracking Systems), Content (Document and Content Management Systems), and Process (workflow) – I realized that the improvements have gone beyond evolutionary to revolutionary.
Here’s what I mean.
The original electronic Case Management Systems (CMS) automated the systems previously kept in large files or books, typically called The Register of Actions, The Judgment Docket, and The Court Docket, or some similar terms. Thus the DNA, or “lizard brain” of even the most sophisticated of early CMS were electronic “direct descendants” of the old, physical record. As such, they are of course “case-based”.
Likewise, Electronic Document Management Systems (EDMS) automated what had previously been physical case files. Again, they were direct descendants. So, for example, the electronic documents “of course” had “page numbers”, for instance. And perhaps “Title Pages”. And, also of course, they tend to be very “document” and “file based”.
Workflow systems were a little different. While their antecedent was written or institutional process information, generally they came into being either with or following implementation of EDMS and began with “smart” routing of documents through the process cycle. As such, they really were not different just in form (electronic versus paper based), but also in function, from their great, great grandparent, the Routing Slip. From the start they were able to take advantage of the electronic information contained in or accompanying the very documents they were tasked to route.
As time has gone by, Electronic Case Management, Electronic Content Management, and Electronic Workflow have become more tightly integrated and cross-leveraged. This trend has led to much of the almost incredible new capabilities of modern systems to impact
What I began to notice, from Jim’s Keynote through the various sessions on Case Management, is that the newest systems are starting to leave some of the old DNA behind. Instead, they start from ground zero and are designed to capture, store, utilize, disseminate, exchange, secure, manipulate, manage, and control information electronically from end to end, without resort to “lizard brain” limitations imposed by the physical limitations of previous ages. Concepts such as “case”, “file”, “person”, and so forth can be dynamically formed and utilized as needed, without imposing design or performance trade-offs necessary in bygone days. Furthermore, they are not so much “integrated” as they are reformed into a new, more complete, flexible, and robust whole.
What is emerging is a new type of system that is designed, from the ground up, to holistically handle all types of information – meta data, content, institutional knowledge and rules, security – without regard for system boundaries imposed by either information type or historical format limitations.
For those aficionados of Arthur C. Clark, what I think we are seeing is a Childhood’s End moment. The first wave of automated systems got us to where we are today. Now courts and the wider justice system are poised to move to a new level of Information Management, the successor to Case Management.