Engaging with Our Customer Group in Allendale, MI – And Prizes, Too

One of our major objectives, and frankly, one of the best parts of our workday, is to keep in touch with our customers – those who are using our products every day and who sometimes face unique challenges. Finding innovative solutions to those challenges keeps us on our toes. Any opportunity to bring customers together to share customer stories is a win in our books.

IMG_1364Our next customer event is on June 6th, in beautiful Allendale, MI, (close to Grand Rapids) where ImageSoft is hosting its OnBase Community Event. This event is designed to bring our court customers, as well as our customers from other industries, together to hear success stories and to learn from each other about how we can solve common challenges. We even have a few prospective customers coming as well.

Although the justice space is different from any other industry, the core technology challenges are the same when it comes to receiving paper, forms and data from the outside, routing them through review and approval processes, exchanging data with other systems, securing data and documents, and being able to share them securely to external parties.

Besides the common thread of challenges, all of our attendees also use OnBase® by Hyland as their core platform to solve these challenges. OnBase is a single enterprise information platform for managing content, processes and cases. It provides document management, electronic case files, records management, court-configurable business process management and tools to enable integration with virtually any case management or court application.

The advantage to using a platform such as OnBase is that you have more than 10,000 organizations using the solution (including thousands of government agencies) that are all requesting features and enhancements that your court may one day require. Hyland’s development team is also larger than that of any other court technology software vendor. This means that OnBase lowers your risk over using a document management system that is supported by only a few developers that can provide very basic, and if we’re honest, not always useful features. Many of these court technology vendors are so stretched that many of your enhancement requests are never addressed or the customization fees are too high.


For more information about using OnBase in government, click here.

Which brings us to the third reason why courts love OnBase: it’s highly configurable – by the court. With or without formal training, courts have updated and make changes to their workflow to adjust for changing conditions or responding to a smarter workforce that wants to leverage more automation features. They have expanded its use in other areas and in some cases, other government agencies in the county, municipality or state, which may introduce cost-sharing benefits. Some of our court customers are not staffed to tackle big projects so they still partner with us to take them to the next level, but it’s nice for a court to have that option.

So, on June 6th, our customers will hear from our host, Grand Valley State University, how they have used OnBase to solve accounting challenges with invoice approvals and to improve the student application process. Hyland Software is sending out their A-team to share with us what’s new in OnBase and features that our customers should put on their roadmap. We will have breakout sessions that cover the latest technology in document capture to minimize manual indexing and classification, how to share documents externally, and ways to secure OnBase beyond the traditional methods that the IT department relies on.

Afterwards, we will have experts available for one-on-one conversations for deeper discussions or to use as a sounding board for ideas that our customers would like some feedback on. We will have some cool prizes, too – that always makes for a fun day.

Will we see you at the next big OnBase event in Las Vegas?

Why eFiling Alone Isn’t Enough

By Steve Glisky, Government Practice Manager, ImageSoft

Courts making the transition from paper document filing to eFiling have taken an important first step in streamlining operations and saving resources. EFiling is a good place to start since it helps satisfy constituent demand for greater online access. EFiling alone, however, typically falls short of achieving one of the most pressing goals of the court: eliminating the burden of maintaining a paper court file. 69_mrs wormer

If a court makes eFiling mandatory, it’s only natural to think that the Clerk will soon stop maintaining paper. Many courts soon realize that their so-called document management system simply lacks the functionality required to meet the processing needs of the court.  Most of these solutions offer a simple document storage and retrieval system with file share links to their CMS. Once they’re confronted with process steps that require rules-based routing, most courts typically end up just printing, processing, and maintaining a dual paper case file.

The benefits of eFiling are multiplied when paired with a robust document management and workflow solution. Progressive courts use advanced document management and workflow with eFiling to achieve a true digital case flow management environment.


To learn more about avoiding the printing of eFiled documents for court processes, click here.

Here are a few key features to consider when evaluating a document management solution for your court.

Electronic Case File

Presentation and preservation of the electronic case file is the cornerstone of the electronic court. An intuitive electronic case file dramatically increases buy-in from key stakeholders and creates a better-than-paper experience with features such as:

  • Intuitive filing structure: Case files are organized and managed using color-coded tabs with advanced filtering and sorting to make finding the right documents easier.
  • Revision control: The system keeps and maintains prior revisions, preserving the integrity of the case file as documents get marked-up and changed.
  • Document history: All activity associated with a document should be logged and be easily accessible, including workflow transaction history, who viewed/ printed/annotated/updated/signed, etc.
  • Redaction: Confidential information must be redacted before the public can view documents. Courts need a method for redaction without having to print off digital files or photocopy paper ones, redact, and then scan in for public access. Those courts with high case volumes should consider an automated method to reduce the burden on staff.
  • Document retention: The system automatically purges documents from the electronic case file according to the Clerk’s document retention and disposal schedule.
  • Security: All roles within the justice system have secured access to the electronic case file in the way that works best for them, only allowing access to the documents that they have rights to view, i.e., public, sealed, confidential, and expunged records.
  • Full text search: Searching document content across the entire case file provides high value for both the judge and staff. The ability to search across multiple cases is also a major benefit.
  • Mobile device support: Since the physical case file no longer exists, the Court must consider how the parties will access the electronic case file using tablets, smart phones, or some other device (e.g., kiosks).

 

Workflow

Workflow is the single most significant component to a digital case flow management environment because of the process efficiencies it creates. All courts have defined steps that govern how documents are processed. Workflow allows for automated routing and processing of electronic documents and data. Consider these key workflow features:

  • A rules engine with a simple interface to manage step-by-step routing rules: Authorized court personnel should be able to maintain these rules and reduce IT dependency.
  • Electronic forms with a forms designer and management tool to convert paper forms into electronic forms: The case jacket and decision sheet are commonly used electronic forms.
  • Electronic signatures and markup capability that allow a user to markup and edit a document before signing: Consider a solution with judicial stamps with support for both top and bottom line text and proxy signing for authorized users.
  • Electronic notification of parties: This reduces significant postage and improves processing speed.
  • Electronic certification: It improves service and integrity without having to print and physically seal documents. The delivery should include an authentication site for verifying document authenticity, an audit trail of recipient access, and a method to expire documents.
  • Packet preparation organizes a case file with a coversheet according to specific requirements set forth by the higher court. Courts typically use this for bind-overs and appeals.
  • Standard interface for connecting and exchanging information with CMS.
  • Electronic arraignment that streamlines packet creation, arraignment and the document signature process: It should support both video and face-to-face arraignments.
  • A judicial dashboard: It provides an intuitive tool for both the judge and staff to process the electronic docket.

Summary

Courts are adopting eFiling at a much greater rate to improve customer service and online access. Prior to making eFiling mandatory, courts should carefully consider the capabilities of their document management and workflow platform to see if it’s going to meet their requirements for creating a true digital case flow management environment. Equally important is to determine how best to map their manual based processes to the new electronic paradigm. Finally, the new solution should accommodate the unique needs of your judicial officers.

Those that have successfully made this transition understand that it’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revolutionize the efficiency and transparency of the court.

Is your court ready to move beyond eFiling?

Remembering Norma

I continue to be amazed that a substantial amount of court resistance to migration to Enterprise Content Management (ECM) boils down to the sense that electronic files and documents just cannot be as safe as paper documents.  Security should be a primary concern, yet as I have consistently stressed (see my white paper, “Legal Considerations of E-Signature”, ) a robust ECM system implemented with proper due diligence provides immeasurably more security for court files than hard copy.

Back in the 1980s, when I worked as a Deputy District Attorney, I referred to our file retrieval system as “Norma Knows”.  That was because Norma, our receptionist, invariably knew the location of every file at any given time.  And it was a good thing – because there was no backup system.  

The years and decades roll by; and many things have changed.   And then, at the most unexpected times, I get reminded of that long ago time, and the debt I and others owe Norma for keeping our fat out of so many fires.

So it was that as I perused news accounts of the currently most entertaining competition of the season. (I refer, of course to the contest for the Republican presidential nomination.) I had to chuckle at the following report regarding the court records of one of Newt Gingrich’s divorces:

After initially being told that the divorce documents were sealed, CNN   
eventually obtained the folder containing the filings in the divorce, which had been stashed away for years in a Carroll County, GA court clerk’s drawer. Retired clerk Kenneth Skinner told CNN his deputy took Gingrich’s file out of the public records room around 1994, “when he (Gingrich) became the center of attention,” because Skinner feared tampering and theft.

“During these years, you had to make sure those papers were there,” Skinner said. “People could go in those files and get things out. We didn’t have enough security to control it.”

Current Carroll County Clerk of Court Alan Lee said he called the retired deputy clerk, who told him where to find the papers, after CNN began looking for them just recently.1

The good news here, in support of the “Hard Copy As Secure” position, is that the system apparently worked in this case.  Without getting too political, let’s stipulate that concern regarding potential for tampering was not unreasonable in this instance.  The file was indeed secured, through remarkable foresight, about 17 years before one of the involved parties became a presidential candidate.

Relocating the file to a clerk’s drawer took advantage of the non-automated system’s capacity for removing documents and files without leaving any trace of who removed it, when, or what was done with it.  Indeed, it was possible, inexpensive, and easy to keep its very existence a secret – even from the court itself.  A properly implemented electronic document management system simply could not allow that.

The retrieval system worked as well.  Tracking down the retired deputy clerk, while perhaps not quite as efficient as an ECM document search, seems to have been an effective retrieval algorithm.

Apparently, “Sealed” is a term which, when applied to court records, means “unavailable for reasons we do not have to explain”.   Slightly different than the meaning I had heretofore assumed; but oh, well.

A few unanswered questions do arise.  First, where is Norma now?  Because who knows who she foresaw might run for president some day, and hid the files in some place known only to her?  Second, what ELSE is in those long forgotten drawers?  Could there be some clue as to other, future public figures?

And third – How reliable are all the REST of the files – the ones the courts don’t “have the security to control”?  Well, I think we considered THAT situation in a previous posting.

Need any more reasons to move your court to ECM?

[1] http://www.wtae.com/r/30075858/detail.html