As court implementations of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems move past installation and into maturity in their lifecycles, the “Give A Mouse A Cookie” syndrome gets stronger and stronger. That’s because as a robust ECM system with configurable workflow can do so much more, we feel entitled to EXPECT it to do more.
Today, let’s consider a subset of “Access”– the ability to get to documents. Few will disagree that Internet access to electronic documents is much more convenient and easier to manage than paper documents. People can view documents and files remotely; there’s no need to transport them, etc.
So we’re all happy, right? Well, sort of…
Granted, remote access via the Web beats having to retrieve things from the file room. It works whenever there is an Internet connection. However, there are some big caveats when away from the court or office.
Think of judges who need to have access to not only read documents, but who need to work on, edit, create or sign them from home, from another court, from an airport, from the beach, and so on. Working on the documents across the Internet has some real limitations.
For starters, Steve Jobs’ vision of universal, 24/7, free access to the Internet notwithstanding, access is NOT always available. E.T. can’t always phone home and when he can’t, he’s stranded.
Second, even when Internet access is available, download speed for documents and files can be painfully slow.
Third, for various reasons (which I won’t go into here; but you can find a lot of court folks who will attest to it), if there is no persistent connection, managing the documents and the workflow becomes significantly more difficult and adds some major layers of complexity for the user to deal with.
The answer to this challenge is to utilize application sets that allow users to have access to and to work offline with the documents they need, then to be able to effortlessly sync the documents back to the ECM system when connectivity becomes available. Such applications effectively provide an electronic “briefcase” to users who must utilize and work with court documents and files while away from their court or office.
Unlike a paper-holding briefcase, these applications, when integrated with workflow, can automatically load and remove some or all of the necessary documents with as much or as little involvement as the user wants to have in the process.
So, for example, a judge can have the files that are on his calendar for the next day automatically stuffed into the electronic briefcase each day. The judge can then work on them at home, on a laptop or on a tablet. If the judge wants other files on an ad hoc basis, those can be easily added. Furthermore, the applications can also automatically empty the briefcase contents, sending the processed documents to whatever, wherever and whomever they should go.
Mobile access continues to grow in importance. Easy manipulation of remote documents was never a problem when documents couldn’t be remotely accessed. Now that ECM enables remote access, courts are, and should be, demanding that such access comes with the tools and power to maximize effectiveness. Fortunately, with the right ECM system and applications, E.T. can continue to get work done even when stranded in a backwater part of the universe.