Episode 002: All About the Component Model

If you work in the court space, this episode is for you. We’re talking the olden days of court operations (meaning last year), where court operations are headed (hint: it’s the component model) and the critical need for a trusted technology partner to walk you through it all.


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Kate Storey: Welcome to the Paperless Productivity Podcast where we give you the tips, tricks and know-how to solve your biggest workflow challenges and bring greater productivity into your workplace every day.

Welcome to this week’s episode and if you’re in the court space, then this episode is for you. So many courts are trying to find ways to be more efficient without ripping out all of their old systems. Trying to find technology that’s going to work for them, to help them to manage their caseload and to address the changing needs of today’s modern courts, but without having to go through a major strategy and major technology overhaul.

So today, we’re going to be talking about the component model and the National Center for State Courts and Community Live and how all of these things are all converging together. Kevin Ledgister of ImageSoft is going to be talking and taking us through this today. We will explore this in today’s episode.

Kevin Ledgister: All right, thank you very much Kate. First of all, let me just start off by just explaining a little bit about what the component model is that’s being promoted by the National Center for State Courts. If you’re a court listener, you may be familiar with this. You most certainly have heard about this. Maybe you were at the National Associates for Court Manager’s show or any one of the shows where you may have heard one of these things mentioned in the seminar.

The component model really came out of this whole idea in terms of just naturally seeing where courts were heading. It used to be in the olden days … Why’d I say the olden days? Really, we’re only talking a few years ago.

Kate: Right!
Kevin: But in technology, olden days is like what happened last year.
Kate: Last year, yeah.
Kevin: So with respect to that, it used to be that the recommendation was buy your solution from a technology vendor that can provide you the entire stack of your technology needs. So it would be a vendor that could provide you with your case management, could provide you with e-filing, could provide you with your judge interface, your e-bench solution so you would have everything right within that one package.

Well, the reality is that as courts progress and courts buy onto this, first of all they found it would be very, very expensive to do this. As a result, what happened is that a lot of courts that couldn’t afford the $1 million, $2 million or $5 million, whatever it would cost to essentially rip out their entire core of their technology to replace it with another vendor’s offering, what happened was that those courts just got stuck in time and they weren’t able to move forward in terms of implementing new features. And maybe, their case manager solution did everything they needed it to do except for one small piece of functionality that they needed. Or maybe they just needed to integrate e-filing with it so that people could electronically file. Or maybe they just needed to handle their documents through Microsoft Word and doing Word templates much more efficiently and being able to update them as opposed to programmatically going in and changing those.

So, it was just these small bits of functionality that a lot of times the courts were looking for and they couldn’t get to without ripping out the whole entire infrastructure and changing it for something new. The National Center for State Courts really looked at this and came along and updated their thought process in terms of, well instead of just trying to rip everything out and tear it all out, really what we should be promoting is this idea of being able to have interoperability between applications. So with respect to that, a court could say, I’ve got this case management solution and I want to be able to handle the development of judges’ orders and things like that using Microsoft Word as opposed to something that’s really just code-based that’s inside our legacy application and being able to just buy that functionality that can easily just essentially just snap onto what they currently have. And so instead of spending $2 million for a whole new thing, they could spend maybe $100,000 and you really get this new functionality and be able to bring their court into the modern space.

So that’s really where that comes from in terms of this component model, is having technology partners, technology vendors really development their applications in such a way that it tends to be much more open and that courts can implement pieces as to what they need to, as opposed to having to essentially rip and replace their entire technology stack.

Kate: And I would imagine that there would be some concern about that because if you’ve already paid for the investment of some massive legacy system that is just … Even though it’s no longer doing the job that you need it to anymore, I’m sure there’s a lot of hesitation about just having it go completely out the window because there’s probably elements of it that are still useful but it’s just not meeting the needs of what you need for today.

So I would imagine that having this component model is probably helping to address some of those concerns. Thinking we already paid for this massive system, we already invested so much that they may be hesitant to include a new system. So perhaps, being able to add on these things that address those new needs could be really attractive.

Kevin: Yeah. You’re exactly right. There is a lot of hesitation and if you’re in a small county, it becomes extremely expensive to rip and replace with these newer systems. If your county only has 100,000 people in there and you get a proposal for $2 million to add on, to basically tear out your whole entire system, that becomes very, very expensive.
Kate: And shocking, I bet.
Kevin: The moment that somebody comes up for election and says, your opponent comes up and says, “Hey, this is a big budget issue.” And you essentially had to raise taxes to pay for this. That becomes a challenging notion.

Not to mention the fact that it’s not just the cost. The cost is just one area. There’s another area that we have to think about too and that is, any time you rip out core technology and put something else new in that’s that different, you take that person that’s got 20, 30 years of experience and you turn them into a person that really is essentially a newbie. It’s their first day on the job.

Kate: Yes
Kevin: So, you lose a lot of that experience with respect to that. Now, there are some cases where you do need to replace your core systems, your case management system. For instance, if that becomes the need because it’s just so old, it’s no longer supported, there’s security concerns.

But you’re right. In many cases, that’s not the case. That’s not the driving factor. The driving factor is they want to have electronic filing for their constituents and for attorneys so that they can reduce the amount of lines that show up at the courthouse every day to file papers. They want to have more advanced document preparation capabilities. They want to bring electronic records into the courtroom and give the judges more ability to search across different cases and to search related cases and to be able to add in his judge notes, as opposed to writing them, scribbling them on a post-it note somewhere, and then the court clerk’s going to take that and transfer that into the case management system. Everybody is duplicating what everybody else is doing.

So, yes. You’re exactly right. That’s one of the things that we see from the court perspective in terms of recognizing the reality of it and saying this is really the direction that we need to go because no one vendor is going to be able to provide every [inaudible 00:07:24] need for the modern court. It just isn’t possible. And even if they said that they can, most organizations can’t do everything well. They can do two or three things really well and then everything else is kind of a also-ran. Anyways …

Kate: Yeah, no. I was going to say. It seems like in some ways, the efficiency of having a one-stop shop for software seems like it would make a lot of sense so I could see the mindset and the thought behind that. But it sounds like in this case, courts are going to be best served by going with organizations where they have a particular strength in being able to work with them, with their software systems, that really address specific needs rather than like you said, one organization that claims to be able to handle everything well.
Kevin: Yes. And some of this is just left over from the previous decade in terms of technology where there was this idea that … this not invented here approach. So, if we didn’t invent it, we don’t want you to buy it, type of thing. We want you to do everything with us. So a lot of these technology partners that are out there, while they claim that they can integrate and they can inter operate with other applications, they’re not really set up to do that. Their applications aren’t set up to do that. It costs a lot of money to create even a single integration and the court can’t even do it themselves. The vendor has to do it. It becomes a very expensive proposition so a lot of times, it just doesn’t happen because a lot of vendors, this is the way their approach is, it’s their philosophy and it just makes it a challenge for them.

That’s one of the things that we’ve tried to do in terms of our approach has always been that we want to make sure that whatever we put in, our philosophy has been let’s compliment what you have. Let’s work alongside. So in a sense, we kind of pioneered the component model for our customers and that’s something that we want to see a lot more in the industry is more people getting onto this bandwagon and making it possible. We believe in making justice available for all. That’s what we want to do, so we want to make courts become as modern as possible.

I think as other partners that are out there and other court admins are out there, they’re all asking for the same thing. This is really where the industry is driving at is, “Hey, everybody. We need to be able to play nice together.” We actually saw this in the banking industry many years ago where they had the same thought process. Everybody was just trying to go with their one core provider for everything and they realized that they were not getting the best of what they could possibly do. That the bank could do, the technology could do two or three things well and the other things were just kind of also-rans. They ended up having to go outside anyways, so then they didn’t talk well together. It just caused a lot of issues.

So having this in our modern day, this idea of being interoperable, this component model where you can purchase a small bit of functionality from one provider and another one and put those together easily and even have the court engage with that process as well and being able to take advantage of that, that will allow courts to become modern much quicker, much faster, at a much lower cost. And the taxpayers are the ones that benefit from that because not only do they get justice served to them easier and at a lower cost and much more efficiently and in a timely fashion, but it just means that we don’t have to raise taxes as much to rip and replace systems that are functioning perfectly well.

Kate: Okay. This was really covered pretty heavily and pretty well at Community Live recently, which is Hyland’s big customer event. So first, can you explain who Hyland is, what ImageSoft’s connection is with Hyland and then what Community Live is and how this all came together?
Kevin: Sure. We’re seeing this convergence happen. We’re seeing this in the court space, but we’re seeing this happen in other places.

Hyland Software is a company out of Cleveland, Ohio that is one of the leaders in the document management, work flow, case management content services. There’s all different terminologies in terms of thinking about it, but they’re one of the kings that are out there in terms of what they do and organizations they’ve helped. They’re all over the world. They’ve got over 10,000 different customers. They’ve just succeeded. If you look at Gartner as one of the organizations that rank these different organizations, they always seem to be in the leader quadrant for what they do.

So, they’re doing it really well and they have this philosophy in terms of integration. They want to integrate with everybody as easy as possible and as simple as possible. They want to compliment systems that are currently in a workplace as opposed to ripping and replacing that out.

They also want to make their technology accessible so that instead of requiring somebody with a high degree of technical skill that’s required to deploy even the simplest solutions, they’ve designed it so people who are a super user or a business analyst can really deploy some really sophisticated solutions and just rely on their partners for those really technical things that they would need.

That’s the genesis in terms of who they are and how they’ve grown. ImageSoft has been a partner of Hyland Software for many, many years. For over two decades, almost two decades that we’ve been a partner of Hyland Software. So we’ve grown with them. Because that’s a philosophy that they’ve taken, that’s also the philosophy that we’ve taken as well.

Ever year, they have an annual event which they call Community Live, which is their user conference. There’s people that come from all over the world. [inaudible 00:13:11] users, executives, leaders that come in and they talk about topics and trends that are happening in the industry as well as what’s happening. How is Hyland beating that with their solutions and how they can help organizations to become more efficient and more effective in terms of what they do.

So at this last conference, which they had in Nashville, which I love because that’s my stomping grounds. Everybody loved it. Even if you’re not a country music fan, it was fun to go down there and enjoy some rich country traditions in downtown Nashville. At this recent conference, they were talking a lot about what they call content services. What content services means for them is that there are pieces of functionality that you can make available to a device.

For instance, I’ll give you a simple example of that. Most of you who are listening on this podcast probably have a smart phone. You can take this smart phone and take a photo of a document for instance. It’s not really efficient to put on your smart phone the ability to take that document and to optically read all the characters on that. That requires another application to do that. It makes sense to say, I’m going to take a picture of this document and then I’m going to hit a button and then some server somewhere is going to take a look at this document in the cloud somewhere. It’s going to read the document, convert it to text so it’s searchable and grab some information off of that and populate maybe fields that are on your actual device.

That’s the idea of content service, is that you can take these small bits of functionality and make them accessible and available to everybody. When we link that now to the component model, it’s almost the same parallel thing. This whole idea where a court can say I just need this piece of functionality. I just need to add on this new accounting functionality. I just need this document creation functionality. Maybe I just need to have mobile access to my files. So instead of having to purchase this whole entire stack and this whole huge infrastructure, I now can just bite off that pice and integrate it easily with my system and increase my effectiveness, increase my efficiency in what we can do.

That’s what we saw at Community Live in terms of content services, in terms of where the industry is going. That’s where CIOs, Chief Information Officers and IT Execs that are out there, that’s what they’re asking for as well as more and more people are asking for. This idea that we can create this interoperability where we can buy pieces of software, pieces of functionality that we can use that integrate easily into our technology, into our solutions that make our users more effective and make them more efficient, as opposed to I need to buy another server. I need to buy another box. I need to setup another server room, another server rack just because I want it to have this piece of functionality.

That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re seeing these two worlds coming together and we think that just means a huge amount, not only for courts but really for anybody that could be listening to this podcast in any organization in terms of being able to advance the ball down the field, in terms of how you do business.

Kate: Okay. So say some organizations, they’re starting to see that okay this could really work for the way that our courts are operating or the way that our business is operating. What are some of the questions that they should ask of any software provider that they’re working with to make sure that this kind of interoperability and this kind of integration is going to be able to happen?

They start exploring systems and trying to figure out which system they want to go with and which ones are going to work the best for them. What are some key questions that they should ask their software providers?

Kevin: Oh, wow. That’s a great question because everybody that’s out there says, “We can integrate.”
Kate: Sure.
Kevin: So, that’s the one that … How do you get around that? One of the questions I would ask is … There’s actually several questions I would ask. One of them would simply be, who have you integrated with? That’s one of the questions that needs to be asked is, have you integrated with our system? Have you integrated with systems like ours? That’s an important question to ask because then that helps to weed out and see have they actually done this type of work before.

The other thing that you need to ask is, what’s your methodology for doing this? How do you approach integrations? That’s another question that you can very, very quickly tell that if somebody can’t explain to you their methodology, how they approach integrations, they probably aren’t very strong at it. What they might have is they might have what we call an application programming interface. We call it API. They might just have something that’s out there and maybe a glossary or book in terms of here’s how you integrate and they throw the book at you and say, “Go to it. There you go.”

Kate: Oh, okay.
Kevin: Or they may be somewhat secretive in terms of, “Well, we handle it all. We take care of it all.” And what that really means is, they have to go back and to make that integration work, they actually have to go in and write lines of code and recompile their software so that you have a unique version that actually integrates with your stuff. That, you don’t want because then it becomes harder to support you.

Those are some questions that you want to ask. Who have you done this with before? What is your methodology in terms of how you approach? And the third question I would ask is simply this. This is probably the biggest giveaway and this is the number one question I would simply ask. If we want to do an integration ourselves, is it possible? That tells you how open they are or how closed off they are. If they say, “Yeah, you can do that. Here’s the tools. Here’s the book. We even provide, there’s training that you can take so that you can create your own integrations and you can take this to the next level and you can integrate other applications with it,” so that maybe a court or organization could take some of this on if they have sophisticated people in their technical department. That’s a big, huge giveaway in terms of what their capability is.

The third thing is, anther question to ask is the question of, if we need help, are you willing to work with our vendors to make this possible? That’s another great question to ask because a lot of them will say, “Yes, we can integrate. We can write some code,” but they really don’t want to talk to your other technology partners. That is such a huge key because somebody has to take ownership of the process and somebody has to lead it down through. It typically is not going to be the court. It’s going to be one of the technology vendors that’s going to say, “Hey, I’m willing to corral everybody into a room, whether it’s a virtual room. Let’s have this discussion. What do you need from us? What can we get from you? How does your code actually work and actually work through and lead you through that process so that you end up with a really good result at the end?”

That’s a fantastic question.

Kate: So they need to be able to play nice with others.
Kevin: They need to be able to play … Not be able to play nice, but they have to be willing to play nice with others and unfortunately too often, we’ve seen too many technology providers … This is part of the reason why the National Center for State Courts has been pushing this and trying to get vendors onboard is that a lot of them don’t want to play nice. They can, but they don’t want to because they see that as risking the sale of one of their own products as opposed to saying that we’re really open.

As an industry, we still have to get to that point where we’re really there. But there are partners that are out there that are already at that point, that will take you there and will get you there a lot sooner and will get you there a lot more cost effectively as well.

Kate: Okay. Are there any resources that we could point people to where they might be able to learn a little bit more about the component model or about what the National Center for State Courts is covering with this?
Kevin: Sure. There’s all kinds of places where you can. Certainly, you can go to the National Center for State Courts and you do a search on their website. They’ve got all kinds of documents and white papers and essays that you can learn about the component model. We’ve actually had some articles on it that explain it more from a layman’s non technical term where you can actually go to our website at ImageSoftInc.com and you can actually access that. As a matter of fact, we’ll put the link right in our website where you can go right to that and read that article and help explain to you what that means in a little bit more detail. It just helps to understand in terms of what the approach is.

Certainly from a court admin perspective, most admins are really familiar with this and they’re asking for this. They’re asking for more interoperability. Part of the reason is, they just can’t get budget to a big, huge wholesale replacement so they’re asking more for this. If you have any questions about it, certainly go to our website. Go to the National Center for State Courts. They’ll help point you in the right direction as well too. Or, simply contact us and we’ll put you in touch. We’ve got a justice consultant on staff. He’s been in the industry for over two decades. Very familiar with the National Center for State Courts and with the different organizations that are involved with some of the processes and trying to standardizing this type of approach that they would be able to help you out as well, too.

Kate: Okay. Wonderful. I think that we’ve really done a pretty good deep dive into this topic and I’m sure there’s more that we could cover and probably will in future episodes.
Kevin: Yes!
Kate: But it sounds like it’s a pretty big topic.
Kevin: It is a big topic.
Kate: We’ll probably stop it there and look for more opportunities to discuss this in the future. Thank you so much for taking the time today, Kevin and we look forward to having you on here again soon.
Kevin: Great. Thank you, Kate.
Kate: All right. Thanks so much for joining us everybody. If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe so you can make sure to catch every episode of the Paperless Productivity Podcast. Thanks again for joining us and we’ll talk again soon.

Thanks again for joining us today for this episode of Paperless Productivity. This podcast is sponsored by ImageSoft, the paperless process people, which you can learn more about at ImageSoftInc.com. That’s ImageSoft I-N-C .com. Join us next time where you’ll learn how to harness the power of technology, supercharge efficiency and accomplish your organization’s goals.

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