Cloud in Courts: Is This the Tipping Point?

October 03, 2019 by Meredith Trimble

Cloud in Courts: Is This the Tipping Point?

Natural disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires can be devastating for governments. Hurricane Harvey, for example, inflicted $125 Billion in damage with unprecedented flooding. These types of disasters not only affect jurisdictions physically, they threaten government information. In addition, a 2019 The Hill report found that the majority of 2019 ransomware attacks have targeted state and local governments.

While the discussion around moving to the cloud is not new, these real and growing threats to information are creating a new momentum. Major jurisdictions, including the State of North Carolina and Washington, D.C, are quickly moving their case management operations to a SaaS environment. Prior to this year, 63% of CMS projects utilizing Tyler solutions (these Courts & Justice solutions currently serve more than 45% of the U.S. population) were hosted on-site. So far in 2019, the equation has flipped: only 33% of these CMS projects are hosted on-premise, with 67% operating in a SaaS environment. The average user count in this set for SaaS has increased an astounding 837%, moving from just 300 users to nearly 3,000.

Bexar County, located in San Antonio, Texas, recently began implementing its software solution on Microsoft’s Azure platform as part of a hybrid-cloud services model. Evan O’Mahoney, Bexar County’s chief technology officer, led this transformation. He was on-hand at the September National Center for State Courts’ Court Technology Conference (CTC) to talk about his experience and help courts around the country avoid crippling loss.

Cloud Strategy

With an IT ecosystem that was built organically over many years and that included tech solutions with varied cost structures procured without IT oversight, Bexar County needed modernization. “The court’s migration to the cloud consists of two phases, beginning with civil operations and following with criminal and corrections,” O’Mahoney explained.

Moving from on-premise only to hybrid-cloud offers many benefits, including a reduced physical IT footprint, capital cost and infrastructure replacement avoidance, and newly streamlined workflows with relevant information accessible to all stakeholders.

Integrated Justice

The Enterprise County Integrated Justice System in this hybrid-cloud structure flips significant hurdles to success and is transforming the county’s ability to provide increased access to justice for constituents and justice partners. “In on-premise, siloed systems, employees did not have full access to current, relevant data,” said O’Mahoney. “There was an overall lack of visibility into the judicial process as a whole.”

Bexar County’s project is linking the following functions with streamlined connectivity:

  • Pre-trial
  • Civil process
  • Jail
  • Juvenile probation
  • Courts
  • Prosecutor
  • Jury

With these justice partners connected, Bexar County will benefit from resource-saving efficiencies. Staff time, paper storage costs, and transportation costs will be saved. Staff can avoid redundant data entry and work smarter, not harder with expedited workflows. Files and documents will no longer have to be couriered across town or delivered by staff. Moving to the cloud will also mitigate the county’s risk as it offloads regulatory and availability requirements.

Recipe for Success

O’Mahoney left CTC attendees with sage advice for creating their own successful paths toward cloud migration. His tips for a smooth transition included:

  • Ensure buy-in from stakeholders, including court commissioners and department leaders
  • Over-communicate the project’s status and throughout the transition
  • Sell the benefits of the cloud – it’s not just financial
  • Don’t overlook training for IT staff; their service-delivery model must change
  • Establish governance and operationalize processes early on to avoid future re-work

In Bexar County, the move to the cloud is already resulting in organizational changes, stronger partnerships, and a better-served constituency. With the cloud comes built-in disaster recovery, security compliance, and fast updates. IT personnel can be redeployed to other, strategic tasks. With system maintenance provided by experts, the county benefits from fast updates and less downtime. There is also a new agility for future growth.

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