Shelby County, TN, Improved Data Integrity and Efficiency with Odyssey

May 20, 2019 by Meredith Trimble

Shelby County, TN, Improved Data Integrity and Efficiency with Odyssey

In Shelby County, Tennessee, the Criminal Court Clerk’s Office faced challenges with siloed, inflexible legacy systems. Inconsistency in data processing made it difficult to meet statutory reporting requirements. To save time on data entry, eliminate redundant work, and enhance data integrity, the court leveraged the end-to-end Courts & Justice solution, Odyssey, to automate and streamline processes. These benefits as well as access to justice are priorities for new Shelby County Criminal Court Clerk, Heidi Kuhn. “All citizens have the right to a speedy trial and Odyssey helps with that process. We’re able to report to the state more effectively and assist the attorneys in the information they need.”

“Our previous legacy system was a case management system,” Kenneth Cole, Manager of Information Systems for the Criminal Court Clerk's Office, explained. “It was completely siloed from our document management system, which was completely siloed from the minutes of the court.”

To save time on data entry, eliminate redundant work, and enhance data integrity, the court leveraged modern technology to automate and streamline processes and get back on track with fee collection and state reporting.  

Time Savings

With newly-automated activities, all data entry, court processes, and state reporting became far less time consuming, Cory Wright, the Criminal Court Coordinator, put his clerk experience to use by consolidating a series of activities into a single button in the software. A series, for example, automates all minutes as well as any charge, event, hearing, bond, warrant, or disposition information changes for any particular action. “It takes away a lot of the mistakes because it's already there, they just have to hit one button and it creates the process for them,” Wright said. “That ends up saving a lot of time in the courtroom.”

On one occasion when the court was down a clerk, Wright himself was able to update case information and process court minutes for 28 cases in just 19 minutes. Court clerks who were initially wary are now enjoying the system’s benefits. “They now see that they can do the work quicker and easier, and it’s just been very helpful for them,” Wright noted. Cole concurred, adding, “I’ve had clerks come up to me and whisper in my ear, ‘okay, I’ve got to admit, it works. It’s a lot better. It’s faster.’”

“Odyssey helps us be more effective and more efficient,” Kuhn said. “We have been so fortunate in that we don’t necessarily pay overtime for our clerks, so this helps them with time management and helps them be more efficient and get their work done.” 

Data Integrity

“To me, the speed is important, but so is the consistency of data,” Cole noted. “Our employees are finding that they appreciate the fact that when they do their job, it shows up correctly where it’s supposed to.” Because the system automatically pulls data from the dialog boxes to create the court minutes, data integrity is maintained. This allows the team to provide accurate information to the public and stakeholders about what the court is doing.

Judges are included among the stakeholders who will benefit. “What they’re going to start noticing is the data they’re receiving is going to be more consistent,” Cole said. Particularly with back-end reports, judges will now receive complete information, with all steps covered.

“I believe in transparency, and now all the information is in our system,” Kuhn said. “With everything in one system we’ll be able to put policies and procedures in place.” Not only that, linking court and finances was the key to collecting fines and fees. “You’ve got to have a unified system,” Kuhn explained.

With the software in use in all divisions, “everyone is doing the same thing instead of one division getting the process done but maybe a little bit differently,” Wright added. Keeping everyone on the same page and delivering consistent, accurate results is key to meeting state reporting requirements.

Shelby County Criminal Court Clerk Heidi Kuhn, center, and staff, receiving an Excellence Award for Innovation from Tyler Technologies

Looking Ahead

“Every day we’re making advancements – we’re seeing it on a daily basis,” Kuhn said. While her team’s priority is becoming proficient in the system, the future certainly holds opportunity. “It’s exciting to figure out what’s going to be the next step and I’m excited about the future possibilities,” Kuhn noted.

With consistency in entries between the minute orders and case management systems, Cole anticipates being able to enter court data as it’s happening in real time. The team is also investigating finance workflows through the software at the time of disposition to create additional efficiencies.

Another area of interest is in expanding and streamlining the court’s e-filing capabilities. “It seems like the sky is the limit,” Cole said. “You can do so many different things with Tyler,” a trusted vendor that shares the long-term vision.

Looking ahead is itself a cultural change. Before, departments were looking to replicate old processes. “We’ve evolved past that now,” Cole said. “The questions are now becoming, ‘Can I get this new piece of functionality?’ That’s a different question. It’s good to hear.”

With Kuhn's progress and the achievements of her team in such a short time, Shelby County has become an example for neighboring courts. Kuhn is glad to help others learn from her experience. "Understand what your need is and build on that," she offers. "Ask the experts who will be using the system what they need or could use, because too often we as leaders think we have all the answers, and I think it's great to have the input of the clerks who utilize the system."

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