eFileTexas: A Model for Success
The eFileTexas system by the numbers:
- Rolled out to 110 Texas counties within 12 months and all 254 counties in 2016
- Registered more than 90,000 users in the first year
- Eliminated nearly 27,000,000 pages of paper in the first year
- Processed 4.2 million filings in the first year
- Integrated with 17 Electronic Filing Service Providers (EFSPs) and 10 case management systems
Rolled Out to 254 Counties, Nine Months Ahead of Schedule
The Texas Office of Court Administration (OCA) implemented Tyler’s e-filing platform, Odyssey File & Serve™, starting in January 2014 by making e-filing mandatory for civil cases in the 10 largest Texas counties. These 10 counties represented a population of 14.6 million (58 percent of the state). This became the largest e-filing implementation in the country and it was successfully rolled out within 12 months of the Supreme Court mandate to a total of 110 counties through a sophisticated approach using no shortcuts.
eFileTexas has expanded to include criminal case e-filing. It also includes e-filing for self-represented litigants (SRLs) through an innovative, web-based program, Odyssey Guide & File™, that guides SRLs through the process of filing court documents.
E-filing done right — there’s nothing more important to the public image of your court
An e-filing portal is more than just a website — it’s a complex e-commerce solution. As the new front door to the court, e-filing is highly visible and is essentially the first step in the process for civil cases and for creating a paperless court system. It has a tremendous impact on the reputation of the court, so it is particularly important to do it well.
eFileTexas was successful because a complex process — e-filing — was simplified, allowing the court system to operate more efficiently and, at the same time, providing digital access to the court that is convenient and effective. Texas isn’t the first state to implement e-filing. In fact, Tyler has helped 18 other states deploy e-filing. However, the statewide rollout of mandatory e-filing in Texas is the largest, as well as one of the fastest and best executed examples of a mandatory e-filing implementation in the country.
Strong governance led to an extraordinary project
Implementing eFileTexas was a true collaborative effort between all constituents — the OCA, Supreme Court, legislature and county clerks — who shared a unified vision. Court constituents benefited from an effective communications plan that shared information about e-filing and its impact with county clerks, the bar and other justice partners. The OCA and Tyler stuck to a broad reaching plan spanning several years, and have seen the process through without cutting corners or missing project deadlines. Best practices, including technical and other standards for electronic court filing business processes, were put in place to help courts optimize their own unique processes. The Judicial Committee on Information Technology (JCIT) played a critical role. They recommended rules for e-filing, as well as created and developed standards leveraged throughout the state. An effective governance strategy was also important to the successful integration of 14 commercial Electronic Filing Service Providers and 10 case management systems.
Every single person, as an American, should have a right and access to court. Odyssey Guide & File will afford pro se litigants the opportunity to have their day in court. From the court’s perspective, Guide & File provides consistency in the filing of documents.
Judge and Justice in Court - Precinct 3 in Williamson County, Texas
Supporting all components was critical
The eFileTexas project entailed a lot more than deploying a simple Web portal. Here are a few of the more important, but less obvious parts of Texas’ successful e-filing implementation.
The e-filing mandate enabled us to fully integrate our case management system and electronic filing. We used the mandate as the starting point for our paperless courts. In 2013, Collin County filed 1.7 million pages of paper — which stacked end-to-end would stretch 25 miles past the International Space Station. We have reduced 600 boxes of paper per year to 24.
Collin County District Clerk
eFileTexas — an effective model used across U.S. courts
The objective for creating the eFileTexas system was to provide an efficient, cost effective and reliable platform for submitting and processing court documents electronically. This goal was achieved through a strategic plan, collaborative approach and a unified vision, and now eFileTexas serves as a model for other courts across the U.S. that are in the process of transforming their manual processes to electronic ones.
Odyssey File & Serve is used in 19 states, including 11 state-wide implementations. Tyler currently has more than 360,000 registered users across all of its e-filing clients, including more than 90,000 users of eFileTexas. Odyssey File & Serve currently handles nearly 75,000 filings per day. The system processes 170 million pages annually — saving paper, that if piled in a stack, would be 42 times the height of the Empire State Building.
- EFM – The Electronic Filing Manager (EFM) is the backbone of the e-filing solution. Through careful planning and a stringent change control process, the application stayed online with 99.77 percent uptime even in the first year, and was available to the various stakeholders 24/7. More than 3.2 million transactions were handled in the first year — including more than four million filings and approximately five million documents
- EFSPs and Case Management Systems – When Texas determined that they wanted to provide filers a choice of systems to use to submit filings, Tyler published a set of application programming interfaces (APIs) and managed the accreditation and integration of commercial EFSPs. Seventeen EFSPs were certified and implemented, including three government entities. In addition, Tyler published APIs and worked with developers of 10 case management systems (CMS) in order to integrate them with eFileTexas. This included six court entity integrations and four commercial CMS vendors, of which, five were Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) integrations and five were Web integrations.
- Data Center – A robust and sophisticated data center that supports more than 4,000 government clients and one million users allowed Tyler to provide a scalable infrastructure for Texas. More than 1,800 virtual machines with five petabytes of storage are supported with a fully redundant architecture of Web, document and database servers. Disaster recovery and business continuity are included with a complete secondary set of servers in Maine that provide geo-redundancy. Failover to the secondary site was exercised in production only once and it was successful in minutes.
- Websites, Marketing and Attorney Communications – Clear, frequent and impactful communications were another great strategy for the effective and rapid rollout of mandatory e-filing in Texas. Part of the services that Tyler provided the Texas OCA were marketing and communications support to ensure court officials in 254 counties and 90,000 attorneys knew what was coming and were prepared for the change. Tyler and the OCA worked together to design a robust eFileTexas website, as well as courthouse signage, flyers for attorneys, mailing inserts and other useful tools, including FAQs, user guides and training videos.
- User Support – Another reason for success is that when a filer had a question or problem, it was resolved quickly. In fact, the average call was answered in 37 seconds and average talk time/resolution was under seven minutes. This helpdesk support was also provided by Tyler, which achieved a satisfaction level of 4.5 on a five-point scale.
- Integration with CMS – Integration with multiple case management systems allowed for the seamless passing of information and documents from the e-filing manager (EFM) to the case management systems. Case data, including case types, parties, filing codes, financial information and documents are sent to the case management system. The Odyssey CMS can automate processes and eliminate data entry by automatically placing filings into electronic queues for clerks, judges and other court personnel to perform their subsequent work and accept filings without the need for physical paper. Odyssey will also send information, such as case numbers, back to the e-filing manager (EFM) once it has been established in the system.