More time to analyze data, less time gathering it
Spurred by legislative passage of the "Digital State Act" in spring 1999, Utah Courts have embarked on a business intelligence initiative that has dramatically improved information access for judges and court administrators, as well as for the public.
An example of public access is Utah Courts Web site, which contains everything from a listing of Utah Supreme Court decisions to a directory on how to fight an eviction notice or how to file for divorce. The Web site also includes background information about how the court system works and a glossary of legal terms.
"The big-picture goal is to provide better information to court employees and the public and to make better decisions," says Eric Leeson, IS director for Utah Courts. "The public has the impression that courts are inefficient, and we wanted to find ways to use data to make courts as efficient as possible."
The courts also wanted to use business intelligence to upgrade their reporting capabilities. "Our court system hinges on free yet secure availability of information for a variety of users," says Leeson, "but for lack of tools, we were doing things the hard way."
To improve the situation, Leeson consolidated data from all over the state into a data warehouse, which includes case aging information that had never before been warehoused. Because the warehouse is accessed by judges, trial court executives and court clerks statewide, Leeson looked to the Internet to serve as the distribution mechanism and chose business intelligence software from Sterling Software.
Improved decision making is the major benefit of the new solution.
"We used to spend 90% of our time gathering information and 10% analyzing it," says Leeson. "Now the ratio is reversed."
The analytic capabilities of the new system are also enabling the court to make projections with greater accuracy.
"Every time a law is changed," Leeson explains, "it impacts us in a variety of ways, ranging from our future caseload to future revenue for violations and fines. Having reliable data and the right tools to analyze the data makes all the difference in the world when it comes time to project future scenarios. We built a $69 million court complex, and we used information from our data warehouse to estimate the requirements this building will need to fulfill into the future."
More recently Utah Courts chose Eureka:Portal from Sterling as the common platform and single user interface for caseload management for its district and juvenile courts. The portal allows judges and court administrators to receive information that's most relevant to them immediately and in one place.
"That saves time, adds value to our users and ultimately provides a better solution to serve our public," says Leeson.
Judges can receive reports such as the number of cases that are 30-, 60- or 90-days old, by type of offense, and so on. Then they can drill down into each report for further details such as type of judgment, status of case and pending actions.