NEW HAMPSHIRE e-COURT PROJECT
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q. What is the origin of this project and what is the overall goal?
A. The NH e-Court Project is the #1 business and IT priority of the New Hampshire Judicial Branch (NHJB) as a result of the findings of a year long study by the Judicial Branch Innovation Commission published in January 2011 ( http://www.courts.state.nh.us/cio/innovationcomm/FinalReport.pdf ).The Commission determined that moving from a paper-based to a digitized system was necessary in order to reduce the cost of operations while streamlining business process flow and customer service. Following the 2011 report, the Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, the administrative head of the court system, identified the NH e-Court Project as the NHJB's top program objective. Specific goals for the project are defined on the NH e-Court Project web site page: http://www.courts.state.nh.us/nh-e-court-project/goals.htm
Q. What does the NH e-Court Project include?
A. NH e-Court Project definition and scope may be found on the project site at: http://www.courts.state.nh.us/nh-e-court-project/index.htm and generally includes electronic filing of documents, use of electronic signatures and payment of fines and fees and electronic notices to parties.
Q. What is the business goal of the NH e-Court Project?
A. The project must maximize Return on Investment (ROI), or in other words, the savings must be sizable enough to offset the costs to develop and implement the project features. Our goal is to implement 122 major court case types based on Return on Investment and improving Supreme, Superior and Circuit Court efficiency.
Q. When did this project start and when do you envision an initial implementation and eventual completion ?
A. The project was started in July of 2011. This five year project is expected to continue beyond that initial project period. The first project phase has the following timeline goals: 1) Implement the primary case type implementations of NH e-Court in a five year time frame from the project start date of July, 2011, and 2) Accomplish a first phase implementation for one case type or one multiple case type work flow including Small Claims with a "Time is of the Essence" theme, preferably by June 30, 2013, and earlier if possible. Future project funding may be contingent on showing significant project progress of this nature and magnitude.
Q. Who is on the NH e-Court Project team ?
A. The NHJB has organized a project team of significant size and institutional knowledge of New Hampshire court case processing and information technology. This team has significant knowledge of the business case and information technology trends and themes for a project of this nature, including business managers, case processors, IT managers and IT technical staff. The project team organizational structure is posted on the NH e-Court Project web site at: http://www.courts.state.nh.us/nh-e-court-project/E-Court-Org-Chart.pdf
Q. With a project of this size and magnitude, how will the NHJB run its regular operation and commit resources to such a large endeavor?
A. Most NHJB staff assigned to the project will work part-time on the NH e-Court Project. And the NHJB management team is carefully balancing the importance of investing time in developing a solid foundation for the NH e-Court Project in terms of design while remaining sensitive to the ongoing operational needs of our court services responsibilities. Also, we are aware of the benefit of leveraging consulting services of industry experts when embarking on a project of this nature in terms of a) leveraging additional temporary staff to perform the many project tasks, and b) adding expertise from industry experts who have implemented such systems in other states to increase the odds of success. We expect to engage vendors in this project for commercial off-the-shelf software products and configuration and integration services, business process engineering, quality assurance, technical consulting and strategic planning services.
Q. Are the views and needs of eventual users of the system, such as attorneys and self-represented litigants being collected and taken into consideration?
A. In support of the mission and vision of the project, the NHJB recognizes the critical importance of the seamless integration of NH e-Court Project work flow which affects our project stakeholders and business partners identified in our project external stakeholder list available at: http://www.courts.state.nh.us/nh-e-court-project/External-Stakeholder-Chart.pdf . Further, essential to our project success is our ability to provide a system which is functionally comprehensive, ergonomically fluid and understandable, and easy to use for our attorney case filers, self-represented filers and agency and other external data exchange partners. We recognize that the self-represented filing base represents approximately 65-75% of our filing volume. Stakeholders and business partners are engaged in periodic public status sessions and "walk-through" reviews of project deliverables to ensure their needs are understood and considered.
Q. Is the project funded?
A. The NHJB was granted initial capital funding in FY2011. Additional funding for FY2012 was requested, but not received as originally planned in 2011. The NHJB is still assessing whether it has sufficient remaining funds from FY11 to implement an initial project phase to exemplify a reasonable proof of concept. Our vision for a proof of concept is one that includes major features of a modern e-court system for one case type along with the infrastructure architecture for scalability to add future case types seamlessly. Additional funding has been requested from the New Hampshire legislature for FY 2014 and future years for the additional case types.
Q. What is the project progress to date?
A. Deliverables completed to date include:
a) Project Mission , Vision, Scope, stakeholder identification, policy, business requirements, Lean Business Process design flowcharts,
b) Rules and statute review and assessment
c) Project Enterprise Architecture design document, a budget, and development and release of an RFP.
d) Completion of significant research and feasibility studies to ensure we use lessons learned by the National Center of State Courts and other jurisdictions in similar projects implemented around the country.
Q. How will you be able to implement all 122 case types in five years?
A. Our plan is to study the commonalities of work flows for all case types and "collapse" the 122 types into less than 20 common work flows or business processes. Our first draft of this work reveals 122 case types can be grouped into 18 work flows. It will be easier to implement groups of case types with similar work flow at the same time.
Q. Is the existing IT environment staged properly for this type of large project implementation?
A. The project approach is to form an enterprise technical architecture which is the foundation for a modern information technology environment that NH e-Court and other NHJB software projects share so that the NHJB can seamlessly add automated business programs to a single integrated NH e-Court. Proposed case types are identified and incorporated as part of the RFP as are data exchanges with internal NHJB systems and external stakeholder systems, some of which are implemented currently while others are targeted for future development.
Q. How does this project affect those of us who may not file cases with the court but have or have requested data exchanges with the NHJB ?
A. NH e-Court requires a business process design and IT infrastructure architecture for expandability and scalability of future non-core NH e-Court projects for many data exchanges with our business partners such as state agencies.
Q. If the NH e-Court project is launching with just Small Claims cases, what's happening to work on electronic filing for other case types?
A . The Small Claims project is a proving ground for construction of an e-Court system for all case types. We have been planning and designing the foundation needed for e-filing of all case types at the same time that we have been getting ready to launch e-Court for Small Claims cases. We have kept that big picture in the forefront of our work while deciding how to make the best practical use of the resources we have now. What we learn through the Small Claims rollout will be applied to e-Court for all case types . The "high level" requirements that the business process reengineering team has developed apply to all case types , not just Small Claims.
Our IT staff is also working with the "big picture" in mind. At the same time that they are doing the work to launch the Small Claims process, they are constructing a blueprint for the hardware and software needed for a modern e-court system for all case types. That is our mission and it has not changed.
Q. Wasn't the original vision to work towards having a whole court start e-filing, like the Superior Court?
A. Our vision was never to install the entire e-Court System at once. It was always seen as a one court or case type at the start of implementation. We had to adjust our plans when we were unable to secure the funding from the legislature we needed to go forward with our original vision.
The Small Claims plan is designed to take existing funds and get rapid results that are of significant impact to people who use the courts. Small Claims, one of our highest volume case types impacting thousands of court users, presents an opportunity to provide the public with advanced technology that will enhance their use of the court while also testing our overall design for future case types in e-Court. In addition, some other states are already using existing vendor systems for e-filing of Small Claims cases. The combination of the somewhat straight forward business process and the significant Small Claims caseload count here in New Hampshire makes this a good place for us to start.
Q. Doesn't this just create more work for the court staff, more time spent learning new processes and systems?
A. Any new system requires training and some additional work initially to adapt to the new system. Our goal to eliminate paper processing from phase 1 and beyond should make us more efficient immediately. Business studies consistently conclude that paper processing of any kind is expensive and lacks a backup source if destroyed or lost. Also, many tasks will be centralized, which will give staff time to work on other tasks.
Q. Will everybody be required to file Small Claims and other cases electronically?
A. After a short period following the implementation of each case type, the use of this system will be mandatory for all case types.
Q. What if you don't have a computer?
A. There will be computers installed in courthouse lobbies to access e-Court for Small Claims.
Q. What if I need to pay the filing fee in cash?
A. There will be an option to file on-line using credit cards, debit cards and electronic check. Cash payments for Small Claims Fees can still be made at the court.
Q. What happens after the Small Claims phase?
A . If we can secure the adequate funding from the legislature, we will initiate the same process for one of our other major case types. That next step will increase the return on the state's investment in the e-Court infrastructure while we continue to streamline our business workflow and work towards establishing e-Court for all case types.