A message from Pete Croteau, Chief Technology Officer:
Every member of the Judicial Branch staff, at every court location, shares the credit for Odyssey's successful rollout. Your individual patience and support while we converted to the new case management system was essential to this effort. I know that we will be able to count on you again as we take up a new challenge and begin the move toward an "E-court" system. Thank you.
As in any project of this magnitude, we were all lucky to have leadership from some key players:
Trial court managers
Brigette Siff Holmes
Trial Court Process Experts
Sharon (Matte) Cardin
Sue (Cox) Menize
Financial Accounting Module
Hillsborough Superior Court South went live on our new case management system "Odyssey" in November, marking the completion of the enormously complex task of converting the entire state trial court system, 78 sites, onto new hardware and software that will allow us to meet 21st century demands for technology.
The lessons learned from the teamwork, coordination, and focus demonstrated throughout the court system during the Odyssey deployments will be a springboard for launching the E-Courts project recommended by the Judicial Branch Innovation Commission. That same collective effort and commitment will be needed to successfully establish an "E-Courts" system that will include e-filing, electronic payment of fees and fines, digitization of court records and electronic access to court records by litigants, attorneys and members of the public.
Honoring employees who worked on the Odyssey Project
Chief Justice Linda Dalianis and AOC director Don Goodnow hosted a luncheon in January during which employees who helped make Odyssey a long awaited reality statewide were honored, and thanked for their achievement. The Chief and Don recognized more than two dozen employees, including now-retired technology manager Tom Edwards, Pete Croteau, the Judicial Branch Chief Technology Officer, and many others who - working side by side with staff throughout the courts-- were at the core of the "Odyssey" deployment project:
- Odyssey project implementation manager, Sandra L. Wentworth, a court system veteran whom Don described as the "heart and soul" of this project, led a team of systems technicians who set up the Windows operating system at 650 workstations around the state. Wentworth also had oversight of adaptation of Odyssey software to District Court needs, conversion of SUSTAIN data to the Odyssey case management system, and deployment planning.
- District and Family Court Administrators Paula Hurley, Pat Ryan, Pam Kozlowski, Gina Apicelli and Brigette Siff Holmes, Marty Wagner, Administrative Coordinator for the Probate Courts and Julie Howard, Clerk at Strafford Superior, made case processing experts available, moved staff among courts, rearranged trial and hearing schedules, and otherwise made sure that the right people were available to the project in the right places at the right times. Each of these administrators also designed forms, mapped processes, and otherwise did everything within their power to make sure deadlines were met and deployments occurred on schedule.
- Andrea E. Cattabriga, the internal auditor with the Administrative Office of the Courts, was responsible for conversion of financial data, and adaptation of Odyssey financial accounting software to New Hampshire's court system specifics. She and her staff were available for every data conversion to make sure that the financials were correct before the courts' "GoLive" date.
- Cheryl Bennett was the person most responsible for converting every piece of data that was in SUSTAIN into Odyssey. She was responsible for running the data conversion program each evening before an "Odyssey" GoLive date at a court location. This involved countless steps, followed up by testing and data clean-up.
- Tomasz Jablonski was responsible for coordinating and organizing all hardware and software implementations that were required in order to run the Odyssey case management system.
- The three Administrative Judges loaned staff positions to the project which made it possible for Janet Haydon, Sharon (Matte) Cardin, Toria McLean, Sue (Cox) Menize, Tammy Poitras, and Carolyn Spencer drive to courts in every part of the state to erase backlogs, fill in for trial court staff during training, and help with the workload spike that occurred immediately after every GoLive date. Most importantly, these Odyssey Project Members (OPMs) assured court staff that they could successfully switch from SUSTAIN to Odyssey even when we were all coping with vacant positions and the daily demands of busy trial courts.
During the luncheon, Don made it clear that this was a "court project," that depended for success on significant participation by trial court administrators and court assistants who worked in careful coordination with the AOC IT department. As part of the effort, Don said:
- The IT staff at the AOC depended on the expert knowledge of trial court staff and administrators to guide them in configuring Odyssey to meet NH needs.
- AOC auditors and accountants designed the financial module, tested converted financial data, trained trial court staff, and supported trial court staff when the new software was deployed.
- LAN support staff installed new hardware and software in preparation for the new CMS. They literally crawled under every desk and configured every work station.
- Programmers wrote extensive code to convert SUSTAIN data into Odyssey data. This was a difficult task because the two CMS's use different structures and definitions and data elements and processes did not easily map from one CMS to the other.
Conversion was a complex challenge
The road toward the conversion to Odyssey began with a $3.5 million appropriation from the legislature in 2001 for conversion from an obsolete DOS-based operating system (do you remember Word Perfect?) to Windows, which was completed statewide in 2003. That appropriation also provided the funds for updating hardware to provide the speed and memory needed to operate Windows and for the purchase of the new case management system. New data lines had to be installed at every court location.
In 2004, the Judicial Branch signed a $1.9 million contract with Tyler Technologies for Odyssey and began the extensive process of configuring Odyssey to meet the needs of the New Hampshire court system, planning for the statewide conversion of data, staff training and system rollout.
Work on conversion to Odyssey was particularly challenging because court staff, working with Tyler technicians, had to take SUSTAIN's 17-year-old software format, adapt it to Odyssey's modern information storage and retrieval software, and then test the new format, and reconfigure when necessary.
The first "live launch" of Odyssey took place at Concord District Court in January 2006 and the systematic conversion of all sites was completed in November at Hilllsborough South. Before each of more than 80 "Go Live" dates at levels of court around the state everything had to be tested (often during off hours) including case data, financial data, data conversions, Odyssey itself, hardware, data lines, and more to make sure everything was working when trial court staff logged in and began using Odyssey for the first time.
Chief Justice Dalianis shared some details of this long journey during a speech at the New Hampshire Bar mid-winter meeting in February in Manchester. The Chief recalled in her remarks that during this process, all of the 4.2 million cases in the now ancient (and no longer supported) information storage system the courts had used since 1989 were converted into the Odyssey system. That included millions of pieces of data within those cases--from hearing dates to financial records on fines and fees collected by the courts. Two thirds of software programmers worked with court staff to design a system to meet our needs. Members of the IT staff managed the project, installed and configured Odyssey, converted data, crawled around every single desk at every single court site installing new up-to-date Windows operating systems and more than 600 workstations in order to support the new CMS.
Our Regional Court Administrators and in some cases, their clerks, spent hours developing the configuration design with IT. A full time Odyssey trainer was assigned. Five staff, having formally worked in Courts, worked full time in IT as "Odyssey project implementation experts" who assisted court employees during the transition. Virtually every employee in the court system attended training on the new case management system.
Many thanks for a job well done.
"And while all this was underway, the court system continued to operate as usual, and our IT department continued to meet our everyday demands," Chief Justice Dalianis told the hundreds of lawyers who attended the Bar's mid-winter meeting.
"This was an extraordinary effort and all of us owe those dedicated employees a debt of gratitude," she said.
All of us in the Judicial Branch agree and say thanks to everyone who teamed up to make Odyssey happen. Congratulations!