Enabling Courtroom Tech Success in the New Year

It’s a great message as we head into a new year. A full 72 percent of court executives and administrators generally characterize their most recent technology installation as a success. The questions become: How can courts emulate success and avoid disappointment?   

Early results from the RevoText Court Technology Survey have begun to yield some answers to those questions. Let’s start with the positive to give you an idea of how your court can learn from the successes of your court executive and administrator colleagues. The most important factor that enables success in large-scale courtroom technology installations is to gain the support from key personnel, which 65 percent of respondents suggest “to a large degree” was responsible for their success. 

What else enables success? Having a responsive vendor and having a clear understanding of the court’s needs, which 57 and 55 percent of respondents, respectively, indicate are important factors in the success of technology installations. One respondent suggests that the court must have “agile development.” The needs and expectations of the project, along with scheduling, must adapt to incorporate what the court and the vendor learn along the way. Another respondent, anecdotally, leans on the importance of a thorough understanding of courtroom needs as being vital to success: “I was firm on what our court needed from the system in order for it to work for us.”

Throughout the initial survey findings, there is substantial evidence that getting the right people on board with the project and crystal-clear communication are factors that disproportionately impact the success of courtroom technology installations. When asked in an open-ended question what has been the biggest challenge in technology installations, one court administrator raised these points: “Getting buy-in from those who approve the overall budget and don’t necessarily understand how a court operates or the needs we require.”

Courts also can enable success by avoiding the factors that led to the disappointment with technology installations of 27 percent of survey respondents. One administrator suggested that “lack of full support from [the] manager” was the largest factor that led to a disappointing result. Another pointed to an existing, institutional problem with communication: “Court technology support is relatively poor and communication is always lacking.”

If strong communication can enable success, not surprisingly, the inverse also is true. The survey suggests that poor communication can doom a project from the start. Failing to emphasize communication throughout the process – among court personnel, with vendors, with other key stakeholders – is a common denominator in all technology failures. One court executive put specifics around the communication challenge: “Eleven courtrooms in five different locations, each with varying degrees of technology.” But everyone has a vested interest in the technology and need to have some level of engagement with the process.

Of those respondents who indicate their most recent technology initiative was a disappointment, 56 percent of respondents point to two factors as particularly problematic: That “it took longer than expected” and that “court personnel lost confidence or interest [in the project].” Another factor – “poor integration with existing system” – also appeared high on the list as a factor that contributed to disappointment.

The good news is that most factors that enable successful technology installation in courtrooms are within your control. That also means that, to a large degree, the factors that have the largest potential to derail a technology project are within your sphere of control. More to that point, cost overruns, an unresponsive vendor, and security concerns – items that are largely out of your control yet are often referenced as particular concerns at the outset of a technology installation – are rarely significant contributors to technology failures. 

The RevoText Court Technology Survey is currently in the field and is scheduled to be completed in January 2019. All court executives and administrators who complete the survey will be provided with a complimentary copy of the results. Court executives and administrators who wish to complete the survey, but who have not yet done so, will receive one final email reminder to complete the anonymous questionnaire.