Collaborative Justice Technology: a compounding investment in the pandemic era (and beyond)
By Ketan Kulkarni – Linkedin
In 2021, technology is not only fundamentally changing how industries function, but also the ecosystems they are a part of, in no small part due to the global pandemic. An organization can choose the degree to which they will embrace the purposeful evolution of their ecosystem in uncertain times. The organizations with the strongest embrace will see the other side while also leading the innovation of their industry. Such innovation is the domain of teams of highly collaborative teams versus the great insight of an individual innovator.
Transforming a Traditional Ecosystem
The Justice system is a traditional ecosystem with hardened processes (laws are about as hardened a process as you can get) and well-established training initiatives. Is it possible to apply new technology tools to realize drastic benefits?
The opportunity to improve communication lies in the application of technology, precisely because the processes are hardened and the training is well-ingrained into the traditional culture of Justice systems, wherever you look.
With this backdrop let’s see how the four categories below can be applied to the Justice ecosystem, transform it with collaborative technology and compound the ROI of the initial business case.
- Operational Savings
- Productivity Improvements
- Strategic Transformation
The lowest hanging fruits in any ecosystem are operational savings. Operational savings are when you either stop doing something you used to do, or do it differently in a way that allows you get the same result but with less cost. Let’s take the remand process as an example.
Remanded inmates are individuals who do not qualify for bail and who instead are being held in pre-detention facilities, waiting to have their trial. When they are required to appear in front of a judge it is referred to as a remand appearance. Remand appearances require a lot of people and activity to conduct. Accused individuals typically need to spend an entire day being moved from the detention facility to the courtroom and then back. This requires accompanying guards (at least 2, sometimes up to 4), specialized vehicles for transport, all the costs of being away from the facility for the day – food, gas, etc., facilities at the courthouse to hold the prisoners until it is time for their hearing, and the risk of moving prisoners around is inherent in the undertaking.
Applying video conferencing technology to facilitate remand appearances is a perfect example of how substantial cost can be taken out of the ecosystem, maintaining the same end result.
The Operational Savings = Cost avoided / Cost of video conferencing technology
While it is difficult to obtain costs for all the components involved, here is a high level estimate of the costs that could be avoided:
|1) Guards (avg. of 3) for a day = 3 x 8 hours x burdened hourly rate of Guards = 3 x 8 x $50 = $1,200 day|
|2) Cost of transportation: specialized vehicle + expenses = $750/day|
|3) Facilities requirements to handle prisoners in courthouse = $300/day|
So, one remand appearance is probably costing taxpayers at best about $2,000. Multiplied by the number of appearances in a year that could be delivered via technology ~ 14,000 x $2,000 = $28,000,000 / year. Over a 10-year period, that is $280,000,000. Even if the estimate for the cost of one remand appearance is 50% above actual costs, there is still significant opportunity to realize operational savings.
Investing in the infrastructure required to facilitate these hearings would be significantly less than the 10-year cost of doing it without technology. One of the key investments in this process is the technology in the courtroom that allows the remand appearances to be conducted remotely.
In any organizational ecosystem there are always rooms where people from different parts of the ecosystem come together to meet. In the judicial system, these are the courtrooms in the various courthouses across the country.
A courtroom is where the 4 different constituents (Judicial, Legal, Law Enforcement and Corrections) come together to conduct their trials and is the focal point for moving the judicial process forward. To enable new communications tools to change the processes, the courtrooms must be equipped with the technology required to conduct electronic communication, which are rich experiences – just like being there.
Courtrooms that have been enabled in this way can now be much more productive in processing the courtroom workflow (the proceedings) – a must given the backlog created by the shutdown of physical locations as a result of the pandemic. A judge in court can hold remand appearances sequentially, connecting with prisoners who appear, via video, from various correctional facilities – one after another. The physical scheduling and logistics that used to be a key component of the “old method” suddenly becomes vastly simpler and less costly. The simplified scheduling and logistics of remand appearances through the use of video conferencing technology also increases the number of appearances processed. The beneficial results of doing this:
- Less facilities required for remand prisoners = less time required in remand facilities
- Greater use of the judge’s time, as well as other court personnel, and their ability to handle cases (therefore less judges and court personnel required)
- Less backlog of cases to be heard
The opportunity for greater productivity in the Justice ecosystem can be found in many other processes. Many jurisdictions have learned that leveraging video can reduce — or eliminate — many of the hidden delays and costs of the Justice system associated with logistics such as travel time for a variety of participants including witnesses, interpreters, attorneys and inmates. In an ecosystem where everyone wants to talk to the inmate (prosecutors, probation officers, public defenders, judges, etc.) easier access via video can accelerate workflow.
- Judges can hold sessions across a wide variety of locations one after the other all from the courtroom or chambers
- Cases get processed faster – no delay waiting for critical mass of cases in remote locations
- Bail hearings can be enabled by video
- Plea bargains can be implemented much faster (don’t need a 2 hour process to get into the jail to see prisoner), which means less time in jail for visitors and less requirements for facilities
- Access to justice – inmates can access attorneys and other legal aid remotely, which includes the benefit of upholding social distancing guidelines
- Video testimony – expert witness (can greatly reduce cost),
- Vulnerable witness – appearing in court is dangerous, disruptive and disturbing but their testimony can be critical; video makes it easier
- Interpreters – can handle multiple sessions just minutes apart in different locations. Therefore overall need goes down because of the tremendous compression of time.
- Telemedicine and educational programs in prisons
Clearly these productivity improvements, which were not planned for as part of the initial business case, would likely add even more financial benefits. Often, the productivity benefits that are realized in an ecosystem will quickly outweigh the operational savings provided.
As new communications infrastructure and endpoints have been put in place over recent years – a process accelerated by the pandemic – the Justice ecosystem is being unintentionally transformed with far greater capability than was initially envisioned. The people who are using the new communications tools will start to apply the same tools to situations that were never envisioned at the start of the ecosystem’s transformation.
Let’s look at three real life examples of strategic transformation in the Justice ecosystem:
1) International Trials
With the globalization of business, there are now occasions where the globalization of court communications could greatly help the operation and productivity of trials that happen where multiple countries are involved. Our company, ET Group, facilitated a trial like this where two courtrooms in two different countries were in a single combined session at exactly the same time. The benefits were substantial:
- Air travel was substantially reduced
- Lawyer’s monetary and timespend costs for that travel were eliminated
- The proceedings were able to progress faster because both courtrooms in both countries were connected to each other in real time.
One court session brought together two different jurisdictions simultaneously.
2) Virtual Meeting Rooms (VMRs)
The use of VMRs in a collaborative ecosystem typically happens at a later stage in the development of the ecosystem. VMRs are very powerful because they can:
- Drastically reduce costs
- Drastically accelerate the workflow (the velocity of collaboration) of both existing processes and re-engineered processes
In the Justice ecosystem a perfect example of using VMRs would be to allow the general public to pay their traffic tickets with a hearing in a VMR. When you use a VMR you don’t need a courtroom (massive cost savings), and you allow a person who received the traffic ticket to call into the VMR for their trial. The judge, the officer, the lawyer (if required) and the defendant would all be participants in the VMR. The result is significant savings in travel costs for all involved.
Using VMRs as described in the traffic ticket scenario above would also require software which would would mimic the workflow of the traffic court. People would need to check in online, be held in a queue waiting to see the judge in the VMR with the other participants. But over time this additional expense stands to be minimal compared to what could be saved through the strategic use of VMRs within the Justice collaborative ecosystem.
3) Collaborative Portals
With technology infrastructure in place, new functionalities can be implemented that were not possible before. With software, recordings of the courtroom proceedings can now be captured in a way that was not previously possible. Video and audio streams can be recorded simultaneously from the different cameras and microphones in the courtroom and can be captured as the record of the court. These court records can be:
- Instantly archived in the courtroom, with two layers of back-up (courthouse and datacenter)
- Instantly retrieved whenever required by authorized personnel
- Transcripted instantly
- Distributed with different pieces redacted in the recording, depending on who needs to review the record
- Used as evidence in a court of law and have the veracity to stand up to any challenges
- Be used in an online secure portal for authorized personnel to collaborate by reviewing and commenting on the record
Extending capabilities leverages the initial investment in technology already in place and further accelerates the velocity of collaboration in the Justice ecosystem, thus compounding the initial investment.
There are more than just these three strategic transformation examples which stand to further influence the business case for investment in a new collaborative technology platform. Being able to continue to conduct business and enable access to justice for citizens using VMRs in the face of a global pandemic – in some cases more than ever before – is a prime example.
The natural evolution of a collaborative ecosystem is to capture operational savings first, then to realize productivity gains as a by-product through the extension of the technology to new processes, and finally, hit the home runs through the strategic transformation of the ecosystem.
It takes considerable fortitude by those steering the ecosystem to make the investment without truly understanding how the ecosystem will function when the collaborative technology is fully implemented and enabled. They must resist the temptation to cut corners and compromise on the building of the platform that will become the foundation for transformation for years (if not decades) to come.
All its woes aside, COVID-19 helped accelerate a fundamental systemic change that was already occurring – one that has now proven itself here to stay. The technology stakeholders in Justice systems around the globe would do well to take notice.
3 Steps to Building a Collaborative Business
Investing in technology tools that drive innovation and connect key stakeholders will help accelerate collaboration only if people know how to use these tools. Otherwise, instead of accelerating collaboration, you’ve just purchased some expensive dust collectors.
This is why adopting technology is just as important as the technology itself to advance collaboration within your organization.
Initiating User Adoption
What is involved in effective user adoption? Typically a training team is assembled and directed as to what should be covered in a training session. A more effective approach is to initiate user adoption by taking a “top-down” approach in communicating the vision. All collaboration sponsors should take the opportunity and put collaboration into practice. How can you capitalize on the opportunity?
- Use training events to also explore the benefits of collaboration technology
- Reinforce how collaboration can help to achieve business results
- Understand how user adoption drives ROI on collaboration technology
- Avoid these 5 Common Mistakes in Technology User Adoption
The 3 Step Approach to Effective Technology Adoption
Using this approach will lead to successful technology adoption.
It is important to note that in order to have real change in behaviour, it also takes time, a strategy and resources to make it happen.
During the assessment phase, it is important to determine the strategy gaps that prevent an organization from achieving their collaboration goals. To successfully conduct an assessment, everyone must keep an open mind and avoid coming into the process with a predetermined solution in hand. Assessments must be extensive and include examining the organization’s needs in the three areas of collaboration: culture, process, and technology. Begin to collaborate by bringing in other resources such as HR, finance, and IT to help determine the organization’s current state. Describe the desired state and map the gap between the two. The assessment should aim to identify what the best solutions are to help achieve the organization’s desired goal. Many organizations believe that training will close the gap but it may not necessarily be the case. What if the assessment indicates that there are gaps in processes? The gaps can be filled. For example, adjusting the way a purchase order is completed. Or, a culture gap may require extensive strategic changes that effect how the organization functions as a whole. It is key that executives tap into the knowledge of their training departments by completing a needs assessment prior to conducting training. Executives should also encourage other departments to collaborate in the assessment phase in order to ensure that information sharing lays the ground work for the next phase, the implementation strategy.
Teamwork is vital during the implementation step. For example, introducing video conferencing, as a corporate-wide strategic initiative should include multiple stakeholders. The planning and implementation process should include a partnership between IT, Finance, Project Management, Training, and an executive sponsor. All the partners should participate in sharing their knowledge and insight to develop and execute the plan. The result of collaborating and openly sharing ideas is two-fold: an innovative plan and better buy-in leads to a higher adoption rate. When implementing a business improvement measure, a learning and development professional will recommend many short training sessions. This allows people to have the opportunity to absorb what they have learned and trainers can reinforce concepts. Real change occurs when what has been taught becomes the norm. Learners must be encouraged to adopt behaviours that support the business improvement strategy; this is where tangible organizational change will occur. Make the implementation process an evolution not a revolution.
There is a great saying: “What gets focused on gets done.” This is what the evaluation phase is all about. This is a time when organizations should review what is actually happening after training and this should be done shortly after training – say 4 to 6 months afterwards. A successful evaluation should include:
- Measurements of key metrics that can be used to determine the level of success of the business improvement and user adoption of the new technology
- Identify new gaps or solutions
- Refine and refocus on the goal
Teamwork should play a role in this phase as well. For an in-depth evaluation, consider using focus groups as a tool. Two focus groups should be conducted with:
- Stakeholders that were involved in planning and implementing the strategy
- Employees who are impacted to allow them to share their knowledge and experiences
Share feedback widely. Celebrate the accomplishments.
The knowledge collected from your evaluation stage will help you get a better understanding of how well collaborative approaches work in your organization and will help the organization to develop more informed plans for future implementations.
“I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.”
Confucius (Chinese philosopher & reformer, 551 BCE – 479 BCE) said, “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.” This holds true when using collaboration in assessing, implementing and evaluating changes to how your organization does business.
Collaboration technology that has been embraced by employees allows the organization to realize the true benefits the technology was meant to enable and encourages a culture of knowledge sharing, appreciation of challenges and successes, and becoming more flexible and competitive.
If you would like more information on the 3 Steps to Building a Collaborative Business, contact us.
Five Common Mistakes in Technology User Adoption
Some organizations readily adopt new technologies and others deploy technology only to have it collect dust. What is the difference between these deployments?
There are five common mistakes that organizations make when they introduce new technology into their workforce and being aware of them will help you avoid making these mistakes yourself.
1. Organizations Fail to Take the End User Needs into Account
Organizations invest in the latest and greatest technology in hopes that it will fulfill an identified gap or create a competitive advantage. What organizations do not take into consideration is who their Users are. They have to ask themselves:
“Do my people and my processes support this new technology?”
Often the answer is no. Why? Because a technology decision was made without assessing their Users requirements.
Today’s IT & AV technologies are a key component of a collaborative ecosystem but do the people who are supposed to be using the technology really know why or how they support the collaborative ecosystem?
If the answer is no, this is where the mismatch occurs. The needs that the technology fulfills have not been matched to the user’s needs and I have seen this happen time and time again.
An easy solution is a User based “Needs Analysis”. This approach helps organizations focus on the needs of employees which will provide valuable information to determine a purpose-based solution. When implementing new technology your strategy and design must take into account the end users.
2. Leaders Do Not Have a Clear Understanding of the Technology’s Capability
Organizational leaders must have first hand knowledge of what the technology is capable of doing and most importantly, be comfortable in using the technology. By attending training sessions, leaders demonstrate that they have a clear understanding of how to use the technology.
I have conducted some training sessions where not one manager or executive attended. Not only do they miss out on learning the benefits of the technology, but they also continue to do what they always have and often fail to adopt new practices. This sends the wrong message to their team.
Change is driven top down so management must be the role models for change. If employees see management using the technology, user adoption of the technology will increase.
3. The Myth: “Once the Technology Has Been Installed, Everyone Will Want to Use It.”
“If we build it, they will come.” Unfortunately, it’s not the case. After installation early adopters tend to be the only ones that will give it a try and the rest will stay anchored to the status quo.
Ignoring the technology all together is a symptom of what I call the “What’s In It For Me (WIIFM) Syndrome”. If there is no perceived value to the employee, why should they learn or adopt using it? Companies spend a lot of time and money marketing their products to their customers. Likewise, organizations should take the time and effort to market, sell and promote to their employees the new technology they’ve invested in to address the WIIFM syndrome.
4. Organizations do not Provide Adequate Support
Executives believe that once employees are trained they will automatically start using the technology. Most executives fail to consider their employees’ learning curve. One training session does not mean people are experts; they need to be supported and guided until they are comfortable and confident using the technology.
I see this time and time again when training employees on SMART Boards. After completing the training, employees are energized to use the boards but that tends to be short lived. Some will try to use the board and forget how to use it. This is common because the average person only retains 30% from one training session. Some will try to perform a certain function and the board doesn’t perform the way it did in training so they get discouraged. Employees may become frustrated and refuse to use the board. Others will become too busy and next thing you know, the initial enthusiasm will be lost and forgotten.
This is how SMART Boards become under utilized and it’s such a shame because SMART boards are one of the most powerful collaborative tools available today.
It takes focused usage and support to transfer knowledge into a skill set and this can be done in numerous ways.
Some Examples of Internal Training Support:
- A company website where employees can go to ask questions or review material that was covered in training
- Follow up training that reviews what was learned and helps take their skill set to the mastery level
- On site experts to support and encourage users as they start to use the technology
Whatever form this support takes, it is important to have a plan and to communicate it with your employees. It also sends a signal that adoption is important to the organization and should be important to them as well.
5. Organizations Are Not Creating User-friendly Policies or Procedures
It’s a shame when I see organizations investing in new technology, only to find out that their current system can’t fully support it. With the continual emergence of new user technology, there is an assumption that the organization’s IT infrastructure has also evolved. Quite often this is not the case. When new technology and organization’s IT infrastructure are not compatible, “work arounds” are developed to tape the solution together. These work arounds can become cumbersome which leads to:
- Procedures that make it difficult to use the new equipment.
- Policies that make employees less inclined to use the technology.
This can all be avoided if IT is part of creating the technology roadmap when new technologies are adopted by an organization. Their knowledge can be a valuable resource.
Processes must be put in place to support the users of the new technologies. Without them users will quickly abandon the new technologies and go back to the way things were before.
Build a Technology Roadmap. support Your Employees Learning and New Technology Adoption Rates Will Follow.
User adoption is a key component in fully attaining the ROI of collaboration technology.
These are only a few suggestions on avoiding the five most common mistakes in technology user adoption. Contact us for more info on how to increase your odds for a successful technology rollout.