August 10, 2009 By Wayne Hanson
When Tulare County, Calif., criminal justice agencies decided to abandon their JLAN system in pursuit of customized individual systems, they lost the ability to integrate data electronically.
For a time, they returned to sharing information on paper, and then decided that middleware would be the best information-sharing bridge between the new systems. The first item they tackled was initiating a complaint -- from the DA's Office to the Superior Court.
"They made a list of 25 to 30 interfaces that were important to them," said IT Project Manager Alicia Beal (pictured), "and then they prioritized those." Beal said that it was not an easy thing to do, as in addition to technical issues there were challenges to getting everyone to work together. For example, said Beal, the DA's office might call eye color "brown," while the Court would call it "1234" or "auburn." "You have to go through and translate all of that -- kind of like language translation."
The county used Fiorano SOA middleware and a small in-house program to make the connections, enable the translation between systems and allow both agencies to push and pull documents between systems. Currently, the county is doing only one court's single-defendant cases through the system. However, in the next few weeks, Beal said that would expand to multiple courts and multi-defendant cases. After that, the system will expand to include amended court orders, amended motions and more.
"We use the Fiorano software to move things from the D.A. system to the Court system and to the Public Defender system," said Beal. "We're not fully implemented yet, but we have all the parts, so without a lot of additional money we can continue building on what we have." Beal said that's very important given the current economic situation.
The individual systems have workflow built into them, said Beal, so now the goal is to build workflow bridges between the individual systems, integrate the workflow and work with all the vendors to populate the individual systems with the data.
Beal has a few suggestions gleaned from the process thus far:
This Digital Communities white paper highlights discussions with IT officials in four counties that have adopted shared services models. Our aim was to learn about the obstacles these governments have faced when it comes to shared services and what it takes to overcome those roadblocks. We also spoke with several members of the IT industry who have thought long and hard about these issues. The paper offers some best practices for shared government-to-government services, but also points out challenges that government and industry still must overcome before this model gains widespread adoption.