Making the Business Case
In his role as CIO of California's Administrative Office of the Courts, Mark Dusman's mission is to consolidate a massive volume of data and make it accessible to all.
How did the differences in ability to pay for IT play out among the counties?
Dusman: In a rural area, even for a minor traffic ticket, you might have a much different experience than you would have in a large urban area. The rural population centers are so spread apart. You might have to drive 100 miles to the closest courthouse. Often, the paper citation that the police officer wrote wouldn't have been updated in the court system by the time you got there. So you'd be wasting a lot of time. Meanwhile, in a more urban area, the court system would already have that data in the system, and may have simply allowed you to pay your fine online or by phone without even going to a courtroom.
How were you able to convince state lawmakers that a major network consolidation was worthwhile?
Dusman: In California, the general process is that you have to articulate a solution, get it sized from a feasibility standpoint--and then you beg for the money. When we started in the late 1990s, the scope of the project seemed so huge. Keep in mind that this was a period when some counties didn't even have a PC on every desk.
We took six to eight months to come up with the needed plan. We described a pyramid structure that could be completed in stages. The base of the pyramid was the infrastructure. Then, we needed to build a secure, scalable and effective platform upon which we could add applications as the state needed them.
What was the first installation of this consolidation?
Dusman: We started with the financial needs of the court system. We wanted know exactly what kind of budget shape the individual jurisdictions were in without looking at 58 different spreadsheets on 58 different systems.
We began this in 2003 with a SAP installation called the Phoenix Finance Program. We also developed the Appellate Court Case Management System, a computerized facilities management system, and we are now developing a unified case management system for all trial court case types.
In terms of court infrastructure today, we're able to update the system with robust, modern technology, and we're in the middle of a major systemwide upgrade right now. We've also added--for many of the 58 jurisdictions--a second point of presence for the financial network, to provide redundancy in case of system failure.
Your implementation also involved a revamp of the telecommunications infrastructure. Which vendors did you bring in for that job?
Dusman: We first used SBC Global, which is now part of AT&T, and we also used Cisco, which provided the platform. SBC did most of the network implementation. Cisco provided the switches and routers. The initial cost was about $5 million.