Star Trek, Component Model and ECM

By Kevin Ledgister, Marketing Manager, ImageSoft

144_mirrormirrorAs a Star Trek fan, I grew up watching the original series and one of my favorite episodes was one where a transporter accidentally launched Captain Kirk into a parallel universe. It intrigued me that two separate universes had the same people, the same spaceship, but very different cultures (and moustaches).

At a recent Hyland Partner conference in Cleveland, I couldn’t help but notice how developments in the enterprise content management (ECM) industry parallel what’s happening in the justice industry. In the justice space, the big news in terms of the future of technology is the Application Component Model, as championed by the National Center for State Courts and drafted by the Joint Technology Council.

The Component Model was drafted to address the slow pace of innovation with courts. It’s not that innovative technology is not available, it’s that courts purchase monolithic applications that have broad (but sometimes uselessly shallow) functionality that locks them into a particular vendor. This means that if you don’t like how your case management system handles document generation (or maybe not at all), you believe you have no recourse. Manual Word templates it is. The current state of affairs is that the majority of technology vendors have little to no interest to integrate with other applications, particularly in areas that compete with their own products.

Instead, the Component Model proposes that applications should be developed in smaller, detachable chunks that are designed to naturally integrate with other applications. For example, if a court only needs one key area of functionality, e.g. document generation, it can add that component without having to replace the entire case management system. Both the case management system and the document generation micro application can easily exchange the data that makes it possible for almost “snap-in” integration. This allows a court to implement best-of-breed solutions that provide a high degree of functionality, with minimal impact to operations, at a much faster pace.

The industry trend within ECM is following the same path. Historically, to access the advanced features of an ECM solution it required that you actually be logged into the client application which sometimes can be a clumsy transition. Today with OnBase, we can make small bits of ECM functionality available within a core application without having to load the entire ECM client. For instance, while in a case management solution, a function key could be used to generate an order even though the case management system does not possess that functionality natively. To the user, new functionality was added to their familiar interface. For the court, they just saved hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) in replacing a still working and supported case management system. That’s just one example of the many ways that a court can leverage small functional blocks within core applications and gain a faster path to a digital transformation.

ImageSoft has always pursued this kind of model as technology allowed. All of our solutions, whether it’s eFiling, workflow and ECM or eBench, are all designed to be integrated with existing case management systems. When you design your software that way, you have to design it to be able to exchange data in many different ways and include tools that can get around intransigent vendors that aren’t interested in connecting with other solutions. It will likely take years for the rest of the industry to catch up where a philosophy of openness and data exchange permeates the development and design of court applications. You can’t just beam into a parallel universe.

Thankfully, we are already there. Every one of our court projects involves integrating with an existing case management system or core application. And, we are working on the next generation of rich, consumable components that addresses the various gaps that courts have to achieve for an efficient, paperless case flow.

What do you think of this approach?

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