Court’s Problematic Software Is A Cautionary Tale For State

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The Vermont court system hopes to reach a settlement soon with a software company that officials say has failed to deliver a web-based case management system.

And there may be a cautionary tale in this saga of soured software: Sometimes it’s better to stick with off-the-shelf-technology.

In late 2009, the judiciary signed a $5 million contract for a complete overhaul of the courts’ case management system.

A Utah company called New Dawn Technologies was supposed to design and deliver a fully computerized system that would allow users to access case records 24/7.

But the shift to the paperless world of on-line record retrieval hasn’t worked out as planned, says court administrator Robert Greemore.

"At this point, there’s no part of the system that we’re able to use," he says.

Greemore hopes to reach a settlement with the technology vendor by the end of the year.

"We have been in constant communication with New Dawn Technologies, working out the issues we have in the contractual relationship and hopefully shortly we’ll have a resolution," he says.

The state has spent $1.7 million on the case management system. But Greemore says the Judiciary stopped making payments more than a year ago.

One problem may be that the courts were buying untested technology rather than a product that had been proven effective in other states.

Richard Boes is commissioner of the Department of Information and Innovation, the office that oversees the state’s information technology efforts. Boes took the job last year – after the court signed the software contract. But Boes says his advice to state agencies is to think carefully before buying custom-made software.

"Since my arrival… we’ve clarified some points on our strategic plan that do focus more on existing technology, learning from other states, doing other things of that sort, rather than try to re-invent any wheels," he says. "Vermont’s not large enough to have those economies of scale."

The legislature last winter gave more authority to the department of Information and Innovation. The department now oversees and monitors any IT purchase over $100,000.


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