News & Views

Conga comments on IT problems in courts

With The Times reporting (www.thetimes.co.uk/article/flawed-legal-it-system-has-mind-of-its-own-warn-staff-gmk2shth3) that a new cloud-based system upgrade for the nation’s criminal courts is regularly losing and changing case files, causing chaos across the UK legal system and for staff running ongoing cases, we ask Ash Finnegan, digital transformation officer, Conga (www.conga.com) for her views on the challenges facing officials when implementing digital change, and why this update may have gone wrong.

“As indicated in a recent report (
www.nao.org.uk/insights/the-challenges-in-implementing-digital-change/?slide=1) by the National Audit Office (NAO), there is a gap between what the government and public bodies intend to achieve with their digital projects and what they actually deliver.  The UK legal sector still relies heavily upon legacy systems and has clearly struggled to tackle existing poor data structures and inefficiencies across key departments.  No doubt this has had a clear impact on decision-making.”

“The extent of the skills gap across public sector departments is well documented.  Whilst digital transformation offers many advantages, that does not necessarily mean it is easy to define, plan or execute.  Public sector leaders and legal officials perhaps lack the experience when it comes to delivering such complex and multifaceted programmes – especially at this scale.  Most simply do not have a clear understanding of the outcomes that digital transformation can and should drive, and change is often made without considering the teams involved and how this will affect their job role.”

“Leaders typically pick a new technology and implement it at speed, prioritizing the technology over strategy, without understanding how it will improve their services.  Moving forwards, leaders need to be more strategic with their investments and approach these projects with a level head – rolling out a programme in a phased manner, given the complexity and size of government departments and the legal system.  They should start by aligning their systems, data, and processes to ensure that all workflows are appropriately structured and fully optimised, before fully committing to a transformation programme.”

“It is often best practice to discuss digital change programmes with departments prior to implementation – leaders may be unaware of current processes or inefficiencies, and other employees can offer valuable insight into how communication, or data-sharing could be improved across teams.”

The Court’s cloud-based system was intended to allow judges, the Crown Prosecution Service, the police and the prison service to find case details in one place, and is currently used in 143 courts – nearly 60% of those in both England and Wales, but the inefficiencies and error posed by the update has cost officials more than £300 million to-date.