California Court Software Still Full of Bugs

tyler-tech-odysseySAN FRANCISCO (CN) — California’s trial courts need to adjust their expectations as they switch to Tyler Technologies’ new case management software, the judiciary’s head technology officer said Monday. Speaking at a Judicial Council Technology Committee meeting, Robert Oyung, who started last week as the council’s director of information technology, said that courts already have reported 52 major issues with the new platform.

The issues lie mostly with general functionality, interfacing with the Department of Motor Vehicles or implementing specific case types.  For example, Alameda County Superior Court has reported problems with clerks trying to enter data into the new system, which it attributes to an unwieldy interface.

The East Bay Times reported this month that three clients of the Public Defender’s Office spent an extra 50 days in jail because judicial orders did not show up in the new Odyssey system. Public Defender Brendon Woods went so far as to ask the court’s supervising judges to stop using Odyssey. “The main themes in terms of where people are having issues after going live with the product is challenges in working with minute orders, manual data entry, user navigation and some client errors,” Oyung said at the meeting.

“We have 26 courts who have been on their case management systems for 10, 15, sometimes 25 years. They’ve had an opportunity to mature their product, enhance their product, make it do exactly what they want. So when they go to a new platform, although it’s a mature product off the shelf, it hasn’t been customized and tuned to a local environment. So there definitely will be gaps in a functionality that a court has experienced over the past 10 or 15 years compared to the new product.” Oyung said courts have joined together to tackle some of the bugs and larger problems with Tyler’s Odyssey case management system. They call themselves the California Tyler User Group. Courts using Odyssey for at least one case type are Alameda, Alpine, Butte, Calaveras, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Merced, Monterey, Napa, Orange, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, Sutter, Tehama and Yuba counties. Glenn, Lassen and Stanislaus counties have purchased Odyssey, but haven’t installed it yet. California has 58 counties. “There are some issues that courts have been having from either a product perspective or an implementation perspective, and we felt that this is a way for the courts to get together to help troubleshoot those issues, and have the vendor involved to be able to work as a community to help resolve those issues,” Oyung said.

“The whole idea is for us to work together as a community to resolve our issues, raise enhancement opportunities to Tyler, and work in partnership as a community to get the most out of the product.” Major areas of concern are criminal and traffic cases, so the user group hosted a summit in March to raise their issues with Tyler. Since then, Tyler claims to have resolved a little over half of the user problems with criminal cases and six of the 23 problems with traffic. Oyung said the user group created a committee of court clerks and information officers to meet with Tyler executives regularly, with its first meeting set for later this month. Rick Feldstein, head clerk in Napa County Superior Court, said his court has been slowly adjusting to the new software over the last couple of years. “It’s as if you lived in a house for 20 years and it’s exactly the way you want it, but you bought a new house now. You couldn’t afford, or it wasn’t feasible to design your own custom-built house, so you bought a tract home, and once you move in you’re going to find the furniture may not fit right in all cases, and it’s going to take a little time to get it all cozied up the way you got your old house after 20 years,” he said.

“But that’s just part of the process, and it would have been the case with any system we would have purchased off the shelf.” Tyler Technologies’ Odyssey software leapt to the head of the pack of software vendors vying for lucrative California contracts after the collapse of a $500 million statewide project to develop a software system for all California’s 58 trial courts. Widely savaged by judges as a “fiasco” and a “boondoggle,” the Judicial Council in 2012 abandoned the Court Case Management System developed by Deloitte Consulting, and courts began to purchase off-the-shelf systems like Odyssey. Court technology officers banded together, independent of the Judicial Council, to try to make that software workable for their courts. Oyung was among the leaders of that effort as the former chief information officer for Santa Clara County. He said Monday that courts will have “growing pains” with Odyssey, and that should not expect it to work perfectly from the start. “I think if people’s expectations are set appropriately — that there will be gaps and they’re not going to get exactly what they had before — I think that people can go in with open eyes,” he said.

“There have been a couple of situations where courts have not realized that gap upfront, so they have been very disappointed in what they have seen. But I think that we can work together as a community and work very closely with Tyler to resolve those issues.”

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