SOA applied to Justice
In this post we will talk about another of the numerous and varied fields of application of the SOA strategy, which could cause a brutally positive impact on society. After talking about the SOA application in a field as exciting as Robotics, we continue this series of entries talking about the importance of SOA applied to Justice.
Clearly, for most of us, Robotics is a bit far. For our day to day, it is little more or less than science fiction, although many advances are being done in many universities and specialized technology companies. Maybe talking about SOA applied to Robotics does not bring to our day to day the utility and the tremendous benefits that a ICT strategy based on SOA can contribute. Instead, it serves to see how far SOA is alive, the level of demand it is able to cover, and the projection it has.
Although from the outset we have been insisting on the tremendous potential it has, so far we have gone on tiptoe by concrete examples. This series aims to cover, with a little more concreteness, some of the sectors where an SOA strategy could have a huge impact for the daily lives of millions of people.
In any country, Justice, the entire Judicial System, is undoubtedly a sector of vital importance, which affects us notably directly or indirectly. The functioning of this public power, determines to a great extent the health of the institutions and public organisms of a country, and affects tremendously to every citizen and every company. We speak of citizen security and enforcement of justice, no less. The coordination between all the actors and the precision in the information are vital, let alone the deadlines. We are talking about an extremely important sector, for billions of people, every day.
I would like to believe that Spain is an isolated case, but I suspect it is not. Go ahead that I do not know how the Judicial System works in the rest of the world, and that I am not an expert jurist, nor in laws. But I do know, as anyone who is minimally informed, that ICT is one of the great failed subjects of the Judicial System. The vast majority of legal proceedings are based, in the 21st century, on paper. If we join to this the scarcity of technological and human means, we can imagine the panorama.
Apart from the obvious budgetary problem, and other problems that afflict this sector, it is clear that the way in which information is managed and exchanged can be improved a lot. The judicial processes that take years to resolve are not strange.
As I write these lines, and as you are reading them, countless lawsuits are simply stalled, unable to move forward. And not because some document is missing or a lazy lawyer has not done his job well. Almost all of the procedural bottleneck is due to paper clutter. Batteries and piles of files and documents that must be checked and handled one by one, manually.
It could be argued that manual labor is imperative for the administration of justice. And that a total automation of justice is impossible and inadvisable, and in fact, I agree. But between black and white, there are infinite grays. And although it is true that judicial decisions are almost never automated, what is totally susceptible to being automated is the application of the laws that govern judicial processes: the different steps, the deadlines, etc. that must be followed for getting to a judicial decision that closes the process.
By not automating those steps and deadlines, which I insist, are perfectly regulated in the laws, documents may be misplaced, deadlines may not be communicated, different treatment in different courts for similar processes, processes dismissed by defects of form, etc., etc.
Besides the time factor, the fact that the processes are little or nothing automated, introduces another huge risk: human error. And in this matter, an error, as well as a dilation of the deadlines, can cause very serious consequences.
What can SOA applied to the Judicial System contribute?.
To introduce the answer to this question, nothing better than real examples to see that we are not talking about mere hypotheses, but of a reality in some places.
The first example that I present is in an Oracle publication that is no longer available. The case study that illustrated the document on page 13 corresponds to the Louisiana Supreme Court in the US. This case is especially interesting because it played a role in the ability to recover order after Hurricane Katrina. Here you can find information regarding what authorities concluded and how they were awarded, for how they managed to use SOA to improve social and administration services.
The conclusion is clear:
If you have followed this blog since its inception, you may find this type of conclusions familiar. Most likely in future entries in this series we will find similar conclusions.
The second example comes from the USA too, specifically the State of Utah. It is the Criminal Justice Information System of this state.
The results speak for themselves: 20% more productive users and a 50% reduction in reporting time, for example. In short, a solution that allows them to have an interconnected system without interruptions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, available to share information and coordinate not only their staff, but also other agencies and external departments in real time.
The pattern is clear:
- BPM allows the modeling, analysis and optimization of the business processes, and discover the patterns that allow the identification of Business Services.
- Workflows can base their operation on a Catalog of those standard, decoupled, reusable services (very reusable).
- An EDA approach allows information to be shared in real time as events occur (charges, reports, statements, orders, decisions, etc.).
And all this, in addition, reducing costs progressively as the catalog reuse progresses and the judicial information ecosystem coupling decreases.
In Spain, and I imagine that in other countries in a similar way, there is an Organic Law of the Judiciary and a Civil Code, which regulate the functioning of the judicial ecosystem. These texts, perhaps optimized, would serve as a white paper to identify, model and analyze all actors, flows, activities and rules of the judicial business. Rules that would govern the orchestration of the events and services participating in the different workflows, which correspond to the different judicial procedures.
Over time, as the strategy expands, and with parallel initiatives for the digitization of court records, we would no longer be relying on piles of paper stockpiled at the bureau desks. A dependency that introduces huge delays and risks throughout the system.
The processes would only last what the law indicates should last at all stages of the different procedures. Of course there would be human activities in these workflows: judgments, signature of judgments, appraisals, etc., etc. But of course, BPM contemplates this type of activities. They are common components in the processes of any business.
The whole ecosystem could be monitored, and it could count on a very complete system of alerts that would allow to control the fulfillment of deadlines, the advance of the processes, etc. In addition, we could have Control Charts that in turn would help optimize the processes and the functioning of the entire judicial ecosystem.
It can be done, and it must be done ASAP.