Okay, things went much better yesterday than the days
before. But before I proceed I want to emphasize that these are
my personal opinions and do not reflect those of my employer.
Further, I have not yet received any formal training in the
system nor seen the system as a whole. And finally, I do not
wish to cast dispersion on anyone connected with this project,
whether within the Judiciary or the vendor chosen to create the
system. Everyone involved seems to be committed to doing as
good a job as possible and the vendor appears to have qualified
people here to lead the project.
With that said, the system worked and I got to see how
things are configured. I will try to use an analogy to describe
what the system does (fully acknowledging again that I’ve seen
just one very small part of it).
At the level of use I saw yesterday, the system is similar
to a content management system like MovableType. By that I mean
you take something like HTML and then add your
own tags that work only with your system. In this case, you use
WordPerfect or Word as your form editor to create the look and
feel of the form. You then insert their (a company called ACS)
tag variables where ever you want information from the central
database to be displayed. You then publish the form by doing a
merge that populates the form with the data drawn from the
There are something like 400 predefined variables. These
variables come with the system and are the same whether you
using it here or anywhere else the vendor has sold their
software. It is possible to custom design variables but, of
course, you are on you own when it comes to supporting any
changes you’ve made (which sounds fair to me).
In order to save money, the Judiciary is trying, to the
extent possible, to keep customization of the base software to
a minimum. As fellow Daynoter Sjon Svenson correctly states in
his email below, one of the major reasons for the failure of
large projects like this (centralized or not) is feature creep.
That is, the scope of work, as originally designed, changes so
much, as new features are added or existing features are
substantially modified, that the project collapses in
confusion, cost over runs, and cross charges of featherbedding
In my opinion, to the extent that the Judiciary and the
vendor can avoid this is the extent to which this multi-million
dollar multi-year project will succeed.