The Saskatchewan justice system had to combine the functionality of four current systems to cut escalating support costs and failure risks of outdated hardware and software.
The province, with help from NTT DATA, is migrating four applications with transformed data sets to one integrated solution having an open, modular architecture.
“In working with our Ministry to learn our business issues and find solutions, NTT DATA plays a vital supporting role in our project’s success, now and going forward.”
Saskatchewan is one of Canada’s larger but least populous provinces, and its criminal justice system protects citizens over a vast territory with limited resources. This large and diverse stakeholder community crosses many organizational and geographical boundaries, with complex and overlapping information requirements. Each year, the provincial court system adjudicates more than 840,000 appearances in 13 permanent locations and 66 circuit locations. The Corrections Division manages about 12,000 adult and youth offenders in custody and community supervision at any given time.
Criminal justice employees have been hard-pressed to keep up with ever-rising workloads. Having too many manual and paper business processes hasn’t helped. Neither did four disjointed data systems that were more than 30 years old. There was one each for the adult and youth divisions of corrections with separate systems for the courts, which held sentencing, fine and restitution information.
This separation of data was costly and caused frustration among staff. Information was manually entered from one system to another, which led to extra effort and potential errors.
Over the last 10 years, Saskatchewan investigated a number of options to provide an integrated view of its justice system. Applications used in other jurisdictions were reviewed and a fit analysis done. Commercial off-the-shelf systems across North America were assessed. And an all-new, in-house application development was suggested but dismissed as too costly.
After exhaustive evaluations of these alternatives, the Ministry of Justice and the government’s Information Technology Division chose NTT DATA to help pilot an application modernization project that would amalgamate, update and transform the legacy applications.
Previously, the Ministry of Justice had developed its many operational applications in information silos. Once the new data model was defined, a powerful data-processing system was designed and built with the help of the Application Modernization Services team. “To modernize, it was necessary to move away from silo models and they get that,” says Rick Davis, the director of operational support for the Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice, Corrections and Policing.
More specifically, according to the project’s business case documentation, the Ministry needed “an information repository of high-quality accused and offender data that provides stakeholders with a ‘single source of truth’ and ‘improved analysis and reporting capabilities.”
The specialists achieved this aim by using the Data Modernization Workbench technology, part of the Application Re-architecture software suite. With it, a modern domain model was designed to map back to the documented legacy data model. This permitted a low-risk, audited migration of legacy data to the modern application and testing prior to the go-live production cutover.
In all, NTT DATA is helping the Ministry of Justice combine four legacy applications with 17 interfaces into a common application platform and database, now known as the Integrated Justice Information Management System (IJIMS).
The legacy applications were built with various technologies including Ingres, C, and Oracle, and the target program is a web-based Java Enterprise Edition (JEE) application that acts as a front end to a single relational database. The new application seamlessly tracks the transition of an individual from the courts to a correction facility and from a youth to an adult subject. This eliminates data re-entry and streamlines processes between the respective agencies.
In addition to having re-architected the application into a modern JEE environment, the team is building new functionality, such as integrating a custom financial accounting subsystem for court operations. For example, certain types of court orders will create receivable accounts in the name of the subject.
The subsystem includes other financial functions, too, such as applying payments and creating payment-related transactions (reversals, amount changes and transfers), daily operational functionality (cash cutoff and bank deposit) as well as daily and monthly bank reconciliation. The subsystem will also generate disbursement of revenues to clients and stakeholders, and it initiates enforcement processes for unpaid fines.
The Ministry’s decision to consolidate four applications into one via a single, large project, assisted by NTT DATA, will help reduce the time to full implementation.
For example, the team spent less time to complete the software development life cycle than had it taken a more traditional route of modernizing applications one at a time. This approach also eliminated many data duplication and re-entry errors. Having a modern integrated data repository gives the IJIMS the potential of being the center of the Saskatchewan government’s much broader legacy modernization plan.
During the fall of 2014, the first phase of the multi-year IJIMS was successfully released into production with a shorter cutover time than conventional development approaches might have required. This can be attributed to the practice of regularly migrating data during the development cycle to ensure that this normally risky process goes smoothly at the time of cutover. “The first phase of IJIMS is extremely stable and efficient in its infrastructure load, which attests to the quality of code development by the Application Modernization Services team,” says Davis.
Deputy Minister of Corrections and Policing Dale McFee recognized the IJIMS team for delivering this first phase as an innovative solution ahead of schedule and on budget with a clear focus on future needs. He applauded the project’s success as an example of good teamwork, one of the core values of the province’s corporate culture. On receiving the recognition, Rick Davis commented, “In working with our Ministry to learn our business issues and find solutions, the Application Modernization Services team plays a vital supporting role in our project’s success, now and going forward.”
The IJIMS application is bringing the Ministry new efficiencies, which substantially boost staff productivity. The potential productivity gains will allow Corrections youth staff to concentrate on more valuable tasks like counseling and rehabilitation. These efficiencies relieve staff overload and help prevent frustration with not having all the relevant information to perform their job well. We are confident that the next major releases for adult corrections and court will provide the same level of productivity and staff engagement.
McFee believes that an effective criminal justice system is the collective responsibility of many entities. That’s because crime is not just a criminal justice problem; it can also reflect problems associated with mental health, substance abuse, education or other issues. “Partnerships work best when silos are removed and information flows quickly, reliably and easily between everyone involved,” he says.
One of the people involved in the project is Don Anderson, portfolio manager for Saskatchewan Integrated Justice. “Information technology should be an enabler to help solve business problems,” he says. “Even as we successfully implement the Integrated Justice systems, what we really need now is an integrated common database across Education, Health (Mental Health and Additions), Social Services and Justice/Police — like what we have done for the Justice legacy applications.”
As Anderson sees it, the Application Modernization tools and methodology are well-suited to assist in updating the entire suite of legacy applications in these other governmental functions. “With the development of the central data model and elimination of duplicate data, the future will see an expanded integration to include many other related social services applications,” he says.
Anderson counts more than 20 other existing applications in the Ministry of Justice portfolio that could use the new data model. With the Application Modernization tools and methodology, he thinks the software development and data transformation that would be needed could happen much faster than usual. In turn, these applications could use links to data in other ministries that could help improve the government’s early interventions at any age and not just incarceration. “Now that I know how well the Application Modernization Services tools and methodology work, I wouldn’t just modernize four legacy systems at one time, but think we could do 40 at a time,” he says.
“The real ‘secret sauce’ in making modernized application transformations work is uncovering duplicate data with a fairly straightforward process to create an ideal enterprise data model for the future,” he explains. “Although I would still implement the modernized applications in releases, creating a road map to the future is greatly enhanced by the tools and methodology of Application Modernization Services.”*
*This case study was originally written by Dell Services, which has become NTT DATA Services as of November 2016.