The Exciting (and Confusing) Court Performance Dashboard Market

Where We Are Today

The fundamental goal of court performance dashboards is to empower all stakeholders with the right information, at the right time, using the right technology to make better decisions across all court functions. An increasing number of individual courts and court systems are beginning to look at performance dashboards, and supporting business analytics and intelligence, not only as reporting and accountability tools but as the means to make improvements and to drive success. They deploy these tools to discover and to explore information, to describe historical trends and to predict future trends, to devise improvement strategy, and to share information with stakeholders.

That’s the basic message my colleagues and I delivered at the Super Session, Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Courts, at the Tenth Court Technology Conference (CTC10) in Tampa, Florida, last month. I concluded at the close of the session attended by about 300 – 400 court technologists, managers and judges that we are at the “tipping point in the development of performance dashboards and business intelligence as a major factor in the management of organizations including courts.”

The Super Session included three demonstrations of performance dashboards and business analytics used by the Utah State Courts, the Harris County Courts (Houston, Texas), the Provincial Court of British Columbia, and the Court Services Branch of the British Columbia Ministry of the Attorney General. The demos were made by Kim Allard, Director of Court Services, Utah Administrative Office of the Courts; Harry Leverette, Director of Information Technology, Harris County Courts; Dan Chiddell, Director, Strategic Information & Business Applications, Court Services Branch, British Columbia Ministry of Attorney General; and Grant Marchand, Manager, Judicial Resource Analysis and Management Information Systems, Office of the Chief Judge of British Columbia. (I understand that the full background paper and the video of the entire session will soon be available on the CTC10 Website; only a PDF version of the draft introductory PowerPoint slides is currently posted.)

Jorge Basto, the Chief Information Officer of the Administrative Office of the Courts of Georgia, a panelist of the CTC10 Super Session, noted that “it has been almost 20 years since Howard Dressner [formerly with Gartner and now CSO of Hyperion, a leading BI firm recently acquired by Oracle,see below] established the phrase ‘business intelligence,’ or ‘BI,’ which refers to the environment that is used to gather process and analyze information regarding entities’ operations. The use of performance dashboards is an important part of this BI architecture and what we are seeing today is the public sector catching up to what the private sector has known for years.”

The Break-Neck Pace of Consolidation

Unfortunately, catching up with what is happening in the business intelligence market will not be easy. It’s hot, it’s big and getting bigger. And it’s consolidating so rapidly that it’s hard to keep even the big players straight. (Those among us faced with writing requests for information (RFIs) and requests for proposals (RFPs) feel we don’t have it easy.)

According to IDC, who analyzed and forecasted the business intelligence market for the period from 2005 to 2011, the business intelligence market grew at a rate of 11.2% and reached $19.3 billion in 2006. Performance management tools and applications accounted for $13.6 billion and the data warehouse category garnered $5.7 billion.

On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal (IBM's Deal for Cognos Signals Strategy Shift, by William M. Bulkeley) reported that IBM agreed to acquire Cognos, the third largest business intelligence vendor for $5 billion, its largest acquisition ever. This puts IBM squarely up against SAP, which last month agreed to buy the industry leader Business Objects. And all this comes less than a year after Oracle, a rival of IBM in the database-software market, bought Hyperion Solutions, the No. 4 business intelligence vendor. SAS, a privately held company based in Cary, N.C., is the second-largest vendor and the only one in the top five that focuses almost exclusively on business analytics (as opposed to data warehouse platform applications). And then there’s Microsoft, with Proclarity and Performance Point.

The trick is, I assume, for these big players to be the one-stop shop for all the components of the performance dashboard technology architecture including data warehouse platform software, data movement and transformation applications, data monitoring, query/reporting/analytics, advanced business analytics, and performance management tools. While this consolidation might be good for the big firms’ shareholders, it isn’t yet clear whether it will make life easier for court executives who want to buy or build advanced performance dashboards.

What Does This Mean for Courts?

How will these colossal tech companies -- IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP – accommodate courts with budgets that they may regard as chump change? Will they have any interest in leveraging courts’ relatively modest investments in their existing data warehouses, business analytics, and other applications and tools?

According to IDC, as consolidation in the business intelligence continues, a new generation of software vendors will target specific market segments with innovative solutions and specialized products. This occurred with court-transaction data in the development of systems for case management, jury utilization, and fine and fees collection. But such transaction systems are not set up to for the kind of performance monitoring, analysis and management provided by state-of-the-art performance dashboards.

But how long will it take? Will innovative courts be willing to wait for court-specific performance dashboards? (We know that dozens are not.) Should courts look to second-tier vendors and new start-ups entering the growing market for software to store, analyze and display court performance data? Should they hire a third-party technology integrator like Threshold Consulting to put all the pieces together? Or should they build performance dashboards themselves using a combination of commercially available packaged software and “custom” software?

These are difficult questions and the right answers will depend on the court and its operating, IT, and political environments. A key consideration is to what degree courts have identified their success factors and have scoped out performance measurement and management initiatives linked to strategic goals. Another is the degree to which a court or court system is ready to expand the number of employees designated as decision makers and discovers of solutions. This, of course, has direct bearing on identifying users of performance dashboards and their specific monitoring, analytic and performance management needs.

For those of us interested in court performance measurement and management, these are exciting and challenging times!

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