ICTRO, which provides IT support to the Dutch court system, is using communications technology to hold hearings remotely in the Netherlands.
The organisation is responsible for managing 12,000 PCs and 400 software applications for the court system. It is using Microsoft's Office Communicator and Live Meeting to develop remote hearings at Schiphol airport when people arrive without the correct documentation.
The project is part of a wider programme to use technology to allow court staff to work from home and on the move.
"It is quite a challenge to move from a paper-based system to an electronic system," says Paul van den Berg, programme manager.
ICTRO has migrated its 10-year-old Windows 2000 NT4 platform to Windows 7. The work required a complete rebuild of its back-office and front-office systems.
ICTRO is developing remote hearings at Amsterdam's airport. Previously, people who arrived without the correct document had to be sent to a court-house for a hearing, and may have been held overnight.
Video conferencing will allow court officials to hold instant hearings, and either clear a person for entry or send them back where they came from.
Other applications include holding remote hearings at football matches, where it can be necessary to process a large volume of people.
Van den Berg says that listening to staff was essential. "You need to get a share of their heart as far as what they need and how they want to work. If you try and force it on the workforce, it will not actually work," he says.
"In the end we did not have to persuade them. They were waiting. They are actually demanding the features and functions we are trying to build for them."
Sign up to Computer Weekly to download a PDF showing how Microsoft in the Netherlands is using technology to change the way its staff work. The package incluse a series of 6 white papers on creating a hybrid office and adopting new ways of working. Also included are more details of ICTRO's plans for the Dutch Court System and a case study showing how GKN Getronics, a large Dutch IT supplier, is using SharePoint and Office to allow its field-staff to collaborate when they are out on the road.
Read the full transcript from this video below:
Video: Microsoft 7 supports Dutch courts' mobile hearings
Interviewer: Paul, can you explain how you are using technology within
the Ministry of Justice to enable people to work in new, more collaborative ways?
Paul van den Berg: Yes. We are using technology to facilitate a number of things. On the
one hand, we are working, particularly on mobility of the
employees of the court system, these are the judges and other
administrative staff, so that they can work from any location
within the court system, be it another courthouse or maybe their
home. On the other hand, we are trying to give access to the
court system, to the public at large through the internet, and
facilitating the interaction that way.
Interviewer: What has been the main challenges for you in introducing
these new ways of working?
Paul van den Berg: A number of things. On the one hand some people factors, on the other
hand some technology factors. We started off with a very old
Windows 2000 NT4 platform, which was approximately 10-years-old,
and we had to migrate to a Windows 2008-based platform with
Windows 7 on the desktop, which essentially is a total rebuild
of the back office systems, as well as the front-end, which of
course led to a lot of training requirements for users, and also
for all of the technology staff in the back office. That was a
On the other hand, it is quite a challenge to move from a paper-
based system to an electronic system whereby workflows and work
processes are, on the one hand emulated, and on the other hand
changed to a new way of working, and that was on the people
side. Quite an interesting change, which we are still going
through at this time.
Interviewer: How do you persuade people to work in a different way?
What did you have to do?
Paul van den Berg: Actually, we had to listen to them very well. I believe that it is
not a very good thing to essentially drive innovation through
IT, but it is better to listen to the people on the work floor
and listen to their problems. Those problems were along the
lines of collaboration, of sharing data between different
systems or different courthouses and such things. In the end, we
did not have to persuade them. They were waiting, actually
demanding, the features that we were
trying to build for them.
Interviewer: What can people do now that they did not do before this
new way of working program?
Paul van den Berg: Apart from the ability to work at home using VDI sessions, which are
exactly the same as their workplace in the courthouse, they can
also work in another courthouse. If they are assigned to a
different district, they can just take their laptop and get
access to their data which was totally impossible in the past,
on the one hand. On the other hand it is, for instance, possible
to use multimedia files in a case, attach it to the
documentation that they are working on and all these kinds of
things that make their life a lot easier, and it stops them from
having to run around the building looking for the dockets that
they are currently working on.
Interviewer: You are also using technology to hold legal hearings
remotely. Can you explain how that works?
Paul van den Berg: Yes. A particular example would be a person that would enter an
airport without the appropriate
documentation, and it is actually possible for him to be heard
by an official through a teleconference from there, to a
courthouse, and it saves having to transport the person and
actually bring them to a courthouse and probably hold them
overnight. It is possible to process them very quickly and
either clear them for entry to minimize the discomfort to the
person, or on the other hand, in case we cannot clear it, he can
be sent back to the location from which he departed.
There are a number of applications for this that we are
currently researching. For instance, this could also be used in
the case of football disturbances or other things where those
people need to be processed quickly, and you do not want to move
people around a lot. This is all still under development but is
actually quite successful at this time.
Interviewer: What are the benefits for the Ministry of Justice in
introducing these new ways of working, both for the Ministry and
for the individuals who work for them?
Paul van den Berg: Again, a number of things, both on the people side as on the
technology side, and the cost side. First of all, we used to
have a different IT system per court district, and we needed to
maintain a maintenance staff at every level. Of course, having
one centralized system based on new technology allows a
significant reduction in cost, and that, of course, actually
pays for the program in itself.
On the other hand, the features I mentioned earlier, such as the
ability to collaborate, the fact that people can work at home,
the mobility, facilitating part-time people. We talked about a
little bit that, I think Steve mentioned also
that there are lots of people working part-time. They try to get
the right people in the workforce to work for you, and this
allows, for instance, participating of part-time people in the
court system because they can work at home, still prepare for a
case, and things like that.
The third part is we have been able to do a lot about the
environment, as well, because we replaced all the old hardware
with new hardware, and we are using, exclusively solid-state
hardware in our PCs which actually gives us a 47% decrease in
energy need, and it is also a better CO2 footprint, which is one
of the objectives of the program, also.
Interviewer: Paul, what advice would you give to other organizations
that want to work in smarter ways?
Paul van den Berg: Again, the advice is that at different levels. First of all, it is
extremely important to listen very well to the people. You need
to get the share of their heart, as far as what they need and
how they want to work. If you try to force it on the workforce,
it will not actually work, and they will not take it up, on the
one side. On the other side, you have to move this way,
considering the development in the workforce and things like
that, so you do not have much choice but listening is the most
On the technology side, I found that to run a successful
program, it is extremely important that you have a very clear
vision about your technology strategy and how it matches the
business strategy. From this technology strategy, you can
develop a good plan, and you can develop good steps and projects
to actually achieve that, and then stick to that plan. One of
the biggest pitfalls of large IT projects is that people do not
stick to the plan that they set out on, and hence, due to all
the changes, the cost explodes, and the timelines explode, and
things like that, and hence, the people, the clients, get
dissatisfied and give IT projects a bad name.
Again, it is preparation, listening to the clients, get your
technology strategy clear, straight, and then stick to the plan.
Interviewer: Paul, thank you for your time.
Paul van den Berg: Thank you.