The Ministries of Justice of Hessen and Lower Saxony collaborated with Microsoft Services to create an electronic system to streamline the way judges interact with the documents and templates they need
as cases travel through the judicial system. By integrating familiar Microsoft technology into the system, the team ensured that judges would be able to quickly and easily start using the system without expensive and time-consuming training.
Courts in Germany work with millions of documents and templates that provide vital information judges need to work on cases. The German judiciary of the 16 federal states uses a few different case and records management systems to store this information. However,
judges found these systems unwieldy and time-consuming to navigate. With heavy caseloads to attend to, they did not have time for the additional training the technology required. Judges often preferred to use paper forms that were uploaded to the system by
the back office, relying on their assistants to access and manage the judicial text systems. This caused extra effort and offered room for improvement.
||Our goal was to build the justice workplace of the future without reinventing the wheel. By using Microsoft products as the building blocks, we created a rich, powerful, and user-friendly solution.
| Holger Sanio
Senior Judicial Administration Official, Lower Saxony Ministry of Justice
As caseloads and the associated paperwork increased, the Ministry of Justice of Hessen and Lower Saxony needed a system that would streamline the way documents were used so that judges could create the documents they need without having to wait for their assistants
to do so. The courts also needed a solution that would seamlessly integrate with systems already in place and have an intuitive interface requiring little training. Above all, it had to provide enough real value so that judges would use it. “Judges in Germany
are in principle free to choose their tools. Because of that software solutions must show a compelling value,” says Thomas Kruza, Senior Judge and Vice President of the IT-Agency for the Hessian Justice.
In 2008, the Ministries of Justice of Hessen and Lower Saxony formed a collaborative group to create such a solution. The project was named NeFa, short for “Neue Fachanwendung,” meaning “new line-of-business application.” Holger Sanio, Senior Judicial Administration
Official for the Lower Saxony Ministry of Justice and NeFa project manager says, “NeFa should meet the requirements for judges and be built on standard technologies.” With this goal in mind, the joint team engaged with Microsoft Services Consulting to create
a proof of concept to test the idea in the Munich Microsoft Technology Center.
Thomas Glahn, CIO of the Lower-Saxony Judiciary and Senior Judge says, “At NeFa, we consistently rely on current technology and software development methods. This begins with the development tools, goes beyond the process model, the software architecture, up
to the software used.”
During the first phase of the project, the team collaborated with Microsoft Services Consulting by using an agile development model. They incorporated feedback from judicial practitioners to create a solution running on the Windows 7 Enterprise operating system.
The solution is hosted within Microsoft Office 2010 by using easily recognizable tools such as task panes and ribbons. The result is an easily recognizable interface that provides features specific to the needs of the judiciary and a much wider selection of
electronic support than the current process. On the server side, SharePoint Server 2010 manages all the documents.
To use the system, judges log on to their desktops running Windows 7. They open Microsoft Word and select the NeFa ribbon in the menu. In addition to leading-edge workplace support for judges and business productivity software, basic features for electronic
judicial document interchange based on the EGVP standard and full electronic case document management continue to be developed.
“Our goal was to build the justice workplace of the future without reinventing the wheel,” says Sanio. “By using Microsoft products as the building blocks, we created a rich, powerful, and user-friendly solution.”
By developing NeFa in stages, the team was able to introduce innovations such as integrated workplace for judges, judicial decision databases, and integration of electronic case documents alongside existing systems. The agile development model allowed immediate
feedback from judges in the pilot group, encouraging acceptance. The judges are familiar with the Microsoft user interface and, therefore, more likely to use it. The resulting system can be easily replicated throughout the courts of the state of Hessen and
Lower Saxony, and eventually throughout Germany.
- Existing technology streamlines development. By integrating Microsoft products, the NeFa team was able to concentrate on business needs without having to spend time reinventing solutions that already exist. “Using Microsoft
Office means we don’t need to develop a special judicial word processor, and we’d clearly never be able to match the feature set available in Microsoft Word,” says Dr. Ralf Köbler, head of the department in charge of IT and modernization, judicial controlling,
organization, and real estate for the Hessian Ministry of Justice.
- Familiar work environment encourages uptake. NeFa provides judges with an innovative but familiar office tool based on Microsoft Office, increasing user acceptance and reducing the need for training. Ease of use encourages
judges to replace paper-based tasks with electronic processing, which increases overall judicial efficiency.
- Development and architecture model creates an easily replicated system. NeFa can easily be expanded throughout the two states and eventually throughout Germany. The software is based on trusted applications that can
run from a central server or from local hubs, depending on the preference of the IT infrastructure of each state.
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