I have worked with courthouse data for years to perform statistical analysis and develop planning tools and business processes. This includes data on individual courts and data on portfolios with many courthouses.
Courthouse planning requires data on trends, workload, personnel, space, and future needs. Portfolio planning requires data on many court facilities. Data management is the key to making the data work for proper planning.
Harness the Power of your Data
Data is what allows decisions to be supported and progress to be made. It allows decision-makers to remain objective during highly heated “discussions” among stakeholders. Without data, a debate's loudest or perhaps most persistent side might win. With data, the right side of a debate will almost always prevail.
People can’t argue against facts, but the facts… the data… must be centralized, accessible, and accurate first, and that’s where data management can help.
Data management allows the real power of the data to be harnessed. What good is a ton of data if it is only available in a million spreadsheets? Spreadsheets allow the data to be gathered and even analyzed, but the true power of data comes when it is used to answer questions.
With properly built online databases and qualified people to manage them, the tough questions can be asked and answered. A few of those questions include:
Which courthouse has the greatest need for major renovation or new construction?
When will components need to move out of the courthouse to free up space?
How many courtrooms are needed to house future judges?
Let’s look at three key elements of how data can be effectively used in courthouse portfolio planning.
1. Centralized Data
Data centralization is simply gathering all of your data in one place so that it can be managed more effectively and easily accessed. As mentioned above, courthouse planning requires a large amount of data. Here is a sample:
- Demographic and economic data
- Historical and projected workload
- Historical and projected judges and personnel
- Existing facility data, including descriptive data and photographs
- Building assessments
- Design standards
- Floor plans
- Space deficiencies and needs
- Strategies to improve courthouse space or justify a new facility
A courthouse portfolio requires similar data on each facility. In addition, we perform requested studies and data analysis that are often very data intensive. Examples include studies on courtroom utilization, jury drivetime analysis, courthouse closings, and consolidating court space.
A centralized online database houses all of the data in one location, allowing it to be queried, displayed on dashboards, and, if I’m being honest… useful!
2. Accessible Data
Having a centralized online database that includes all of your courthouse portfolio data is great, but all members of the courthouse planning team need to be able to access the data for the true benefits to be realized. The data should be able to be “sliced and diced” in many different ways.
Building owners and architects need to look at overall trends, while planners might need a more granular level of detail. Each stakeholder should be able to work with the data they need without impacting the roles and responsibilities of others. Providing all stakeholders with secure access to the database is vital to ensuring that the data are available when decisions need to be made.
3. Accurate Data
What is the point of accessing the data if it isn’t accurate? Perhaps the most important key to successful courthouse portfolio planning is knowing whether the data used to make decisions can be trusted.
Version control is a thing of the past with a properly built database. Outdated data is no longer a concern. Knowing when the data were last updated and by whom provides certainty that the right people are updating the data and that the most recent data are available.
Better Courthouse Planning with Data Management
Imagine a centralized, accessible, and accurate database system containing the latest courthouse portfolio data and all historical data. With a properly designed user interface including various levels of permissions, the data could be continuously updated rather than being updated only once per year or even less often.
Armed with such data, decision-makers can feel confident that errors in the data will be reduced, the potential risk in data collection and analysis will be minimalized, and strategic and informed decisions regarding the courthouse portfolio can be made.