Q&A with Mark Bittner, Head of Judicial Information Systems
Mark Bittner joined the Maryland Judiciary in 2004 as the manager of the Project Management Office. He was appointed as executive director of JIS in 2011. Before stepping up to lead JIS, Bittner was the program manager for the MDEC initiative, and talks here about MDEC’s next steps and how JIS is involved.
- What was your professional background before joining JIS?
I started in the IT field after graduating from Loyola University Maryland. The first 26 years of my career I worked in the private sector in the financial services industry - banking, insurance, and investment management. I then spent two years managing and consulting with an IT services company. I came to the State of Maryland in 2002 to work for the Department of Budget and Management in their Office of IT (now the Department of IT), and was fortunate to have the opportunity to join the Judiciary in 2004.
- What is your role and what are your major responsibilities with MDEC?
Prior to my appointment as executive director, I was the program manager for the MDEC initiative. As such, I was responsible for the overall operation of the project. This role has been turned over to Ms. Joan Nairn, and we are very fortunate to have someone of Ms. Nairn's abilities and background in this role. Joan works very closely with Ms. Carla Jones, director of the Court Business Office, to integrate the technical and business aspects of the project into an overall plan. I am still heavily involved with the project and responsible for ensuring that the appropriate JIS resources are applied to the effort. I also serve on the MDEC Executive Steering Committee along with Chief Judge Ben Clyburn of the District Court of Maryland, State Court Administrator Frank Broccolina, and Deputy State Court Administrator Faye Matthews.
- Now that a vendor has been chosen, what are the next major steps in the MDEC process? How is JIS involved?
With Tyler Technologies chosen as the vendor and a contract in place, the first major step is to establish a very detailed project plan and schedule. While preliminary plans had been drafted, these will need to be confirmed through very focused planning sessions with Tyler and a hands-on 'gap analysis' activity. In the gap analysis, a final determination of how the software needs to be customized for Maryland will be determined. This will be done through the hands-on use of the software as it comes 'out of the box'. While many software customizations were identified during the vendor evaluation process, there is no substitute for hands-on use. The planning and gap analysis phase of the project will start shortly and will continue through the first quarter of 2012.
JIS is involved in every aspect of the project. JIS will host and manage the hardware on which the software runs, provide technical guidance and assistance with setting up the system, work with Tyler on all aspects of converting data from the existing case management systems to the new system, coordinate with all state and local entities to replace existing exchanges of information and data, ensure that data is available statewide as needed while the transition takes place from the existing systems to the new one, connect the new system to other systems at JIS (for instance, CourtSmart, cash registers, etc.), provide and configure workstations needed for the new system, provide training support as needed, and JIS will assume primary support for the system. This is truly a partnership between the Judiciary and Tyler Technologies.
- What other projects and goals is JIS involved with currently?
There are many. The goal of JIS is to provide cost-effective and responsive support of the Judiciary's IT needs. Technology advances have changed the way we live. Unfortunately, many of the systems used in the Judiciary today are unable to take advantage of newer technologies. It is kind of like having VHS systems in a DVD/Blu-Ray world. In addition to MDEC, JIS has several other major projects in process to replace older systems. An antiquated jury management system has been replaced in 13 circuit courts and work is currently in process to implement it in Baltimore City. A new cash register system is being piloted in all Anne Arundel courts and the Traffic Processing Center. This system will replace the cash registers used in both the District Court and the Circuit Courts for non-UCS payments. Statewiderollout of the system is planned to begin in early 2012. A project to replace the systems used by the AOC for finance, procurement, human resources, and grants administration is also under way. An award for services to help implement software that will integrate all these functions is anticipated by the end of the 2011. An analysis is also under way to determine the best approach to take electronic payments (credit card and online payments) across the entire Judiciary and a project to update all Judiciary-supported workstations to Microsoft Office 2010 and Windows 7 is starting. And if that was not enough, we continue to expand the facilities for teleconferencing and a project to upgrade the capacity of our network to handle increasing demands is under way. We have completed the first phase of the project to provide expanded primary network capacity and are now looking at establishing secondary (aka backup) capabilities to ensure a responsive and resilient network. We are also planning to establish a secondary data center. All of these projects are connected to the MDEC implementation and need to be in place to make the MDEC vision a reality. So, in short, we are changing just about everything, and everyone in the Judiciary will see and feel the changes.
- What will be the keys to the success of JIS?
In short, coordination, accountability, and teamwork. It always begins at the top and I am fortunate to have Mr. Bob Bruchalski as my deputy director. Bob understands not only our current operation, but has long been involved with the planning that has brought us to this point. His understanding of technology and willingness to do whatever is needed demonstrates the teamwork that is critical to our success. The JIS management team and the many dedicated staff have consistently met the challenges of the past and are coming together to work with the entire Judiciary to make this critical technology transition.