Montana OPD Leverages HIKE2 & Advologix for Streamlined, Modernized Solutions that Inspire Confidence in Public Defense Case Management

Automations, validations, and a new suite of tools bring Montana's Office of State Public Defender into 2022 and set the stage for the future.

The Montana Office of the State Public Defender (OPD) is a statewide indigent defense representation agency.They represent from the lowest courts, with citizen judges, all the way up to the Montana Supreme Court. A true state agency, Montana OPD has approximately 300 employees and upwards of 600 external vendors, including contract attorneys, mental health providers, investigators, and expert witnesses. They process about 33,000 to 35,000 new cases in a year, representing between 20,000-25,000 unique clients.

montana state public defender

The Challenge

Integrating multiple databases, platforms, and business processes into one smoothly running, modern, more efficient solution.

The Impact

Increased automations, streamlined data-entry processes, effective data controls, and robust data validation provide OPD and its stakeholders Agency data that can be trusted.

The Outcome

With HIKE2’s Advisory and Solutions Services, the Salesforce platform and AdvoLogix, Montana OPD has a strong, reliable foundation for better budget support and appropriations and prepares them for powerful future technology improvements.

Montana Office of State Public Defender (OPD)

The Montana Office of the State Public Defender (OPD) is one of the widest and tallest public defense agencies in the country, representing clients in roughly 180 different courts, across more than a dozen different criminal and civil matter types, including all appeals from lower courts. OPD is unique in that it is a unified agency that represents clients in all criminal matters, including juvenile youth court matters, as well as a variety of civil cases, such as abuse and neglect, mental health and substance abuse commitments, guardianships and conservatorships for individuals unable to care for themselves, and more.

Integration and Implementation Challenges

With documentation and consistency being extremely important to the agency, their Development and Operations Bureau Chief Brett Schandelson’s first big goal was to ensure that all the office’s necessary tasks were completed. Our team started with closing business process gaps that caused their data to be unreliable. This fed directly to Schandelson’s second goal: to bring some credibility and integrity into their data processes. The OPD had accomplished some of this prior to AdvoLogix but the new tool helped them make even faster progress. "We're light-years ahead of where we were. Advo has really helped us prepare for the next session by giving some credibility to what we say. We now have reliable data for the legislature and the governor's office when it comes to budget requests. HIKE2 did a great job understanding our business rules. We were severely under-resourced. But what we were able to accomplish with HIKE2 in spite of that was quite impressive, “ Schandelson explains.

The Agency’s Primary Goals

To create top-to-bottom alignment on high-level goals.

To increase the value provided by technology to our end-users and to reduce the burden of data entry and administrative tasks.

To support all the agency's goals with reliable, consistent data.

A Flexible, Customizable Solution

On paper, HIKE2 + Salesforce + AdvoLogix looked good — but when the OPD team saw the demo, they were blown away. "Once we saw what the solution was capable of, we said, 'Yes, we want that!” Schandelson says. The OPD came from a system that had no automation, workflows, approvals, or routing built-in. No vendor had anything that touched JustWare out of the gate. Capabilities had to be custom-built — and the team proposed a solution that absolutely nailed it. HIKE2 immediately dove in and did a full mapping of OPD's existing business processes.

brett schandelson

"We were severely under-resourced. But what we were able to accomplish with HIKE2 in spite of that was quite impressive."

Brett Schandelson

Montana OPD’s Development and Operations Bureau Chief

Operational Improvements and Results

Many of OPD’s objectives on improving operations have been implemented, which Brett thinks is a huge win given the circumstances.
Notable improvements include:

Better Controls

Data Integrity

Agency Data
Management

Ad Hoc
Reporting

Exception
Management

Security
Improvements

Streamlined
Time Keeping

Improved
Operational
Efficiency

Robust SMS
Capabilities

Batch Tools

Improved
Scheduling
Capabilities

A Look Ahead into the Future

Montana OPD's IT services have historically been desktop and network support. They plan to pivot that to full system administrator application support and agency platform management, including DevOps.

They also intend to use HIKE2’s Agile Project Management IP ”Tracker “ to provide governance on priorities, outcomes, resources, and status to ensure efficient and effective progress on user experiences, process improvement, and technology architecture and solutions.

"We're also looking forward to working with HIKE2 for some strategic planning. We don't really have access to that elsewhere, and we expect it to be game-changing," Schandelson says. “While we can’t do much in the short term in terms of getting more resources, we can prepare for strategic planning, which will lead to better support and appropriations in the future.”

Public defense agencies are generally under-resourced, and the justice system specifically: it's courts, it's prosecutors, it's the police, but everybody has the same kinds of issues. Using technology like AdvoLogix to address some of those issues has to be the answer in 2022 and beyond.

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