Systems integration gauge crafted

University at Albany's Center for Technology in Government

With the Justice Department's help, an applied research center in New York state is developing a capability assessment tool so that justice organizations can gauge how far along they are in their information integration projects.

A kit is still about six months away from being tested in a pilot project, said Anthony Cresswell, deputy director with the University at Albany's Center for Technology in Government (CTG), which last year received $503,000 in federal funding.

"It's a big activity right now and there's a lot going on," he said, referring to integration projects. "Our view is that there's an enormous amount of stuff to be done and there's a lot of areas that haven't progressed very far."

A first draft of the assessment tool was presented in November 2002 to a workshop of justice professionals, he said. And after it is field-tested, the tool would likely be reviewed in another workshop before it's ready by the end of this year.

Whether it will be a paper-based or electronic tool hasn't been determined yet, but it would be used to judge a project's readiness or capability, Cresswell said. It could contain instructions, guidelines, procedures and background readings, among other things, to gather and interpret data. It would be somewhat based on accreditation procedures performed on higher education institutions, prisons and police departments, he added.

"Those judgments would be a way of saying what's the state of information integration in any community and where should the investments be made to improve integration," he said.

Cresswell said that a self-assessment approach would work best because it would help those involved in the integration project find its strengths and weaknesses. They would be able to determine whether their plan is feasible in light of the completed assessment, provide information to mobilize resources or make a business case to lawmakers for more resources.

CTG's efforts are related to similar efforts being undertaken by the National Governors Association, which is supporting state-level strategic planning activities in this area, said Cresswell. The National Association of State Chief Information Officers, he added, is developing a related performance measure component.

The research group began working with the U.S. Justice Department four years ago when it developed a guide to help the justice community — law enforcement, courts, corrections, parole and probation — build a business case for information integration projects to garner support from policymakers.

In addition to the current project, the research group also recently received a $1.2 million National Science Foundation grant to study information integration in government, specifically in the environmental protection area that will be complementary to the current Justice Department project, Cresswell said.

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