Propylon worked with the Montana Legislative Services Division (LSD) team on a large-scale data and process transformation project to successfully convert the Montana Code Annotated (MCA) from the ageing mainframe environment to a modern, supported, user-friendly technology in time for the start of the 2017 session. The project was awarded for excellence in innovative technology at the 2016 Montana Government IT Conference in December. The award sought to recognize and honour innovation and excellence in the use of information technology in state government, and this project was chosen due to the transformational way in which it has addressed critical business processes, ensuring that the Montana laws are on a platform that will support the legislature into the future.
The Montana Legislature’s technology infrastructure for the MCA was dated, over-complicated, and a number of the tools used to support the update and publishing of the MCA had become obsolete. Many of the systems had been in place since the 1970s and were no longer working efficiently. A number of the experts that supported these aging systems had retired in recent years, increasing the risk that an outage to the legacy systems would have major impact. All of these factors created the risk that a catastrophic failure could occur at a critical time in the legislative calendar when MCA publications were being produced.
To support their mission of alleviating risks, improving process efficiency, and maintaining accuracy, Propylon worked with the Montana LSD team to provide a solution that offered significant advancements to Montana’s core systems. The key objectives of the project were to:
Migrate the MCA data, business processes and automation layers off the mainframe
Implement a user-friendly, reliable and robust platform to manage the MCA
Provide a set of tools that improve the efficiency and turnaround times of the MCA publications
Ensure the new technology platform significantly reduces the learning curve for new users
To accomplish these goals, we extracted the data from the State of Montana mainframe in its native format. We converted the MCA into an XML-based format, which will enable the Montana Legislative Branch to produce and publish the statute more effectively. This resulted in the successful implementation of a streamlined document management system, which allowed us to build tools that will facilitate single-source publishing content easily in several different formats, including multiple electronic formats such as HTML, Folio Flat File, InDesign PDF, MS Word and WordPerfect, as well as paper publications.
The MCA is the “crown jewels” of the Montana Legislature’s data assets and its conversion had to be flawless, secure, and with defects easily identifiable and corrected.
Once we had successfully converted the Montana laws into a professional content management system, we were able to build a suite of legislative enterprise applications to help manage the content update workflows and publishing processes. Features include new content dashboards with role-based access for users, and tools to ensure that the MCA is handled with the intricate care it merits.
A key component in the success of this project lay in paying meticulous attention to quality, both in the programming of the migration system and in its final execution. Our commitment to quality meant that we continuously monitored each step of the project and tracked developments to ensure that quality levels were met. Our rigorous conversion and audit processes ensured that all content was quality checked on its way from the mainframe to XML. Once all of the data was successfully transformed to XML and stored in the new legislative workbench (LWB) datastore, we customized the user-based applications to manage it. We worked tirelessly with the system users to ensure that the applications meet their current and future needs in supporting the complex process of managing legislation updates.
The success of the project means that the data is now off the mainframe and exists in a modern XML format which supports the publishing of information in multiple formats to accommodate the needs of the legislature and its stakeholders, whether that be a member wanting to find a section of law easily when they need to, or a constituent requiring an app that gives them a transparent view of Montana’s updated laws, for example.
Housing the MCA in a safe and supportable technical environment
Providing an upgraded and streamlined committee management system
Mitigating the risk of old technology and the lack of resources
Implementing creative solutions to meet users’ needs
Providing audit trails, metadata search, machine readable data
Integrating Annotation and MCA data structure and the standard open format of data
Introducing legislative semantic mark-up to the XML format to enrich the data
Enabling Montana IT teams to take over the supporting of the production system
Reflecting on the success of the project, Propylon’s Vice President of Technical Architecture, Kieran Fitzpatrick, said:
“Migrating the MCA data into the LWB platform allowed us to work with the Montana state team to create greater end-user value through the addition of a modern enterprise application platform. Going forward, we will work together to provide a consolidated and shared legislative content management system.”
The MCA’s mainframe migration is part of a larger program of work to build an IT platform and suite of tools that will support the legislature management of electronic changes to the law for years to come. The next stage will focus on creating a new, fully mobile- optimized website for the Montana Legislature to increase constituent transparency and engagement.