A combination of “the best of open source and closed source” software has helped the Ministry of Justice complete an IT project on time and to budget, according to the systems integrator who worked on the scheme.

Trevor Pegley of systems integration firm Visionhall told a Westminster eForum event in London that the public sector was often reluctant to take up open source software because of an attitude that “a non-proprietary product from a small vendor is seen as a risk, and risk is to be avoided at all costs”.

But the Commercial Courts IT project (CCIT) had successfully replaced paper-based systems with an integrated case management, e-filing and diary system using a mixture of products.

Visionhall, working as a subcontractor of EDS, built the system on its own InterComm case management architecture and then “connected the different components in a modular fashion using open standards”, Pegley said.

The diary management element was specially written, while the e-filing component was based on Alfresco’s open source enterprise content management software.

“The key advantage to working with open source... is access to the source code,” Pegley said. “If we uncover a rare glitch, we can find the solution ourselves. This flexibility was crucial to the success of CCIT.”

No faults had been logged for the new CCIT system in the first 18 months of its operation, Pegley said.

The Ministry of Justice has had less success with its Libra case management system for magistrates courts, which has seen a string of delays and cost hikes since the project began in 1998. HM Courts Service has promised that the system will be rolled out by the end of next year, although it has so far been deployed in fewer than one in eight courts.