ProCAT Software Vendor Interview

What follows is my March 24, 2008 interview with Deby Owens, National Promo Manager of ProCAT.  ProCAT is a court reporting software company based in Calabasas, California.  I wanted to get this interview in a continuing effort to provide CAT vendor information to readers of my blogÖ

 

TODD OLIVAS:  Okay, I think weíre going.  So, Deby, would you please just sort of tell me who you are and what you do for ProCAT. 

DEBY OWENS:  Yeah, my name is Deby Owens, and I am the National Sales Manager for ProCAT.  I was actually in court reporting school, graduated court reporting at Court Reporting Institute of Dallas many years ago, and ended up going to work for ProCAT. 

TODD OLIVAS:  Oh, I see.  Did you actually finish school or did you decide it wasnít for you?

DEBY OWENS:  Yeah, I did. I graduated and had a scoping business during the time that I was going through school, putting out about 2300 pages a month for a while. 

TODD OLIVAS:  Wow. 

DEBY OWENS:  And thatís kind of how I ended up on the technology side of this business.  

TODD OLIVAS:  So how did it come about that you went to work for ProCAT? 

DEBY OWENS:  Actually, I was getting burned out on putting out so many pages a month and wanted to break it up.  And so there was a little index card on the board one day at the school.  And the area rep for Dallas was looking for someone to do some marketing a few hours a week.  And so I thought, well, thatíll be interesting.  And I grew from the bottom up. 

TODD OLIVAS:  Thatís great.  What got ProCAT, your company, into the court reporting software business?

DEBY OWENS:  The president of the company is Bob Bakva, and itís called Advanced Translation Technology, Inc.  Thatís the parent of ProCAT.  He -- back in 1982, or actually, this was a little before that -- 1982 was actually when he started the company. He had -- the part of California he was living in at that time, there was a court reporting school across from where he was living.  He said he saw Perry Mason which got him to thinking about it.

Anyway, he started investigating it, looking into how it was done, how the transcripts were produced, and stopped by one day to look at the program to see exactly what it consisted of, and saw how outdated things were being done back then.  Back then, they were still using computers that took up half of a room, if not the whole room. And so ultimately thatís what led him here.   He has a degree in computer science.  And he wrote the very first version of the software to go on personal computers.  In fact, ProCAT was the first DOS program that came out for court reporting. 

TODD OLIVAS:  What language -- what computer language did he write it in, the first version? 

DEBY OWENS:  Oh, donít ask me that one. 

TODD OLIVAS:  It doesnít matter.  I am just a sort of a wannabe tech geek too.  So, I was curious. 

DEBY OWENS:  Yeah, I donít really know back then.  I know all I have ever heard him talk about, I think, is C+ or -- 

TODD OLIVAS:  Yeah, yeah.  That makes sense. 

DEBY OWENS:   I donít know what it is or where to -- off the top of my head.  Iíll leave that part up to people that really know a lot about it. 

TODD OLIVAS:  Thatís okay.  This is a sales information call, mostly, a sales interview.  How many iterations of the software have there been since that first version?  Like, you know, how many different versions have there been, updates and such?  

DEBY OWENS:  Gosh, well, it all started out with ProCAT.  And then there were several versions after that that have come over the years, Elite, Winner, etc.   WE have continued to grow the software over the years.  Winner was the first Windows introduction.

TODD OLIVAS:  Oh.

DEBY OWENS:  But with the first version, we left the DOS editor because back then it wasnít quite what it needed to be yet for a Windows editor.  And itís a major undertaking.

TODD OLIVAS:  Iíll bet. 

DEBY OWENS:  And it went to a full 32-bit program in Windows.  And he just kept growing it from there. A lot of  -- I mean other than the stuff that the industry dictates, the majority of our growth has come through our clients and what they want to see in the software.

TODD OLIVAS:  Got it.  So you guys have really listened to the audience -- or your client base -- customer base -- and added features as needed all along the way. 

DEBY OWENS:  We do.  Itís an open door.  All the clients know they can email features that they come across, things that they would like to have work differently, short cut keys, things like that. And it helps a lot. 

TODD OLIVAS:  And on your website, Iíve noticed you guys have an on-line forum, I believe, for people to chat about issues and ideas. 

DEBY OWENS:  We do.  We developed our own because some of the forums tend to get way too political and gets the focus away from actual court reporting.  Our clients were asking for their own area to go to.  And so we just developed our own user forum through ProCAT. Itís amazing to go in and look because they really help each other, share short cuts that they come up with, customized macros that someone comes up with, and so on. They use it very efficiently. 

TODD OLIVAS:  Just, like, sort of a community support system for people who are all using ProCAT. 

DEBY OWENS:  Uh-huh.  Theyíre all using ProCAT. 

TODD OLIVAS:  Thatís great.  So what changes have you seen in the court reporting software business, letís say, since you started? 

DEBY OWENS:  Well, thereís lots because so much has changed.  I have been working for ProCAT 16 years, so I have seen a lot of stuff.   I would say that the changes that have impacted the reporterís ability to be a good reporter the most is conflict resolution, definitely, because so many of the reporters who have been reporting for any length of time have conflicts.    They didnít learn the conflict free theories we have now.  Some didnít learn long vowels. 

TODD OLIVAS:  Thatís right. 

DEBY OWENS:  The artificial intelligence that has come into the system such as the number processing and all those things -- huge time savers.  Those are typically areas that reporters struggle in.  Also the ease of use, the increased short cut keys that allow you to efficiently move through the system, instead of pop up screens everywhere, and different keyboards that you go in and out of like some systems. 

 One thing we have for translation which really helps in editing is suggest translation.  Basically what that is, the system reads phonetically.  So when it comes to an untranslate, it sounds it out phonetically and then  pulls up a list of suggested words.  The reporter simply chooses the dictionary it goes to, and then it inserts the word instead of having to type it, which saves wear and tear on the hands and time.   The automatic suffixing and prefixing -- I was talking about that because I remember back when, you know, it didnít double consonants or drop the e and add the -ing and you had to global everything in the world in different dictionaries. So thatís been a real benefit, a realtime advancement.  Actually, I would say beneficial whether they do it for a hookup or just realtime for themselves.  It helps the reporter because they see their problem areas when they are writing realtime.  It helps them to consciously or unconsciously clean up their writing.

The dictionary, I think, has had a lot of improvement, allowing the reporters to easily go through their dictionary and edit sections, remove things, because everyone changes their writing over the years.  And used to, you know, you always had to remember where you were and then try to go back and find it. And we have really broken ours down so they can pull up any portion of the dictionary that they want to work on. 

TODD OLIVAS: Oh, thatís great. 

DEBY OWENS:  They can have multiple deletions or can copy them from one place to another. 

TODD OLIVAS:  So you can actually go in and edit directly on the dictionary itself and clean up something. 

DEBY OWENS: Yes.  One thing that we have that, I think, as far as I know, is exclusive to ProCAT is eScript.  And itís our own version, similar to what E-Transcript is, the difference being that it just uses an HTML format which you can email it to a client.  All they have to have is Internet Explorer, because when they double click on it, it opens it up in Explorer. 

TODD OLIVAS:  Oh, thatís great. So there is no need to download anything special. 

DEBY OWENS:  You donít need to buy a separate program. 

TODD OLIVAS:  And they can print it like the condensed format. 

DEBY OWENS:  Uh-huh. 

TODD OLIVAS:  Oh, great.  That is awesome. 

DEBY OWENS:  Oh, I am sorry.  No, it does not print the condensed format on that.  Basically, ours is for utilizing the search function.  A lot of paralegals use it when preparing for trail and searching through the transcript.  The judges -- if there has to be a ruling, they can copy and paste out of it.  While the system has condensed, eScript does not have that ability.   But on eScript itself, you can search, and even hear audio if you want, but just not condensed.

TODD OLIVAS:  Oh, I see.  I got you.

DEBY OWENS:  Those are the major things that I have seen that I think are the most important.

TODD OLIVAS:  Well, youíre right, that was a lot.  What would you say are your recommended tips for people when choosing CAT software?  Talk to the student who is just graduating school and ready to take their license or get their license and then pick a software, say, ProCAT software -- what would you say to them?

DEBY OWENS:  I think whether itís a student or a working reporter thatís looking for new software, the biggest thing -- and I have always told people this because I learned myself starting out -- donít choose something just because your friend has it, or someone you work has it or, you know, itís what you learned at school when you were a student.  Look at the products that are out there and make a decision on what you like.  Because what I have seen is many times people buy something because someone else has it.  And they say, ďOh, itís great.Ē And they think they can help them if they have problems so they just go ahead and get it.   In theory thatís great, but in reality that is not what happens.  The features that one person thinks is the ooh and ah in a system may not be your ooh and ah.

TODD OLIVAS:  Good point. 

DEBY OWENS: And basically there is no reason today in this market for anyone to be required to be on a certain software anymore.  And so my advice would be to take a good look at everything. Make the salesperson let you put your hands on the keyboard and do some editing, because all the fancy features in the world wonít matter if you canít be efficient in your editing process.   Because that is where you are going to save your time.

TODD OLIVAS:  Exactly.  So what would you say are the differentiating points between ProCAT and the other vendors? 

DEBY OWENS:  I think that some of our strong points are number one, ease of use.  I think that our programmers have done a little more work to take the difficulty out of setting things up that a lot of the systems require in order for the advanced features to work.  An example would be number processing.  With our number processing, you have no numbers in your dictionary at all, and the system just is designed to format all the numbers properly. Auto-indexing -- you click one button and it generates it and then inserts it.  Batch printing is something that came from a client that everyone just loves, and thatís where you can print a transcript, a concordance, and a condensed, all with one click.  And it generates all three of them.  

TODD OLIVAS:  Oh, thatís a time saver. 

DEBY OWENS:  It is, because you donít have to sit and wait for one to print after another.  Another would be the billing software that is included.  Which -- even if you work for a firm that is doing your billing, it is a good way to keep up with what you have billed out.  When you need to do quarterly tax payments, you can pull up what you billed out during a certain period.  Or if you leave a firm you know whatís still owing when you walk out the door.  eScript -- which we have already talked about.   AudioScript is an advanced form of eScript, meaning that each line is hyperlinked to the audio.  If you have done audio recording on that job, when you click on a hyperlink it will start playing the audio for that line. 

TODD OLIVAS:  Wow, thatís cool. 

DEBY OWENS:  And then we also have vScript.  If you have a videographer there, you can blend all three together.  That -- and then I guess the last thing -- the ability to customize the program to meet your needs. 

TODD OLIVAS:  Whatís the level of customization? What do you mean, like, setting up different keyboard shortcuts and the like? 

DEBY OWENS:  Yeah, because everyone has specific things that they run up against.  And so they have a lot of ability in reassigning keys and stuff like that.  But to a go a step further, we have something called keyboard commands that are, like -- the easiest thing is for me to give you an example.  If the attorney says, ďState your name for the record,Ē and he then pauses, the first thing youíre going to do is hit your answer bank.  And then he says, ďand spell it.  Now typically this is something you are going to clean up during editing, but we have a keyboard command that when I hit this stroke on my machine, it takes that answer out, hooks it back up, and joins it to the rest of the question with one stroke.

TODD OLIVAS:  Oh, I see.  Thatís a huge time saver. 

DEBY OWENS:  Lots of little things like that that you can take care of during your writing, instead of having to do it in the editing. 

TODD OLIVAS:  Great.  So, sort of looking toward the future then, what do you think the future of court reporting looks like in, say, five years?  Though thatís probably hard to say even just for next year.

DEBY OWENS:  It is, even from our side.  I see continued advancement of the intelligence features that allow further ease and quickness, and being able to put out transcripts faster, things that do more things for you.  Ultimately features allowing anyone to become a realtime reporter, even if their skills arenít quite at that level, through the artificial intelligence.

TODD OLIVAS:  Wow. 

DEBY OWENS:  Thatís probably where the biggest growth will be. 

TODD OLIVAS:  Thatíll be amazing.  And Deby, finally, what one thing would you like court reporters and students to take away from reading this interview with you?  One last parting idea?

DEBY OWENS:  I would go back to -- I think the biggest thing they can take away is when they are looking to purchase their writer and their software, do it based upon their own investigation and determination of what fits their needs.  And I say that because coming from this side of the field, I have seen a new reporter go to work for a firm and they wanted them to purchase a certain software.  Then three, six months later, the work is slowing down, they arenít getting get any jobs, and theyíre out looking for another firm to work for. And I hate it.  Because then theyíre on a software that they did not necessarily want to begin with.  And theyíre not happy with it.  And you canít switch just because you go to the next firm.  What if they want you be on ďbrand ZĒ software?  You canít spend four thousand dollars every time you change firms. 

TODD OLIVAS:  Exactly.

DEBY OWENS:  And also, that the writer and the software is just one part of the whole equation.  The other part that they need to do is find out the companyís policies.  If you are not on support or current on the software, will they still help you if you call them?  And how are their updates, are the just fixes, or updates?  And basically just to do your homework and choose whatís right for you. 

TODD OLIVAS:  Very good.  Excellent last point.   I think thatís all I have. I really appreciate your taking the time, I really do.  

DEBY OWENS:  Well, thank you very much.  If you need anything else just call. 

TODD OLIVAS:  You know, I will send you a link when this thing is posted so you can see it in writing. 

DEBY OWENS: Okay, that would be awesome.

TODD OLIVAS: All right, Deby.  Thank you so much. Have a great day.

DEBY OWENS: Thank you.

TODD OLIVAS:  Bye.

DEBY OWENS:  Bye.

If you are interested in learning more about ProCAT or its software, you can contact them on their website at http://www.procat.com or 5146 Douglas Fir Road, Suite 100, Calabasas, CA 91302, (800) 769-6841, sales@procat.com.


Friday, April 04, 2008

Author
Todd Olivas

Todd Olivas is a court reporter and entrepreneur.
He founded TO&A in 2003.

  Comment by Maggie Cline | Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hi, Todd:

I met you at Cerritos a month or so ago. I am no longer working for Stenograph, and have a telephone interview with Deby Owens on Monday. This was very informative. Thank you for the time and for posting this interview.

Sincerely,

Maggie Cline



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