Thursday, May 10, 2012

Kansas DMV isn't doing itself any favors with system hiccups

Posted By on Thu, May 10, 2012 at 8:47 AM

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So you're the Kansas Department of Revenue and you've got to upgrade the system at the Department of Motor Vehicles. That means you have to shut down your website and physical offices for a week as part of a two-phase $40 million plan that will have you repeating these steps this fall.

You're installing new software and hardware to take two systems - one that processes driver's licenses and the other that tracks registrations, titles and tags - and turn them into one database. There are 6.8 million records that you estimated would take 100 hours to move to this new database. You've got to train 900 employees in county and state offices. You've been collecting taxes since 2009, the same year that 3M began working on a customized solution for the state.

You just forgot one very important thing: People don't like going to the DMV.

Americans will find any excuse to avoid visiting the DMV, whether it's virtually or in person. That's because it's been drilled into our heads that this is the place our happiness goes to die. The DMV has been fodder for stand-up comedians since the first driver's license was issued.

So, while Kansans were urged to visit offices in the weeks prior to the closing, that's a recommendation that many ignored. That ignorance turned to annoyance when those who needed to renew their registration or license discovered that the offices were closed for the week. Now, with technical difficulties forcing the offices to shutter early on Tuesday and causing three-hour lines in Johnson County yesterday, Kansas is on the hook for what amounts to statewide user error. We've got a pretty good bottleneck going.

The new system will likely be more efficient (for example, the title of a car will be easier to ascertain) and theoretically eliminate headaches for the state and drivers. But right not, in the world of Twitter, the long-term benefits don't matter to folks sitting on tacky chairs and watching numbers trickle by on an electronic screen like it's the world's slowest deli.

If you don't want a pipe to burst in freezing temperatures, you've got to leave the taps on a trickle. By completely shutting off the flow for license and registration renewals, the Department of Revenue has seen the pressure build over the past week. The system is strained right now and on the verge of bursting, and it's state officials and the unfortunate DMV office workers who will end up all wet.

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