( Orange County Register )

The state Department of Finance issued a critical report Wednesday about the Department of Motor Vehicles — and the DMV agreed with the findings and recommended remedies.

The report summarizes an audit of the troubled department that was ordered by then-Gov. Jerry Brown after a series of problems at the DMV — long lines, technological glitches, Motor Voter registration errors and serious concerns about the state’s ability to comply with the federal Real ID program by next year’s deadline.

The purpose of the Department of Finance (DoF) audit was twofold: to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of the DMV’s current operations and make recommendations to improve its practices and enhance the field office customer experience; and to evaluate DMV’s IT system and its impact on the field office customer experience. 

The audit includes a lengthy section detailing the department’s problems with technology, along with recommendations. (Some of these problems are not unique to DMV; to those in the private sector, some are familiar.)

Problem: Insufficient network system infrastructure and lack of monitoring processes contributed to field office outages, impacting customers’ ability to obtain DMV services.  

Recommendations:

  • Increase circuit capacity to support the needs of field offices; proactively monitor network performance to identify and mitigate potential outages. The report advises the DMV to configure its SolarWinds software to produce “warning history reports” and to analyze these reports weekly to enable timely identification of potential network performance issues.
  • Enhance the Incident Ticket process to consistently prioritize and promptly resolve field office IT issues.

Problem: Project prioritization, management, testing and documentation practices need improvement.

Recommendations:

  • Review the project prioritization process and follow scoring and ranking templates.
  • Resolve critical, serious and moderate defects before a project launches.
  • Complete all required tests before launching IT projects.
  • Document approval and completion of key project components.

Problem: Legacy computer programming language contributes to succession planning risks. 

Recommendations:

  • Raise the priority of transitioning from legacy programming languages.
  • Raise the priority of succession and workforce planning.
  • Finalize and implement the Succession and Workforce Plan.

In the DMV’s response to the audit, the department’s new acting director, Kathleen Webb, acknowledges the shortcomings of the DMV’s past business practices and notes that remedies are either planned or already in the works.

Specifically in the area of IT, Webb said the agency has already undertaken or will undertake key steps of interest to the tech industry, including:

  • Use the state’s Request for Offer process to select a vendor “to transform the DMV customer experience; in particular, as it relates to the implementation of Real ID”;
  • “Develop an enterprise-wide IT governance structure and project management system”;
  • Improve network infrastructure and increase monitoring to to reduce outages;
  • Seek innovative ways to leverage technology including state partnerships to address infrastructure needs; and
  • Improve project management, testing and documentation practices.

“DMV is working with DoF on a Spring Finance Letter that will request funding, where needed, to implement several of these recommendations,” Webb writes in her response. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom, meanwhile, is still recruiting for a new DMV director. Jean Shiomoto, the longtime chief, retired in December, and Webb is the third acting director since then.

Newsom has assigned Secretary Marybel Batjer of the Government Operations Agency (GovOps) to head a DMV Strike Team to investigate, diagnose and recommend solutions to the department's problems.  

The Sacramento Bee reported that Brian Annis, secretary of the California State Transportation Agency, said in a statement that he’s confident that the DMV, which comes under his aegis, can turn things around. 

"The Department of Motor Vehicles is at a period of transition,” Annis wrote. “It’s my expectation that the department will fully implement the Department of Finance audit findings, continue work to streamline processes and improve the overall customer experience for all Californians.”