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DMV Discusses Tech Needs, Desired Outcomes

During the premiere DMV Vendor Day, agency officials discussed with vendors how they hope to make the department more technologically modern and responsive to residents, less than a year before the federal Real ID deadline.

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The California Department of Motor Vehicles has begun a short, swift search for private-sector partners to assist in updating its technology and improving service, a journey it hopes will be nothing short of transformational.

DMV Vendor Day, the agency’s first-ever such event, drew some 200 registrants to a two-hour presentation Thursday at the California Department of Technology (CDT) Training Center in Rancho Cordova. There, officials including new DMV Director Steve Gordon and Chief Deputy Director Kathleen Webb along with CIO Amy Tong, City Innovate Co-Executive Director Jay Nath and others told vendors in no uncertain terms that they’re seeking solutions large or small to modernize an agency where some technology is a generation old or more.

“If you have a niche or specialty for a particular service or product and it doesn’t solve … the entire problem or problem statement, please don’t be shy to participate,” said Marlon Paulo, CDT deputy director. The agency is working on publishing a web link where vendors can submit concepts or solutions to challenges. Those submissions are due Nov. 1. Vendors whose ideas meet DMV’s criteria will be notified the week of Nov. 4 and invited to a Vendor Pitch Day. That day, or days, will be held during the week of Nov. 11. Invited vendors will each have 15 minutes to pitch their solution. DMV grouped its needs around four problem statements for vendors:

• Real ID topped the list — not a surprise for an agency facing an Oct. 1, 2020, deadline, when the federally mandated Real ID will be required to fly domestically or enter secure federal facilities. The agency has delivered about 6.08 million Real IDs since January 2018, Webb said. But DMV wants vendors to use technology and business process improvements to help it reduce field office transaction times, now around 35 minutes due to manual verification processes, to less than 7 minutes.

DMV is considering moving aspects of the process online — conducting document upload, processing and authentication ahead of field office visits, to, in the latter instance, “reduce verification and second review needs.” It’s also contemplating the use of additional self-service devices in preparatory steps; devices at field office windows to “reduce paper processing”; and document authentication at each technician window. Currently, document verification is done manually, with an “authenticity” check using a “special device” that’s shared, the agency said in a slide presentation.

• But Real ID isn’t just an issue unto itself. In a more holistic view, it informs DMV’s second problem statement, of a need to double its capacity to serve residents. Field offices are projected to manage 20.5 million transactions between now and October 2020 — but that doesn’t account for an additional 23.4 million people with the “right to request a Real ID.” That means DMV needs to nearly double its total capacity to 43.9 million transactions to accommodate the demand.

Calling it “unlikely” that Real ID demand will be met by “available windows and floor space” in field offices, the agency wants ideas for how to shrink that traffic through “alternate service fulfillment channels” and “demand management." Webb said DMV hopes to improve process “but also drive unnecessary business in our field office out of the field office,” whether to its kiosks, business partners or online.

“We have very little time left. We’ve got to be able to put together some of these solutions and ideas really, really quickly,” said Ajay Gupta, DMV special adviser on technology transformation.

• DMV also seeks solutions to get off paper. Gordon discussed an overall process that sends paper out — and gets paper back, resulting in backlogs, delays and so-called “peak times” around seasons, election cycles; and yes, Real ID. The agency wants to reduce its use of paper; and, where that’s not possible, expedite processing to increase capacity to handle Real ID. More than half, or 61 percent of DMV transactions happen either on paper or in-person, the agency said in a slide. Of that, 22 percent of transactions are on paper, either via mail or in-person; 39 percent of transactions are in-person at a field office or a business partner. The remaining 39 percent are digital.

“Transition architecture” could be key in helping DMV move from legacy to whatever is next, Gordon said, noting that could be as simple as “marrying (optical character recognition) OCR with (robotic process automation) RPA.” Taking fillable PDFs to an intermediate database, an Excel spreadsheet; and having a robot bring that information into the core back-end system would be a “fake online service,” the director said, citing an example, “but it takes that paper out of the system.”

“We really need to find ways to reduce the time it takes to do things, reduce the complexity, simplify the process,” Gordon said.

• Underpinning all is a system that includes a legacy database and master data management; a website infrastructure that’s “somewhat modern but still very archaic”; and applications that rest on a “very legacy non-relational data format” managed using Assembler and COBOL processes. The agency wants to “strangle” the legacy components, it said in a slide, by standing up “interim/end” solutions to transition away, ultimately making ready for a completely modern state. Creating that “launching platform,” however, has to be done with care for the somewhat elderly system patient, DMV said, indicating its desired outcome is a “gradual, modular and less risky approach” to legacy.

“The problem that we have is getting to the point where now it can be modernized," Gupta said. "What are those quick wins what are the ways that we can get his to the next level?” He described an exact rollout timeline for these solutions as “pretty hypothetical,” but said the goal is to potentially do so in a few months, working with vendors to “go at your speed.”

Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Techwire.