Raising Arizona's Integration

The Arizona DOT's driver licensing, vehicle registration and revenue collection departments each had its own computer system, none of which talked to the others. The DOT reeingineered 20-year-old business processes and got a single integrated database.

by / November 30, 1995
PROBLEM/SITUATION: Arizona's Motor Vehicles Division had 20-year old business practices and three separate databases.
SOLUTION: Reeingineered business processes and a single integrated database.
JURISDICTION: Arizona Motor Vehicles Division.
VENDORS: KnowledgeWare, IMS, IBM, Symbol Technologies Inc., CACI Inc., Lau Technologies, Intersolv.
USER CONTACT: Tim Wolfe, project director for the Enterprise Project of ADOT, 602/255-8966.


By David Aden
Contributing Writer

In 1990, the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) of the Department of Transportation began to examine how it was doing business to find ways to provide smoother, faster service to its customers. Initially, the focus was on how to automate. But to intelligently design and implement automation, the agency first needed to review its existing 20-year old business processes. It didn't have to look too far to find problems. Each of the department's three areas of operation -- driver licensing, vehicle registration and revenue collection -- had its own computer system, none of which talked to the

"If you came in and got a new driver's license and updated your address, that was reflected on your driving record but not on your vehicle registration," said Tim Wolfe, project director for the Enterprise Project for the Arizona Department of Transportation.

Examining the existing processes was not a small feat. In fact, MVD spent nearly a year building a formal business model. "The model was used for a formal reengineering," said Wolfe. "It had about 1,400 business processes documented. Often the same process was being done for all three areas. We looked at how we were doing business and how things could be done better."

The extensive modeling effort paid off. Staff identified nearly 2,000 improvements in the department's processes, which led to several major changes in how the agency operates. Although the modeling used KnowledgeWare's CASE tool, the MVD found KnowledgeWare inadequate when it came time for developing the applications, requiring a midstream move to Intersolv's CASE tool.

The first major change involved installation of new point-of-service systems. Previously, all daily balancing was done manually. MVD employees kept track of how many licenses and registrations they handled by making tick marks on a piece of paper. At the end of the day, they totaled the ticks and worked out how much money should be in the drawer.

The new system keeps track of how many customers were serviced and how much was received in cash, checks and other forms of payment and displays this information for easy balancing. Gone are the scraps of paper with tick marks.

The new system is expected to save or make the state money in several ways. For example, requiring frequent driver license renewals for drivers with good records -- who are the majority -- was a hassle. According to Wolfe, every time someone walked in to renew their license, it cost the state money. To help fix this, MVD moved to a system in which drivers can renew their licenses by mail after four years; after another four years they have to come in for the renewal. This helped, but didn't go far enough, so legislation was passed to make driver's license applications a one-time affair, unless the license is suspended or revoked for DUI or other offenses.

"In the past we tied driving privilege to the piece of paper in their pocket, which is a falsity," said Wolfe. "Now the driver's license is for ID purposes and the right to drive lasts until you're 60. If they're a good driver and don't have any problems, we don't want to mess with them and they don't want to be hassled by coming back to our office. At 60 we go back to a five-year license and eventually back to a one-year license. This change will make the state $12 million per year."

Drivers are required to update their photos every 12 years.

A major part of moving to the new system has been conversion of the databases from IMS to IBM's DB2 as well as a re-write of all its applications. Instead of three different computer systems, everything will be in a single database so common data can be shared. For example, the same customer table will be used for driver's licenses, vehicle registration and revenue collection. When an address or other information is updated or changed, it will automatically be reflected in every area that deals with that customer.

Efficiencies are also being achieved by cutting out paper copies. Historically, the department has generated paper for each transaction and then stored the paper. Now, after the data entry is done from a customer's application for a license, the paper copy of the application is only stored for a limited time and then discarded. Also, department records such as letters are not printed and stored, but are kept online. This will save a tremendous amount of administrative overhead by reducing the number of people needed to handle the paper and the space in which to store it.

One of the most interesting aspects of the new system is the use of two-dimensional symbology which, unlike traditional bar coding, encodes data both vertically and horizontally. Whereas traditional bar codes usually contain keys to a database table, two-dimensional symbology can be used to encode an entire record or a small file. Under the Arizona system, all the information printed on a license is also encoded into a symbol which is easily scannable. MVD is using a 2D symbology called PDF417 marketed by Symbol Technologies, which provides quick access to accurate information on the driver.

"The American Association of Motor Vehicles Administrators has adopted PDF417 as a standard," said Doug Picker, the manager of Product and Market Public Relations for Symbol Technologies. "The neat thing about the PDF technology is that it is all algorithm-based. The information is not duplicated within the symbol but you can destroy up to 45 percent of it and still get the data out of it. Anything that can be digitized can be put into this format -- it could be a fingerprint, sound or a color photograph."

Having the licensing information stored in the 2D symbol provides easy access to the information when a driver comes into an MVD office and it is also much more difficult to alter.

Police will eventually have a scanner in their cars to display the information stored in the symbol. The MVD also hopes the private sector will install license reading equipment. Although Wolfe feels it may take some time for retail stores to buy into the use of the licenses, they have gotten good response from liquor stores which have a powerful interest in verifying the age of their customers.

Although the system has shown great promise, development and deployment has not been problem-free. When the digital driver's license came out last July 1, the MVD printers were jamming frequently, causing long delays for customers. The MVD put the vendor on notice and all 65 of the printers were swapped out for new ones.

There have also been difficulties relating to training of MVD personnel. "Our goal for statewide is 30 minutes for a license," said Wolfe "and we were up to two to three hours. We are now back to where we were before installation of the system."

The vehicle registration side of the system ran into large delays, which prevented the targeted rollout, although it is expected to be deployed before the end of the year. Wolfe identified several factors that lead to these delays.

"When we switched from one CASE tool to another, there was a significant retraining for that," noted Wolfe. "This is also our first major client/server application and there was a lot of the infrastructure that was not in place such as software distribution, network management and resource control. Until those things were put in place, we weren't in position to roll out the applications."

Most recently, Wolfe is dealing with database tuning issues. All 6 million records have been converted, but not all of the 22 modules have met the stated goal of 80 percent of all transactions completed in less than five seconds and 100 percent completed in under 10 seconds. Although the majority of the modules have met those goals, there is still some tuning being done.

Despite the problems, Wolfe sees significant benefits to the client/server environment -- but cautions that those advantages come at a price. "If there is any advice that we could give to others," said Wolfe, "it would be don't pick your mission-critical application as your first dive into client/server. Pick your least mission-critical application and convert that one first."


The MVD data resides on a mainframe in a DB2 database which is accessed using leased dedicated 56 kilobit or T1 circuits. Software development has been done by CACI Inc. and is written using Microfocus Cobol. Lau Technologies of Acton, Mass., supplied all of the hardware including the digital cameras and PCs.

David Aden
David Aden DAden@webworldtech.com is a writer from Washington, D.C.