Is customizable off-the-shelf software the ideal solution for outdated department of motor vehicles (DMV) licensing and registration systems? The jury’s still out, but some DMV officials are skeptical that all-in-one platforms can adequately replace the complex proprietary systems that states have developed over the years.

Oregon is one of the states not sold on the emerging idea of turnkey DMV solutions. The state operates two separate mainframe registration systems for drivers and vehicles that were built in the 1960s. The programming has been upgraded over the years as laws were changed, but the hardware is nearing a point where it will no longer be supportable.

The Oregon Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division recently got permission from the State Legislature to bring in consultants and draft an RFP to see what type of new registration platform may work best for the state. But Oregon DMV spokesman David House was skeptical that an off-the-shelf package would be the answer.

“When there are 50 different DMVs doing things with different systems, different laws and in different ways, it’s hard to picture an out-of-the-box solution even covering some of the basic things all DMVs do, as we do them all differently,” House said. “So we’re dubious [it] can work.”

California shares Oregon’s concerns. Bernard Soriano, the risk management deputy director for the California DMV, agreed that each state is unique. Although state DMVs have similar missions — providing drivers’ licenses, identification and registering and titling vehicles — the details are very different.

Soriano said that California has looked and passed on turnkey platforms before. Although cost-benefit analyses were done on various commercial off-the-shelf programs, officials weren’t sure an all-inclusive product had the capability to keep up with the sheer number of transactions the state does daily.

“For us, the biggest concern is the scalability and … speed in which these transactions occur, and the ability for us to integrate it seamlessly into our current operations,” Soriano said. “We have a system, and to implement a turnkey system without interruption to customers — with zero downtime — is a big concern for us. If we are down statewide, that affects thousands of Californians. We don’t want to be in that position.”

New Player

One of the newest out-of-the-box solutions being marketed to DMVs is the Motor Vehicle Enterprise Solution (MOVES) from IT company Mahindra Satyam. The platform is based on Microsoft Dynamics CRM and purports to deliver a better DMV customer experience and reduced risk during system implementation.

The MOVES interface was designed to look and act like Microsoft Office, to give users of the office program suite a sense familiarity, its maker says. The platform also features a 360-degree view of citizen relationships and a consolidated view of business functions.

In an interview with Government Technology, Arvind Malhotra, senior vice president of strategic accounts for Mahindra Satyam, said “DMV experts” worked with the company to build the platform. Malhotra added that it could take 12 to 18 months to set up MOVES in a typical DMV environment, with the inclusion of customizations.

House was unconvinced of that time frame, however.

“[MOVES] works with Microsoft Dynamics, and our IT department said our Lottery Department is in a transition to MS Dynamics and it has taken three years,” House said.

Soriano added that training time and other issues that crop up with a turnkey system are legitimate concerns. He said what while the Microsoft name backing MOVES is nice, California will evaluate the options available in the market, including off-the-shelf solutions, hybrid platforms or building an entirely new proprietary system in-house.

“The proof is in the pudding,” Soriano said. “It’s more what the product can do and certainly whether or not a company is financially viable and is one that has a proven track record certainly carriers some weight. But that’s not the end-all, be-all.”

Brian Heaton  |  Senior Writer

Brian Heaton is a senior writer for Government Technology. He primarily covers technology legislation and IT policy issues. Brian started his journalism career in 1998, covering sports and fitness for two trade publications based in Long Island, N.Y. He's also a member of the Professional Bowlers Association, and competes in regional tournaments throughout Northern California and Nevada.