Minnesota's new online vehicle license and registration system has reduced its backlog, but improvements remain to be completed, state IT and public safety officials told lawmakers.
Minnesota has made progress toward updating its new online vehicle license and registration system, which has had difficulty processing transactions since its July 2017 deployment, the state IT agency told lawmakers, but registrars and their representative said significant work remains to fully resolve issues.
In the first-ever Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS) Quarterly Update, released to members of the state Legislative Oversight Committee on April 30, officials at Minnesota IT Services (MNIT) indicated that they and members of the state Department of Public Safety (DPS) have worked on legislative oversight benchmark reporting, meeting “two significant benchmarks” in user acceptance testing demonstrations and live-in-field system testing.
Since MNLARS deployed in July, 259 defects and gaps — functions required by stakeholders but not yet developed — have been resolved, but another 284 still remain in the system; stakeholders still use 22 “unique workarounds,” or processes or information developed “in an alternative way to help a customer.” The methodology for system releases, however, has tightened, the report writers said.
“Releases into the MNLARS system are now more regimented and rigorously tested, which results in incrementally better system stability, business process stability and improved system performance,” the authors wrote.
New MNIT Commissioner Johanna Clyborne, the state chief information officer, said the system “has been tailored far beyond” its original scope “in order to ensure that the stakeholders get what they want out of it.”
“I will tell you that there are going to be some bumps. But that’s true for any IT project. And we’re balancing a lot of demands including whether the Legislature is going to fund us or not,” Clyborne recently told Government Technology.
Meagan Weber, president of the Minnesota Deputy Registrar’s Association (MDRA), said via email that the organization views MNLARS as “a work in progress.”
“While the releases and fixes are helping, there is still more work to be done to make it fully functional,” Weber said, noting that MDRA members are working with the state as part of the MNLARS Executive Steering Committee (ESC).
Among the report’s findings:
Scott Lambert, executive director of the Minnesota Auto Dealers Association and an ESC member, affirmed that the backlog is rising again and said he believes MNLARS will take considerable time to fix.
“Under the best of conditions, it’s going to take two years. There’s still much we can’t do,” said Lambert, calling the ESC’s creation “the big change” as it means stakeholders meet regularly and officials are “listening to what we need and what other stakeholders need.”
Donny Vosen, co-owner of the deputy registrar office in Brainerd, Minn., and an ESC member, questioned how the system was developed with a lack of editing: “Technology should move you forward. It’s 2018. How can you design something that is not user-friendly?”
The report notes that the database model, domain object framework and system interfaces with more than 60 external applications are among “many aspects of the original system that are working and effective.” Additionally, “the updated application architecture capitalizes on the state’s cloud platform,” the report said, freeing MNLARS from hardware capacity limitations; and allowing better scalability and limiting outages outside normal business hours.
The system is experiencing uptime of 99 percent or better during business hours. Its next releases, planned this month and in June, will address five priorities including the editing functionality for liaisons, electronic vehicle title registration for auto dealers and data fixes around inventory.
State Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, a member of the Legislative Oversight Committee, called the update a "progress report" and said serious functionality issues remain to be addressed.
"It’s still going to be almost another year to where we get this thing functioning where we hope it will, at about 80 percent. But I think time will tell and leadership will tell," said Baker, who is chairman of the Legislature's Select Committee on Technology and Responsive Government.
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