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Moving Away from MNLARS: A Smart, Future-Proof Pivot

After Minnesota’s custom-built driver and vehicle system failed to successfully launch, the state opted to purchase a third-party system that CIO Tarek Tomes describes as the right choice going forward.

Minnesota CIO Tarek Tomes
David Kidd/Government Technology
When Tarek Tomes took on the role of Minnesota CIO in late April, the state was on the verge of a big shift. Gov. Tim Walz announced an end to the long-troubled Minnesota Vehicle Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS), which was built in-house, in favor of a third-party software package, a contract ultimately awarded in August to FAST Enterprises

At the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) Annual conference in Nashville, Tomes explained what went wrong with MNLARS, what did actually go right and the logic behind the decision to go with a vendor-built system.

When MNLARS launched, Tomes said, one of the major issues was that tax dollars had been spent on a system that was incomplete. However, the state then rolled out 11 updates to MNLARS to make it more functional.

“We’ve really reduced the amount of issues, and citizens of Minnesota are able to transact with the driver vehicle system quite successfully,” he said.

But it wasn’t enough. Following an independent review comparing the costs and benefits of trying to repair MNLARS, Minnesota found that while the system had indeed improved, as Tomes described, scrapping it in favor of a five-year contract with FAST, which has similar contracts with 10 other states, was the smarter bet.

Tomes explained the benefits that come from opting for a proven solution as well as joining an “ecosystem” of states where all can learn from each other and ultimately improve services for residents.

Lauren Harrison is the managing editor for Government Technology magazine. She has a degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and more than 10 years’ experience in book and magazine publishing.
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