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Eugen Tarnow


Software consultants: Why do the Motor Vehicle Commissions in the US work so badly?

Eugen Tarnow  July 20 2012 10:22:31 AM

Going to the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) to register a new car is like spending a day (or two) in hell.  Apparently, in New York it is bad as well.

The question is - why?

There are two main issues a business consultant would address:  The information process and the people process.

The information process
Registering a new car in NJ required five forms.  Any computer consultant could cut it down to just one form and three numbers - the VIN number of the car, the number of the insurance policy and the driver license number.  There is no need for an address or an SSN or the date of birth or the eye color (all stored with the driver license) and certainly no need for multiple entries on multiple forms.  There is no need for a personal appearance that I can think of but they force you.

Possible reasons for problematic information process:
1.  There are mandates coming from different governments (state, federal) and each carries its own form.  BUT if that is the case, surely in the end the forms themselves are not stored, only the data.  And if that is the case each MVC can make up their own, single form.
2.  The computer systems (I saw logos from IBM and Dell) were made separately for the five different forms.  BUT if that is the case somebody should have integrated them at a low cost compared to the time wasted by the customers.  On the other hand, if some of the computer systems are federal and some are state it may not be legal to integrate them.
3.  Ineffective laws make for ineffective forms.  One of the forms asked for the cost and average gas mileage of the car to find out whether a luxury tax was to be applied.  Clearly both pieces of information can be had from VIN number.  If the law was recent, perhaps the computer systems had not been changed to take that into account.

The people process
Lines to the MVC can be 4 hours long.  The personnel is rude or insensitive and extremely rigid.  2-3 police officers are included to keep people from going postal.  During lunch hours more customers show up and more personnel take lunch breaks, causing a conflict.

Possible reasons for problematic people process:
1.  There may be a history of bribery at these MVCs, removing any potential of flexibility by the employees.
2.  Modern queueing technology was not used.
3.  Organizational culture may be hard to change.  BUT why did it become so bad?

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