California’s DMV creates rules for a developing road

Category: E-Business Application Development
Winner: California Department of Motor Vehicles

Back in 2000, about 15 members of the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) went into unchartered territory, tackling the Internet to revamp its system in Sacramento to communicate with the local systems in its 167 field offices throughout California.

The DMV collects approximately $4.1 billion annually in vehicle registration fees, calculating these fees from new and user cars, trucks, motorcycles, vessels and other vehicles. Its vehicle registration fee process is deployed across two systems—DMV Automation and DMV Batch Fee—each with unique processes.

Most of the programs written on these systems have been constantly updated and additions grafted into the code by IT staffers for more than 30 years. The DMV Automated Fee system processes real-time customer-initiated vehicle transactions in IBM’s proprietary Event Driven Language. It’s deployed on the IBM RS/6000 at its Sacramento headquarters and at each of its field offices.

The DMV Batch Fee system performs batch mode processing of vehicle registration renewals on an IBM z/OS mainframe, which is located at the Teale Data Center. (The Center offers IT services to the State of California.) Its programs are written in COBOL, which supports the calculations to compute vehicle registration fees.

The different systems required separate development teams, analyst teams and databases, making it difficult to implement changes and increasing the risk of inconsistencies in the fee process. For example, a DMV business user would write a memo requesting any changes, such as new fees, and then developers would have to write the program code reflecting these changes in both COBOL and EDL.

The DMV project team started the Vehicle Registration Fee Computation Project in 2001 after a year of research and budget planning. They also sifted through the legacy systems to identify all of the programmed fee calculations rules. There were tens of thousands of lines of business rules scattered throughout thousands of lines of program code written across both systems. There was also little documentation to indicate which rules were still being enforced and what rules needed to be changed.

“The business methodology saved this project,” says Alan Demmin of Demmin Software, who consulted on the project. “Once we realized this approach, we weren’t restricted by the technology.”

DMV selected Fair Isaac’s Blaze Advisor business rules management software that would enable business users to make updates and changes to the DMVA and DMVBF systems, allowing programmers to concentrate on testing and other issues. It also added IBM’s WebSphere J2EE application server to send messages to both systems.

Blaze Advisor can be installed on a desktop to test and debug, increasing the developer’s productivity. Previously, the legacy systems didn’t allow developers to break down code to see if it works, requiring them to look through pages of code, Demmin said. Now logging errors can be found in hours rather than days.

After figuring out its software needs, the DMV development team faced another challenge. “Once we were under way, we realized we had under-scoped the project and had to break it up into phases to get some wins,” says Jerrianne Seitz, the DMV’s project manager and data processing manager. Even though the project needed to be split into phases, it has cost the DMV a minimum of $900,000.

The first phase of the project, which went live in March 2003, implemented the new technical environment and fee business rules for vessels, such as boats and other watercraft. Vessels were done first because there are approximately 2,000 transactions per day and 150 rules that manage vessel registration fees.

The second phase implemented rules for vehicle registration penalty fees, going live across the DMVA system in April 2003. Although the registration penalty process has only 20 rules, it handles 60,000-75,000 business transactions per day. In a registration penalty transaction, the legacy system computes the normal vehicle registration fees and then calls an EDL-based interface that extracts, formats and sends requests to Blaze Advisor at the Teale Data Center. When a response returns, the properly adjusted registration penalty fee is then reformatted and returned to the legacy EDL fee system for display and storage.

The third phase, implemented last September, tested more than 2,000 rules and numerous rule sets, flows and tables. In total, the DMV trimmed rules for both systems to 2,100.

The last phase, which will start soon, will link the two legacy systems. The California DMV also plans to offer citizens online access to its fee system, enabling them to calculate estimates for fee registration.

The California DMV recognized the need to modernize and consolidate the existing vehicle registration systems. This alone would have been a significant undertaking for the state with the nation’s largest population of vehicles, but the California DMV also saw an opportunity to leverage a rules engine to empower the analysts to maintain the business policies and business changes.

The resulting design increased the stability and usability of the system as well as greatly lowered the cost of maintaining the business rules that govern the registration fee calculations. Additionally, the project was defined in a phased approach that minimized the risk and impact to the 167 field offices while maximizing the probability of total project success. This innovative approach combined with a modern Java-based architecture resulted in a truly leading-edge solution for the DMV.

California Department of Motor Vehicles
DMV Vehicle Registration Fee Computation Project
Project goal
To update and consolidate the DMV Automation and Batch Fee systems for its Sacramento headquarters and its 167 field offices.
Project payoff
Business users can make any changes using Fair Isaac’s Blaze Advisor software, allowing programmers to test these changes and freeing up their time for other issues. Programmers can test and debug any changes on their PCs, and logging problems can be found in hours, rather than days. Using WebSphere and Blaze Advisor, changes can be made once, and both disparate systems can read them.
Tools used
IBM WebSphere
Fair Isaac Blaze Advisor
Project team
Jerrianne Seitz
Denise Hernandez
Alan Demmin
James Chi
Greg Maze
Josefina Cuevas
Leslie Redlack-Galvin
Marcelino Dimaano
Jim Mclean
Melissa Sharer
Beverly Cowing
Connie McVey
Wendy Wacker
Annette Bridges
James Smith

Photo: Left to right, front row: Paula Grose, Jim Mclean, Jerrianne Seitz, Melissa Sharer, Annette Bridges, Dianne Mobley, Connie McVey, Denise Hernandez, Beverly Cowing, Carrie Chew

Left to right, top row: Josefina Cuevas, Leslie Redlack-Galvin, Alan Demmin, Greg Maze, Tony Shen, Wendy Wacker, James Smith


Back to feature: Innovator Awards 2005