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May 6, 1994

WHAT IS IT WITH DRIVER, VEHICLE LICENSING? NOW CALIFORNIA WONDERS

By CBR Staff Writer

And you think your suppliers aren’t up to much: the Wall Street Journal reports that California’s Department of Motor Vehicles paid $44.5m for a computer system that never got out of the shop. In 1987, the department hired Tandem Computers Inc and Ernst & Young to replace its 30-year-old system with new mainframes and merge its massive drivers-licence and vehicle-registration databases. Deadlines starting in 1991 were missed, and Ernst & Young dropped out of the project. Apparently, the state’s contracts didn’t actually require the suppliers to deliver on their promises. The new system was designed to eliminate a tangle of outdated software programs and speed up record-keeping tasks. Unfortunately, the new system couldn’t perform certain basic functions and its response time to routine inquiries was as much as 10 times slower than the old system – meaning the department would have needed to hire at least 80 more computer operators. Tandem blames the accountants, claiming it was hired only to provide hardware and software, and that project management, software applications and database design were Ernst & Young’s job. In a statement, Tandem said The company believes it was the right technology decision for the DMV. The company added that it had given the DMV a substantial amount of free consultancy and technical support. But when the problems became clear, Tandem suggested changes that meant investing another $114m and three years into the project. Instead, the department now plans to keep the old system and upgrade it with new – but basic – software. It’s still trying to think of something useful for the new system to do.

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