$8 million later, CO brings out-of-control DMV program to halt

In a story that wreaks of poor communication and bungled bureaucracy, the new computer system of the Colorado motor vehicle registration has, at least temporarily, crashed and burned, reports the Rocky Mountain News.Despite warnings from outside auditors, county clerks and state employees who issue license plates, the state spent a whopping $8 million before a new Department of Revenue director brought the CSTARS program to a grinding halt.

In a story that wreaks of poor communication and bungled bureaucracy, the new computer system of the Colorado motor vehicle registration has, at least temporarily, crashed and burned, reports the Rocky Mountain News.

Despite warnings from outside auditors, county clerks and state employees who issue license plates, the state spent a whopping $8 million before a new Department of Revenue director brought the CSTARS program to a grinding halt.

Months of planning went into developing a new computer system, but eventually it was dropped by state officials and the computer contractor Avanade.

"It's like you were having a baby, and it turned out to be ugly," said P.J. Taylor, head of Broomfield, CO's motor vehicle division.

State and Avande officials were guilty of a host of project develoment sins. Among other things they:

  • Ignored the state and county staffs that would use the new system and fired the subcontractor in charge of seeking their advice.
  • Wrote computer code before they were given detailed plans for what that code should do.
  • Disagreed over who should make key decisions, including which side was responsible for compiling detailed plans.
  • Ignored monthly reports on the mounting problems filed by SysTest, a Denver company hired by the state to monitor the project.

Sounds like typical government project management.

The dropped programs comes after a series of bungled contracts, totalling $325 million, dating to the administration of former Gov. Bill Owens.

"As a taxpayer, it's really disheartening," said Denver University management professor Cindi Fukami, who has studied the state's largest computer boondoggle, CBMS, which handles welfare benefits. They are using the tortured CBMS story to teach students how not to manage.

But M. Michael Cooke, the Department of Revenue director in the Owens administration who oversaw CSTARS, says says the project never really got off the ground. CSTARS "hasn't failed," Cooke said. "It's in test."

Right.