TechTables Podcast
TechTables Podcast

Episode 109 · 4 months ago

Ep.109 Wendy Barron, CIO, Texas DMV


Featuring Wendy Barron, CIO, Texas DMV

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Show Notes:

  • [2:37] "With state law, with growth in population, there's always some kind of change or modification that happens every session. And so keeping up with that and adapting and adjusting is just getting more and more challenging with the 30 year old system that's not agile. We can't be as responsive as quickly as we would like to be. And so that presents our challenges."
  • [4:16] "I gotta think that somebody else has done something to modernize their systems. And so we want to look outward and talk to other other states- find out what's out there and what's available. And then identify the best solution for the DMV and move that."
  • [7:13] "And we now have a mobile app In Texas for vehicle registration and renewal, which is something that internally we just wouldn't have been able to get there without partnering with the Department of Information Resources, their vendor Deloitte, and entering into this agreement and joining into this application."
  • [10:32] "Our tax assessor collector partners had their annual conference, and our executive director mentioned that we were looking to replace RTS; it was a standing ovation from all our tax assessor collectors because they know the system and how painful it is."
  • [17:28] "For example, if that vehicle gets stolen, you can flip it to where that license plate will, flash that this vehicle is stolen. I think that's just really great. And technologies like that- it's really exciting that the innovations and things coming out around transforming the physical to the digital"
  • [20:54] "And so having that conversation of 'it's not a no, it's just a not right now' that was key in helping convince leadership and our business partners... And then, focusing those dollars on what would help us get further down the road to our end goal."
  • [22:06] "It's really tough to fill my positions, especially my developer positions. I think having a 30 year old system doesn't help. I've got older technology and it's just not exciting ,and it's not something that's going to help somebody build their career and learn and grow. So that's tough."
  • [25:18] "But, the magic wand I would say is something that I've talked to a lot with other CIOs is that we've got tol be realistic about salaries across the board. And the reality is that we are just not competitive at all. I think it's going to take some collaboration amongst all the agencies and with DIR to communicate that and try to get these salary schedules up"
  • [29:29] "When it's a problem that everybody has, I think it's a problem for everybody to solve."   


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We have Wendy Baron C I o at the Texas D m V. Wendy, welcome to text tables. Thank you for excited to be here. I'm super excited. And before we jump in, today's podcast episode is sponsored by the Negaro public sector. Negaro public sector excels at helping senior technology leaders in digital disruption, from cloud to Ai to big data and digital product engineering, system integration work cross platforms. So learn more about Negaro. CHECKOUT NEGARO DOT COM. All right, let's Geck off our podcast episode with technology modernization. This is a topic that I love. I had a great podcast episode with Dan Techs are, he's Ce io, at the opposite of the Texas Secretary of State's office and the Selfish Plug Guess on episode seventy. From legacy analog to digital first, transforming the R F I RFO process. I feel like the Texas D M V, it's not a similar inflection point with this technology modernization game plan that we we're talking about. And so, Wendy, I was curious younbody who's walk us through where you see the Texas d MP where it's that today and where you see it going in the next three to five years. Absolutely. So currently we provide services to everybody that owns a vehicle in Texas and we partner with the tax assessor collectors in each of the counties and they actually provide services on behalf of the D MP to to county citizens to register their vehicles and title their vehicles. And we're doing that with the system that's almost thirty years old and while it is not on a main frame, it's still very much acts like it is on a main frame. We had a project to lift and shift that system, the registration and tiling system, or RTS for short, to lift and shift that system about ten years, six, seven years ago and we got it off the main frame, but it the logic and all of the things from from architecture standpoint still very much main framesk. And so we've got badge processing data is really not real time and it requires network connectivity and workstations and whatnot that we provide to the counties and all of that, to say, is really not how modern technology is done. Things are cloud based, folks are able to modern systems, folks are able to bring their own device and access from anywhere, and that's really not the system we have and with that thirty year old system, it also creates challenges and complications with just trying to keep up with the times and keep up with the changes that that happened with state law, with growth and population. There's always some kind of change or modification that happens every session, and so keeping up with that and adapting and adjusting is just getting more and more challenging with with the thirty year old system. It's not agile. We can't be as responsive as quickly as possible, as quickly as we would like to be, and so that that presents our challenges. And so we've had some issues. We've had some times when we've had some outages with the system and which meant that the county tax assessors couldn't provide the services to our customers. And in looking at that and looking at the aging system, we've recognized that it needs to be replaced, it needs to be upgraded and the D M V, in the next several years, is embarking on a journey to modernize the RTS system that we're looking to really revamp and re Ark the entire environment, not just rts but the auxiliary systems that lay on top of it, and that's the next session we're gonna we're looking to request some funding from the legislature to put our plan together and we recognize that this is a large system that serves millions of people and has millions of records in it for all the vehicles that are in the state, and it's not going to be a small task, and so we want to make sure that one we put a very solid plan together, do market analysis, just do all the preparation work that needs to happen when you embark on this kind of upgrade and then execute...

...that plan. My goal with this project is to look at a solution or solutions that leverage possibly caught software. Low Code, no code. There's forty nine other states that do registration and titling. I've got to think that somebody else has done something to modernize their systems, and so we want to look outward and talk to other other states and find out what's out there and what's available and and then by the bus solution for the D mb and moved up. Yeah, that's awesome. I've always chuckled to myself when I hear thirty year old system, because I'm only thirty three so when the system is almost as old as I am. Yeah, so you you had mentioned there's actually some really great seving year. So you had mentioned there's some issues and challenges, which I when I which I actually think is a good thing because eventually it means you can come to a solution and if you can't recognize that the issues of challenges and anything, you can't get to it a solution. Maybe if you could just highlight what solutions are? You not necessarily have to be a technical solutions. You've seen the challenges, you've been at the D M v. What are maybe some specific solutions that you're looking at that you want to deploy right now in order to really execute the game? Yeah, we are looking at a number of different things. One of the things that we're doing is actually looking internally at the current system and making sure that we've addressed any currency issues or implemented there are some tools available now for these older type systems that allow you to be a little more flexible. So getting in a little more agile, so getting stood up to where maybe we can use some of those automation tools, getting a handle on our data governance, our data management. I think that's going to be really critical data. One of the things in my experience when whenever you embark on a journey to upgrades a distom, the data is very critical component to that and a lot of times forgotten. And so making sure that we've got we're in a good space with our data and we've got it classified and taken that inventory and really prepped prepping the system and what we have to make sure that we're as good as we can be. We're also looking for opportunities to modernize and move things forward outside of the RTS system, and a good example of that is the partnership that we've made with D I r Um the Texas by Texas application, and that that application is a great innovative idea. It's a one stop shop for the constituents of Texas and the idea is that you'll have one application, one log on and you can access all your government services, whether it's to renew your vehicle registration or to renew your life driver's license, which is DPS DMB in Texas. Just going to point that out. But there's and as more and more agencies joined, there'll be more and more features available. But we joined that initiative as an early, early tenant agency and we now have a mobile APP in Texas for Vehicle Registration and renewal, which is something that we where we are internally is we just wouldn't have been able to get there without partnering with the Department of Information Resources and their vendor, deloite, and entering into this agreement and joining into this application and it's it's been a great thing for the agency. We're really excited about it. I've just renewed my vehicles last month and it was just super easy, very convenient and we've gotten a lot of positive feedback and every month we've got more and more users and things like that. We are really trying to limit the new things in our ts because we are ultimately going to do away with the system. The investments we make,...

...we're really trying to be very conscious and deliberate about what we do and not be wasteful in investing a lot in an old system that we're going to be decommissioning in a few years and so taking advantage of other opportunities like the Texas by Texas initiative or things that we're doing to still try to keep moving the ball forward for the D M V, but also make sure that we're not wasting TSK taxpayers money on a system that's going to be decommissioned in a few years. Yeah, that's great. The day governance peace, I think, really stands out. I'm sure you've had many conversations with my guy at Kelly episode seventy five, he was on tech table also. We talked about the evolving role of the chief data officer. I know and it is fantastic. He is a WHO. Actually there was a photo fund story. He was at an STD, the National Association of Technology Director. I always get these confused, but anyways, short story is we out in New Orleans and down Bourbon Street and it was fantastic. We had a great time with the number of with the number of other folks and if you ever walked down Bourbon Street you might find a snake and a band of people singing and a lot of really fun stuff. So, yeah, it was a fun time. He's a really smart guy, so I always love, love hearing from him. The interesting thing you have said you're going to request funding for all of these projects from the legislative body and you had mentioned market analysis. Now I think this would be pretty funny is I would sit down with all of those folks because if they're like giving you a hard time about not giving you money, you should have them go through the system and the market analysis. Oh you want me to fix this, okay, here's how much is gonna cost, and I bet you you could get a lot of money, because any citizen that logs on to the DMV like the D M V. I feel really bad because you're like it's nothing that you want to have to do. Like I received. This is really funny. I got my California DMV notice right here. I'm like, I gotta get my Car Smug, I gotta Pay Register. It's like nothing, it's not going to Disneyland. So the easier you can make that, I bet you could find some a lot of money in the state of Texas because, if I'm sure, they got to renew their vehicles too. So, anyways, something to sit out and if you need me to, if you need me to test it. If you need me to test it, I'll test out anything new. I'll give you feature. Yeah, yeah, we we've we've definitely got to support from our tax assessor collector partners. They had their annual conference a couple of weeks ago and Daniel Vidia, or executive director, he did an introduction and had a few speaking points for the agency and mentioned that we were looking to replace rts and everyone was a standing ovation from collectors, because they know what that system is and how painful it is, and so they were very much behind us on replacing and are exciting and it's going to be a journey with them as well. This is not the D M v placing the registration titling system. This is a partnership with the tax assessor collectors. They'RE gonna WE'RE gonna partner with them. They are customers, they are they're the face of the D mb and so they provide those services on our behalf and so they're a cool partner and as we move forward with this project, we definitely will be engaging and involving them. They've got a leadership group that we meet with monthly and we've been talking to them about it and I imagine as we move forward we will we will probably have some focus groups and things and definitely going to be engaging and involving them and as we moved this forward. I want to show about the focus group. I gotta get into the Focus Group. I'd love to be there. I'd answer all the questions. I will represent the millennials. I will represent the middle of the path, millennials Democrats. There you go. So there's a lot of information the D M V, from driver's license numbers to vans to like you guys have digital license plates, which I think it's pretty awesome. Um, could you maybe just expand upon yeah, could... expand upon how the data cloud will power the Texas technology modernization at the D mb to improve the citizen experiences for years to come? Yeah, I think that this entire modernization are effort is really gonna I think it's gonna be transformative and leveraging cloud technologies, venturing on on the partnership with Texas by Texas, being part of Texas as Data Center Services Group and that private cloud that we've got set up. I think as we modernize, we're gonna be able to leverage newer and better technologies. I think being a part and being one of the front runners on Texas by Texas, as we move forward with this project, I think there's opportunities for us to collaborate with D I R and think kind of think out of the box on how state government manages data and data sharing. Talked to one of the things that D I R has set up and established as they've got public and private data portal and so agency, in the open data poral published data sets that that provide the classified as what we call high value data sets. So these data sets are meaningful for the citizens, responsive to public information requests, basically creating a space in an area, again, one stop shop for the citizens of Texas to access data from multiple different state agencies in one location. And so we're as we transform our data and modernized because right now, admittedly, our data sets are that old old mainframe logic. Much of it's not relational, it's just it's which makes challenge, makes it challenging for data sharing, and this transformation is going to really help us just go to that next level in terms of sharing data and being more responsive to the citizens of Texas. And also touch on the closed data portal. We are actually one of the first agencies that is leveraging D I r s closed data portal and we're doing that for our law enforcement partner to provide them a secure way to access data related to vehicle tags and potential fraud with the paper tags and there's been some issues and some challenges in the last year that we've been addressing around paper tag fraud and we've made a lot of positive changes and we've managed to really shut the bad actors down and also open up those lines of communication with our law enforcement partners and provide opportunities and ways for them to access data without having to submit a request every time they need data. We met the partners, they get set up in the portal and then they have that access to that data when they need it and it's in a secure format and secure methodology and we're even now thinking about how can we and what are other ways that we can share data through this closed data portal to our other partners that we might have, and so it's just it's very exciting the opportunities around data sharing and the cloud and it's in modernization of our systems. It's just going to help us do so much more. Yeah, I think there's a lot of really great use cases. Actually this use case of data sharing with the police officers. Now I haven't been pulled over. It's been a couple of years, but admittedly I have been pulled over guilty as charged, it will happen. California is a huge state. So when you drive from one part of the state to the northern part, probability you're gonna get pulled over. It just increases a lot. Don't drive faster, king, don't drive faster, King City. There's a guy I'm a corner just hiding, but I had pulled out my I have pulled out my insurance card and my driver's license. Now you can have the insurance card digitally and it is in a piece of paper and I actually had snapped a photo of it and did to those like third party APPs on the IPHONE. But...

...if they hyry driver's license in your iphone and the police officers no, like I need the physical paper version, and I'm like at some point this is gonna go away. And did I tell you I hosted technology podcast? And this guy think is like laughing at me or something. But the concept being like when you can share the information, okay, the guy has a resident like a valid driver's license. A piece of plastic isn't going to validate or invalidate him. That the fact that I am a legal driver. Same thing with like your insurance, like if the cops are pulling you over. It should just be pretty streamlined so they don't have to have this giant headache and they're going back to their car and is fantastic for that and for registration. That's great. So all that modernization is going to be great because it's gonna take a lot of headache out for both the citizen and the police officer when they're checking out everything. I love the data sharing peace on that. Yeah, right, I was gonna say Speaking of Modernizations that are digital license plate initiative. I mean that that's how cool is that is a license plate. It's essentially a tablet and you can think of like an IPAD sized tablet and obviously it's a little more sturdy robust to be able to be put on the back of a vehicle, but it can send messages to law enforcement and it can law enforcement can interact with that, that license plate and, for example, if that vehicle gets stolen, you can flip it to where that license plate will flash that this vehicle is stolen, and I just think that is that's just really great and uh, and technologies like that. It's just it's it's really exciting that the innovations and things coming out just around the transforming physical to the digital. Yeah, I was actually just googling on the other screen because I was curious if California had rolled this out. They have rolled out that. I haven't I don't think I've ever seen it in California. But yeah, they rolled it out. I think that's a big one. Is One time my car got smashed in at San Francisco. It's always San Francisco, in a garage and everything got stolen out of it. Everything got stolen out of it and I was like, I've never driving San Francisco again. And but the reason they couldn't Jack My car is because I drove a manual car. So that's old school. I know. You could see they were trying to like mess around and get the get it going and I was like laughing. So when I came back on my well then you take my Mazda. So so on. On our intro call you had mentioned that you have a more institute, a moratorium on new functionality, which I think it is great just for the legacy system that's set up. I actually have a moratorium on our household budget. With inflation right now in California. Could you maybe just tell us why, like specifically, why you wanted to institute the moratorium. Was it the technical debt that was stacking up? Is it just customization overload, or is it just can't implement any new features because the architecture is just too old? What was like the if you had to pick one reason, what was that like? One reason for you of why you had to anstitute the moratorium on new function the technical debt. That was really the big technical debt needed to catch up. We needed to get out of the debt and and then also mentioned not wasting the taxpayers money. We know we're going to be modernizing this system in a few years and just really being cognizant about that and not investing in a dying system. And many of the things that were that were being considered we're maybe pretty significant projects in this current system, but something that could probably be implemented fairly easy as we transition into the new system and we could make that a requirement of the new system. And so it was really one the driving the big driving factor was the technical debt and just getting in front of that, but then also really being conscientious of how we're allocating the dollar and making sure that the investments count and that the money...

...that we're spending is we're going to get that return on the investment. And we took a hard look at some of the things that we were doing and we did decide to not move forward with some projects. We canceled, but we were canceling a project and our plan for the next millennium does not include any new TS projects or any new projects per se in terms of adding a new feature. Is Really about getting the system ready and making sure that we're up to date, we're getting ourselves out of that technical debt and just getting ourselves prepared for the upgrade. And it was there was some tough conversations. I know there were some folks. There's some of these projects that we really wanted to do and in the long run I think they're really good thing, but just not right now. And so having that conversation of it's not a no, it's just not right now. And so that, I think, that was key into helping convince leadership and our business partners of it's not that we don't want to do this. We want to support you guys. We want these features, but the timing is the timing right for this and so having that conversation and working to help, helpe without understanding and there was recognition that, okay, yeah, the timing is not right, this is not the right time, and and then just focusing those dollars on what, what would help us get further down the road to our end goal of replacing the RTS system. Yeah, I know that's great and one of the things that actually we were talking about one of the challenges. Obviously there's the technical debt and and the technical side, but also there's the hiring and staffing piece. I love to hear right now, what are you seeing? And then after you see that, what if you had a magic wand, what would you do to resolve all the of challenges if you could do it? So let's start the challenges. Then you can take out the magic one and let's see. Okay, yeah, so it's really tough to fill my positions, especially my developer positions. I think having a third ye old system doesn't help. I've got older technology and it's just not exciting and it's not something that's going to help somebody build their career and learn and grow. So that's tough. The good thing is we're starting this journey to modernize. And the flip side of that is I think there's lots of potential here for somebody to learn and grow now that we've made the decision to move forward with the modernization projects and there's so much growth opportunity coming and so that's really exciting. But it has been challenging filling those positions. Being in Austin, it's considered the technology and technology have in Texas and that we're fighting with the Google and the Amazon, the Dell, and we can't pay people the same as the private sector and there's other things that that we've got to look at when we're trying to recruit. But we've had to think, we've really had to spend things on there on its head and rethink how we go about recruiting and what does that look like? I've got folks who are getting close to retirement and I as usually a lot of times folks, and May this modernization effort may push some folks to decide to retire, because I know folks, you get to a certain point you're like, yeah, I'm done, I don't want to cut through another change, and I totally get that and so I probably will. As we move on this journey. I'll probably lose some of my long term staff because they just they're done. They don't want to go through another change and I don't blame them. I don't blame them, but I think hopefully that that it will be an opportunity to bring in some folks who do want to learn and grow and go through a change and my magic one. Hopefully that that will be a selling point for US too. At the D M V. We're fortunate and that we've got a leadership that really support a remote work,...

...more so than even some of the other state agencies. I know the lot of the agencies. They're requiring volks to come back at least one to some even three times a week. And right now I still have the vast majority of my staff tell them telecommuting full time and we've we don't have plans to change that. I'm advertising jobs as full time telecommuting. I'm looking for folks anywhere in the State of Texas, not just in Austin, and I do have a few people that are living in other city and that that has helped a little bit. Has Helped me truthfully win some folks from other state agencies because that there are folks that still want to do the full time telecommunity and that presents its own set of challenges and one of the things I'm working on with my leadership team is developing a strategy around how we create opportunities to bring folks back in and not on a weekly basis and maybe once a month or once quarter. And we're still trying to think about it. One of the things that we know we did we're short on space and so we figured some things to create some storage area so even if we wanted to bring all the staff back for a meeting during that we wouldn't have enough space for them to all be in the office like day. So we're rethinking and trying to get creative on how we create opportunities and continue to maintain our culture. But the magic wand, I would say it's really think that the key thing, and this is something that I've talked to a lot with other C I O S, is we've got to really be realistic about salaries across the board and the reality is that we're just not competitive at all and I think it's going to take some collaboration amongst all the agencies and with D I R to communicate down and try to get these salary schedules up. One of the things I've been doing really it's doing some research and studies and trying to bring my salaries up to at least make sure that I'm competing with the other state agencies. I had some instances where we were some of the lowest pain we were paying and we were at the bottom, and so I've really worked to bring that bring salaries up at least to compete with the other state agencies. But I think long term, if I had a magic wand, it would be too that the legislature would recognize that technology is a breed of its own and that for us to be competitive, we're going to have to bring those salary schedules up. It just we it's killing us and we're trying to one of the thing we've got a lot of contractors. Were very dependent on contractors and we've been trying to flip some of those contractors to F D S and the salaries that they're looking for just we're having a hard time finding those funds to to pay that kind of money and and it's a classification and a salary range that it will fit into. So it's it's a continual challenge and it's every state agency is experiencing it. Yeah, at the podcast and that I have the commodore, Corey Wilburn, my guy. He said he can win somebody over. Yeah, he said he could win someone over nine out of ten times, but he just the same thing. He's getting even destroyed on the salary front. I think everyone is suffering from it. I think it's gonna take some really creative I'm thinking. And some has this problem, and when everyone has the same problem, this is like where it's time to go on a walk and figure out, all right, how can we think about this in a in a different way? I don't have a I don't have an all the pupey solutions. I have some. I have my own perspective and thoughts, which you know. I think the remote work is huge. I it's a little bit different depending on how junior you want to get, because some kids need to sit next to an adult when they come right out of college. This is me come into the office. We do. We do have that and if there's performance issues or a need there folks do we we do have occasion where we do have folks that they're working in the office more, for sure, but yeah, it's a balance. Yeah, I think that one of the solution and I love so one of the things I love is...

...actually entrepreneurship. Is as like I'm big and I never talked about it on tech tables because it just doesn't fit. Nor do I talk about anywhere else, but as an entrepreneur. I love entrepreneurship. I actually have some friends that I've encouraged and said, hey, like, I know x company is gonna pay you x dollars, you should go open up your own LLC. There's a number of benefits of having your own company, have that company employ you, and it's actually a lot cheaper for someone like yourself. So I don't know if you have some savvy folks in Texas, but then you're not having to pay health insurance and all these other things and then you leave it on the entrepreneur to go figure out and it's it takes a little extra work, but you can figure out the system and I think whenever there's a problem, my answer is entrepreneurship is the solution. I don't know, it would be fun to have the Texas like I'm sure the Texas Chamber of Commerce. I'm sure there's some really bright people there that have some creative I das it would be super fun to spit ball around to see, okay, how can Texas fix the hiring child? You talk about out of the box thinking. I can we fix some of this out of the box thinking where we can start winning talent. But I think there's some creative solutions out there. Yeah, I think there actually is a scenario where that is possible in Texas to have some kind of job sharing between agencies. I've seen that happen before. But yeah, I think when it's a problem that everybody has, I think it's a problem for everybody to solve and we actually we do have although we haven't met in a little while. I need to Ping Ping the group and see if we're going to meet at some point, but we did have a working group that was having some conversations around the hiring challenges and you know, what are some solutions and how can we work together bring intention and some workable solutions? Um, I love that quote of the day. You said something like the problem everybody has. It's a problem for all of us to solve. I love that so much. That is a fantastic quote. Yeah, that's great. Well, that's just the community piece, right. People are coming together. Everyone has the same problem. Let's just start throwing out a million ideas and seeing what sticks on the White Board. All right, this is great. I love it. I know we're running out of time. Where's where's your favorite spot to hang out at? Where can people find you? Is it Linkedin? Is it twitter? Where do you prefer to hang out professionally on this and I don't even have a twitter Linkedin, so you can find Wendy on on Linkedin. Awesome, good deal. Well, thank you, Wendy, for coming on tech tables. I really appreciate it. Thank you. It was great. I enjoyed it.

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