Fast Times in Big Sky Country

Fast Times in Big Sky Country

How Montana’s motor vehicle division revamped their processes

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Montana is the fourth largest state geographically, but in terms of population density, it’s 48th, averaging seven people per square mile (compare that to about 30,000 people per square mile in New York City). That means a significant portion of the population lives in rural areas, some of which may be an hour or more away from the nearest motor vehicle division office. Caring for all its customers spread across the state means the MVD needed to have a great software system in place to keep online interaction running smoothly and in-person appointments as convenient as possible.

But, until 2022, that’s not what they had.

Instead, the system in place did not meet the needs of either the MVD or its customers. In fact, when Montana’s attorney general was campaigning, calls to fix the MVD—which falls under the state’s justice department—were among the most common concerns he heard. No one wanted to drive an hour or more for an appointment that may have taken months of waiting to schedule, and then took hours more waiting in the office. The inefficient system also placed a burden on the MVD staff, who bore the brunt of the complaints and could do little to improve things. Something had to be done.

MVD administrator Laurie Bakri was given the task of revitalizing the MVD software system. “We had a system that we purchased way back in 2007, that had been built and rebuilt and revitalized, and it was not functioning. It was breaking down and transactions were slow. We just needed to improve that because our customers were waiting 60 to 80 days to make an appointment.” After analyzing the challenges they faced, Bakri and her team put out a request for proposals.

“We were looking for something that had been proven,” she said. “We didn’t want to start with something fresh on our own. We wanted something that we knew was working, and we could go to another state and see it working. We needed somebody who we knew could deliver on time results.”

FAST Enterprises responded to the request for proposal. Since 1997, they’ve designed and implemented software solutions for state-level and international government agencies, including tax boards, child support agencies and several motor vehicle divisions. Bakri liked that FAST had a proven track record in other states, and their services stayed within budget and were delivered on time.

Matt Zeltwanger, a project manager at FAST, partnered with Bakri’s team. “We knew from our experience in other states that we’re definitely able to provide an intuitive and efficient process for end users so that they can serve customers more quickly,” he says. “I think the statistics show we’ve definitely succeeded at that. MVD and the Department of Justice have been great partners to work with.”

FAST broke the transition into three phases, two of which are now in place. The first phase, an overhaul of the scheduling software, went live in October of 2022. Due to the long distances people in Montana often have to travel to visit an MVD office, and with changes brought about by the pandemic, improvements in online services were a crucial first step.

The new appointment setting system included text reminders with a link to reschedule or cancel, which led to a decrease in no-shows from 30% to less than 10%. Calls to customer service dropped by 30% and the average examiner was able to see two additional customers per day.

The second phase, implemented in November 2023, focused on driver services. More than 11,000 online transactions were completed within the first 60 days. Appointment times went down from months to two weeks, transaction times went from an average of 22 minutes to eight minutes, and in some offices the wait time for a written or driving test dropped from 79 days to six. As a result, even more examiner time is freed up and both customer and staff satisfaction skyrocketed.

“It’s important to mention the benefit to our employees,” Bakri says. “Change is hard for a lot of people. But as soon as we started training with the new system, the employees could not wait to get this rolled out. It’s very intuitive. So they’re very happy with this change, too. And in this employment market, I think that’s important. They’re also a customer of the system.”

The third phase, scheduled for March of 2025, will center on the vehicle side and will include further optimization by moving more paper-driven processes to cloud-based, electronic processes.

“MVD and the Department of Justice have been great partners to work with,” Zeltwanger says.  “These projects are not easy. They’re a lot of work. But I think the work we did together made it go a lot smoother. It’s led to great results for everyone in Montana who needs to deal with their driver’s license or records.”

“I’ve rolled out a lot of systems before. This was the smoothest rollout that I’ve ever experienced,” Bakri recalls. She’s looking forward to seeing the improvements the third phase and ongoing partnership with FAST will bring for MVD employees and customers alike.

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