Right on Queue

Right on Queue

Technology upgrades allow for the Rhode Island DMV to decrease wait times for customers

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In early 2017, Bud Craddock, director of the Rhode Island DMV (RI DMV), was anticipating a new source of congestion in his branches. The RI DMV was set to replace its 40-year-old computer system with RIMS, or the Rhode Island Modernization System. After almost a decade of changing hands from administration to administration, the project was near the finish line, and while the relaunch promised to bring efficiencies, it would kick off that July with a complete shutdown of services for three days, along with the inevitable learning curve that comes with new technology. The confluence of factors could result in backlogs and a potentially problematic caseload for the new system.

That’s when Craddock had a serendipitous meeting with Stonewall Solutions, a local technology and consulting firm. Though the RIMS project wasn’t the basis for the conversation, the upcoming challenges came to the fore. Stonewall hadn’t worked with a DMV before, but it packaged some existing solutions together and mocked up an intuitive interface that impressed Craddock and his team.

“We explained to the RI DMV that our approach is very different from most tech companies,” says Kayla Mendes, project manager and director of operations at Stonewall Solutions. “Once a client tells us what they wish to accomplish, we build screen mock-ups of the entire system before our development team starts to build. This allows them to validate the functionality to a detailed level and ensure the new system is intuitive.

A key goal we had was to design and implement a reservation scheduling system that would allow them to control the frequency and volume of customers who came in. They spoke to different vendors and chose Stonewall because we were local, nimble and cost effective.”

Offering a combination of appointment scheduling, inventory management and data gathering, ReServe—as the reservation management solution was called—would allow motorists to schedule appointments online and allow the DMV to limit lines and wait times in its branches.

RIMS and ReServe went live in July at four of the RI DMV’s six branches. Motorists were pleasantly surprised at the strikingly different experience the reservation system provided. The local ABC news station contrasted footage of customers sleeping during their wait times prior to the launch with video of empty queues after. One motorist even told the station that he took pictures of the waiting room to prove to incredulous friends that there was no line.

“What was interesting is that it went so smoothly,” Craddock notes. “The media always looks for negative things to happen, but by the third day, they weren’t even outside our door anymore.”

“Without the reservation system, it was difficult to predict the number of transactions that would occur on a given day,” Mendes says. But with ReServe, she says the DMV can function more like a doctor’s office. Motorists have a designated time slot and can even receive reminder emails with information about documentation they may need to bring to their appointment.

The RI DMV is still using the ReServe system for its commercial driver’s license transactions and adjudication appointments, and Craddock says in 2020 the DMV is looking into using the tool for Real ID transactions. With a critical mass of reservations and completed appointments, Craddock and his staff will be able to use the data on those appointments to further optimize scheduling by accounting for factors like the average no-show rate.

The ReServe solution was such a success, John Condon, Stonewall president and owner, says that shortly after its implementation, the Rhode Island Division of Taxation, Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training and the Massachusetts Chief Medical Examiner’s Office all reached out to Stonewall seeking the solution for their operations.

Overall, both Craddock and Condon agree that the partnership was a success. “Stonewall was very accommodating,” Craddock says. “They had people on-site during our launch period, so any issues could be addressed immediately.”

“The Rhode Island DMV was an exceptional client to work with,” Condon says. “The whole team was dedicated to success of the project, and the outcome has led Stonewall to implement ReServe in other jurisdictions and gain interest from other DMVs.”

Spreading the Word

The RI DMV put together an aggressive marketing campaign to raise awareness of the RIMS project and the disruption of regular service it would cause. Bud Craddock, director of the RI DMV, worked with the Rhode Island Legislature and governor to pass legislation that granted motorists grace periods during the transition; he attended town hall meetings and spoke to community groups; and he ran TV, radio, out-of-home and social media campaigns. The RI DMV’s social media campaign, which included multiple bilingual videos and a Q&A forum, was extremely successful and was honored at the 2018 AAMVA Awards.   

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