Minn. drives queries to the Web

Until last fall, the Minnesota Public Safety Department's Driver and Vehicle Services system had only an old mainframe green-screen terminal interface.

'We did all our data queries on CICS screens,' said Judith Franklin, manager of DVS enterprise support for the Minnesota department. 'Our business partners sent their work to us on paper. We had to do all the processing.'

Information sometimes was handled two or three times as it was entered, 'which bred a lot of data errors,' she said.

Plus, the Public Safety Department had lower employee turnover than its business partners, Franklin said. Long-time state workers had no problem dealing with the green screen, but it was far more difficult for the industry partners.

In September 2001, the department began working with WRQ Inc. of Seattle to integrate the legacy systems under a Web interface that would be functional for industry partners as well as citizens.

WRQ used its Verastream integration software, said Mike New, the company's director of integration strategies.

DVS had 25 years' worth of Cobol code running under IBM OS/390. New agreed with Franklin that the old applications were 'terrifically difficult to use, but they were still valid,' he said. 'Why not reuse the existing logic?'

Without changing the host code, Verastream put the business functions on the Web, at dutchelm.dps.state.mn.us/dvsinfo/mainframepublic.asp.

Site visitors can enter their driver's license numbers to change their addresses, report vehicle sales, check the status of licenses or get tax information.

The main database management system, Supra Server SQL from Cincom Systems Inc. of Cincinnati, holds millions of records that DVS will probably migrate soon to an IBM DB2 database, Franklin said.

The first month after the site's November 2001 launch, 15,000 people visited it. It is 'very, very popular,' Franklin said. 'Our e-mail has doubled. People can easily click on a link and send an e-mail that says, 'Uh-oh, my license has been revoked. How do I get reinstated?' '

The division still receives about 1.5 million calls a year. 'We just changed our phone greeting to direct people to the Web site,' Franklin said.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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