Withheld FTE’s? Has State of RI Contributed to Delay of DMV Computer?


Albeit the most spectacularly disastrous, the (non)launch of Rhode Island’s new UHIP computer system in September is not the only failure of a major state computer system. It was preceded by the state’s effort to upgrade the Department of Motor Vehicle’s computer system, a saga that now spans three governors and ten years. In late October, Governor Gina Raimondo announced that the State of Rhode Island had filed suit against the vendor, Hewlett Packard Enterprises, for failing to complete the DMV computer system. (That this announcement occurred just as more bad news about the UHIP launch was about to break was undoubtedly only a coincidence and not at all intended to distract from the unfolding news of the failed launch of a second major state computer system — or the fact that responsibility for THIS failure could be attributed to one governor only.)

But is Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) entirely at fault here? In early December, the vendor counter-sued. WPRI’s Ted Nesi reported that HPE, in their legal defense, claimed that

…the state “had not mapped the vast majority of data that needed to be migrated” from the old computer system to the new one as of the project’s old Sept. 28 due date.

“HPE repeatedly warned the State that its failures to provide sufficient resources (in the form of staffing) to timely approve the data migration and other obligations would cause delays,” its lawyers wrote, adding that the state did not “provide an adequate number of dedicated employees” or put someone in charge of data migration.

Yet, only two and a half months later, around February 19 of this year, the Rhode Island Department of Revenue announced that the new DMV computer system could go live this summer.

This seems optimistic in light of the fact that the state and HPE are still very much locked in legal battle, signaling discord about a potential resolution, and especially in light of HPE’s claim that the state failed “to provide sufficient resources (in the form of staffing) to timely approve the data migration” and did not “provide an adequate number of dedicated employees” to complete the project. Accordingly, the Ocean State Current contacted the Department of Revenue late last week and asked

In light of Mr. Hull’s announcement, have steps been taken to address this situation? If they have, please advise what they are and related details. For example, if FTE’s have been created or transferred, please provide those numbers and when they will start or if they have started on this data migration. If someone has been placed in charge of this data migration project, please advise the person’s name.

The Department of Revenue’s Chief of Information and Public Relations Paul Grimaldi responded,

Every IT job supporting the DMV’s RIMS (Rhode Island Modernization System) project is filled. Eight to 10 people were hired or assigned to the project over the last year. Among those was Chris Colen, a long-time technology industry veteran, who runs the project on a day-to-day basis. He controls and supervises the work that gets done, including data migration.

Colen and a project manage from the Department of Administration are part of our own governance process, which is led by the director of the Department of Revenue. (The DMV is one of five agencies that comprise the Department of Revenue.) The project governing committee also includes the DMV administrator, the revenue department’s CFO, the director of the R.I. Department of Administration and others. The committee meets weekly to review matters related to the project. There also are regularly scheduled “showcases” during which RIMS team members demonstrate functionality of newly developed software. The system is now in simulation mode with DMV customer service reps completing transactions with the new software on a controlled basis. (For example, timing how long they complete transactions using RIMS versus the “legacy” system.)

H’mmm, other than to note that there seems to be a high ratio of management to employees actually doing the work on this project, I’m not sure what to make of this response. What do you think? Have they furnished enough FTE’s (Full Time Equivalent’s – or manpower, to use a presumably politically incorrect term) to get the data migration job done?

Mr. Grimaldi also pointed to someone else whose opinion matters in this situation; namely, the judge’s.

Apart from this information, I’d like to note one point about the lawsuit cited in the Ch. 12 report. HPE made assertions in its defense, which is its right. Whether the judge finds those credible is unknown at this point.