Going to the DMV sucks, but it doesn’t have to: A story about Adaptive Resourcing

I dreaded the living hell out of renewing my license, so much so I that waited until the very last day possible to head on off to the DMV and get’er done.

I was in and out in 20 minutes. No muss, no fuss.

Flash back to earlier this week though. I was home sick (legit) but felt well enough to head out to a different DMV office and get the license renewal done. Figured, I’m already missing work, why miss more work later this week? Get’er done.

I wasn’t there 30 seconds before my head started spinning and I almost threw up. I was not feeling well. But the place was packed. My guess is I was facing a two-hour wait.

A two-hour wait. To renew my driver’s license. I was back home in bed within 10 minutes.

No one should wait two hours for any service, unless by choice, and by choice I mean you’re standing outside the trendiest of restaurants waiting for a table. Not sitting in a damned sauna waiting two hours to re-up your driving privileges.

I have a plastic, metal and glass rectangle in my pocket with which I can have a FaceTime call with someone on the other side of the world nearly as good as if she were standing in front of me. I Skype, I Google Hangout… I have no doubt the technology exists for what I’m about to propose…

Remember in Wargames how they ‘took the men out of the loop?’ The dudes with the keys to launch the nuclear missiles weren’t doing their jobs, so McKittrick proposed doing away with them in favor of computers.

Well, that didn’t go awesome. But at least he tried.

I’d like to see government (and business for that matter) do away with unnecessary grouping of employees in multiple physical locations, in favor of pooling them in a central space and using technology to distribute those resources to the physical spaces they are needed most.

Here’s the scenario:

Somewhere in Oregon, let’s say in Bend, there’s a giant facility called DMV Central. It’s filled with DMV folks with cameras, monitors, computers, scanners, printers…

Now, along with DMV Central, there are a bunch of DMV branches, much like there are now. But they’re not staffed with anything more than maybe one manager. Instead of people, there are booths customers can walk up to. They can speak directly, and nearly instantly, with a rep, get their shit done, and leave. In and out in five minutes. Not 2+ hours.

The key here isn’t ‘taking the men out of the loop’ per se. Instead, the key is smart, dynamic and instant redistribution of resources to where they’re needed most. In today’s world, if one DMV branch is getting slammed, and another is practically empty, the logical thing to do would be to get some of the reps with a light workload on a bus and sent over to the branch that’s slammed. But that would never happen, for so many reasons.

But with technology, it’s quite literally the press of a button.

Think about your last trip to the DMV. What, exactly, did you accomplish with the help of a physically-present human being that you couldn’t have done had that person been on a camera miles away?

Here’s what I did today. Stop me if you see something that would have been impossible to do remotely:

  • I walked into a building in Portland
  • I met a receptionist who asked me what I needed, and I told her I was there to renew my license
  • She asked me to fill out an application (which I had already printed and filled out), show her my ID, write a check, and get my picture taken.
  • Wait for my temporary ID to be printed out and handed to me
  • Leave said building

The whole process took 20 minutes, but that’s because it was an easy day for this particular office. Five miles away at another branch, I’d be willing to wager, the place was completely slammed. Two-plus hour wait.

What technology could really aid – throughout government, social services, and way beyond – is the redistribution of resources on the fly, from central locations. Let’s call it adaptive resourcing. Let’s take the men out of the loop, but only when it comes to deciding which physical resources should be applied to which physical locations.

Let’s keep the physical locations, and the face-to-face, but let’s put technology in the middle so we can get’er done quicker.

Too expensive? No. Sure, there’s an initial investment, but the reduction in redundant resources, along with streamlined processes (I already filled out the damned renewal application on my computer and printed it out, now I’m handing it to you so you can type it back into a computer???) would save millions in the medium-term, and it’d let me get the hell home and back into bed.