Wyoming begins work to replace computer system

By Ramsey Scott

Wyoming Tribune Eagle

Via Wyoming News Exchange

CHEYENNE — Wyoming is faced with a $68 million price tag to replace an aging computer system used by multiple state agencies including the Wyoming Department of Transportation. This week, lawmakers started the ball rolling on the long journey to replace it.

The state’s Revenue Information System has been in dire need of a replacement for years. The aging mainframe system, which houses information ranging from voter registration to driver records and license information, is around 30 years old and runs on a form of computer code called COBAL that is substantially older.

Members of the Joint Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Interim Committee on Monday gave their support to a bill that will lay the groundwork for an eventual replacement. The bill authorizes WYDOT to use $910,000 of its unrestricted funds, or any new revenues generated from the RIS system.

The aging RIS system costs the state around $1.3 million annually to maintain, in large part because of the outdated code used in its programming. So few programmers have any experience in the COBAL that the state must contract with private companies to provide technical support, said Dan Young, chief technology officer for Wyoming’s Department of Enterprise Technology Services.

“It’s very costly to support this legacy technology,” Young said. “When things do go wrong, or to keep things up to par, that’s when it gets a little costly.”

That money in the bill, if eventually approved, would go to preparing the data in the current RIS for an eventual move to a new cloud-based system, said Dennis Byrne, chief financial officer for WYDOT.

Young said ETS has been in talks with IBM about the company hosting the cloud server for Wyoming, which would keep the state from having to deal with system issues or keeping staff on the payroll that could repair issues when they arise.

“By moving to a hosted solution … we can leverage IBM and its partners to handle the support and maintenance of that hardware, and the platform that these applications sit on,” Young said.

The agency estimated starting that analysis and preparing everything for an eventual transfer would cost anywhere from $900,000 to more than $2 million, something WYDOT doesn’t have in it its budget, Byrne said.

“This interim step, this doing something while we try to determine how we pay for this system, this would be a good step to take. It keeps us moving in the right direction so we’re not standing with the grass growing beneath our feet,” Byrne said. “We’re able to move toward a solution. That’s what this would be. It’s really a preliminary step in the overall implementation of the process.”

The use of WYDOT funds and fees to pay for the first steps of the transfer could end up causing some issues with WYDOT’s budget. Representatives from the agency said multiple times if WYDOT was to use unrestricted funds currently in its budget, it would mean cuts in other areas.