Last July the Ministry of Transport successfully completed its project for conversion of all of its core systems, in preparation for the transition to licensing of vehicles in Israel using eight digits instead of seven. This is one of the most complex core projects undertaken in the public sector in recent years, because besides its complex technological aspect, it has revolutionized the manner of licensing of vehicles in Israel.
In effect, from last summer, all vehicles that importers marked as being 2018 models have to have eight digits. The meaning of this decision stemmed from a need that was identified many years previously, whereby the Ministry of Transport knew that at the end of 2017 its stock of seven digit license numbers would be exhausted, requiring a change.
That decision affected no less than 22 sectors in the Israeli economy, in which vehicle license numbers are an operational code used for various purposes: for example: the licensing department, vehicle testing institutes, print shops that produce vehicle licenses, the Israel Police, toll roads, insurance companies, banks, Israel Post and a number of government ministries and public entities.
The technological part of the project was led by the Information Systems Division headed by its information systems manager, Tzur Aharon, Senior VP Information Technology at the Ministry of Transport, with teams of the ministry. Another key partner in the project that accompanied it from its beginning to end was MOST Technologies of Malam Group, headed by Danny Marom. Another technology partner in the project was Tescom, which managed the testing and script process.
Tzur Aharon, Senior VP Information Technology - Ministry of Transport
When Aharon looks back at the project processes, in an attempt to give his fellow CIOs helpful tips, he assigns the greatest weight to the partnering with the supplier. So does Marom.
According to him “In projects of this type, if the supplier does not consider itself an integral part of the project, and equally responsible for successes or failures, there is no chance of it succeeding. It is the chemistry and the human component as well as the work with the Ministry and the division that was critical and we are glad that it was also successful”.
Two critical stages
So what did the project include? Firstly, a methodology that formed the strategy of executing the project in two stages was formed in order to minimize risks. The core strategy was the
adaptation of internal systems of the Ministry to eight digits and building interfaces that allowed for coexistence of seven digits alongside eight digits licensing until the full entry of the change with all outside parties.
According to Aharon, “The process of conversion of the Ministry’s core systems consisted of 1,200 different programs, which were run on several separate IT infrastructures including mainframes and conversion of code lines”.
“The second stage was the transfer of the work interface to eight digits. Another key component in the project was the schedule. The end of 2017 was the deadline, and there was no provision for any script of deferral or a second chance. That fact applied to everyone who worked in the project and not just to technology people”.
The total budget of the project was 15 million shekels (around $4.2 million USD), and with the technology suppliers MOST and Tescom, 25 man years. Here too Aharon emphasizes that there was no budget or schedule overrun, and anyone who is familiar with the governmental project environment can agree with Aharon that this cannot be taken for granted.
“I saw that everyone who worked on the project had but one goal – ensuring that the conversion would allow for a continuous business activity in the market” adds Aharon. “We must not forget that the automotive sector brings in 45 billion shekels in revenue each year, and its criticality was clear to us too”.
We all put our egos aside
“In such a project there is a big risk component”, explains Aharon. “Here too I think that we managed risks intelligently. Some of the scripts that we had in risk management materialized, but because we prepared in advance, we knew how to deal with them”.
“A part that was just as important in the process was the testing. Here, the project managers faced a number of challenges: a need to build tests for complex batch processes that were developed many years ago, and a need to build test processes that combine business activity of outside parties. The use of automatic testing tools reduced the testing time and personnel requirements to three testers instead of seven for about 1,200 test scripts”.
“Of course, this project was of great importance with the other parties at the ministry too”, said Aharon. “To this end, we established a number of steering committees for various fields, the management of the ministry headed by the Director General got regular reports and explained its commitment to the project, and the main contribution was the personal cooperation between all parties, putting our egos aside and a commitment to work on the task together, while working intelligently to overcome crises, which were not in short supply”.
The bottom line: according to Aharon, “This project could serve as an example to other information system managers who are contending with complex projects similar to the one that he led. Firstly, the scope of the project must be defined with the supplier, after the selection process has been duly completed. The supplier’s commitment at the highest personal level must be ensured”.
He continues: “There’s a component of risk management here, which in my opinion we dealt with in the best possible manner. Two more conditions that are essential to this project are working shoulder to shoulder with all parties at the ministry and forming a personal commitment, everyone putting their egos aside”.
The Erez project was submitted for the 2018 outstanding IT workers project. Last year, Aharon was crowned outstanding information systems manager, by a recommendation headed by Prof. Gadi Ariav of Tel Aviv University.
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