CIO revs up highway patrol with massive application modernization

Clifford Gronauer, CIO at the Missouri State Highway Patrol, doesn't look like someone who is easily ruffled. That aura of calm no doubt has served him well in recent years as he has led an application modernization project that replaces the highway patrol's legacy environment en masse.

"The original plan was to do it piecemeal, like most organizations," confessed Gronauer, a finalist for the 2011 MIT Sloan Symposium Award for Innovation Leadership.

As Gronauer explains in this CIO Innovator video, however, a "perfect storm" of events persuaded him to go big. The organization's mainframe-based legacy applications, most of them developed in the 1970s, were expensive to run and to maintain. Moreover, he was hard put to find people to support them. "Let's face it, when kids come out of college today with their IT degrees, COBOL and CICS are not real high on their hit parade," he said. In addition, the patrol's 2,500 officers and civilian employees were clamoring for more features and functions. Then came a potential windfall: federal grant money -- assuming he could muster an appeal on short notice.

"We had a 10-day window from the time we found out about the grant to when the application was due," Gronauer said. "With luck, skill, whatever, somebody was shining down on us and we got a fairly sizeable grant that helped fund at least the startup of the project."

The application modernization project is entering its second phase. The modules -- all off-the-shelf software -- are in production. Efforts now are focused on improving systems that serve not only the patrol but also about 10,000 users throughout Missouri's criminal justice system. Even at this stage, however, it is probably fair to say that the application modernization project is life-changing.

The project's linchpin is the patrol's computer-aided dispatch, or CAD, solution, Gronauer said. That system puts out initial calls for help and connects with the laptops installed in patrol officers' cars. The map-based approach of the new software is particularly effective for a largely rural state like Missouri, he said, where the patrol generally does not respond to specific addresses but to mile makers on interstate highways. The software also allows officers to do single-entry data: For example, once they've scanned a license's bar code, they can access the driver's information and print out a ticket in the patrol car. The project's overall goal was to improve officers' accuracy and reduce the amount of time they spend on administrative duties. "We're trying to revolutionize the quality of their jobs," he added.

Watch the video to hear more about the technical challenges of the application modernization project and how Gronauer deployed his personnel to ensure maximum IT innovation.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Linda Tucci, Senior News Writer.

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