Postmortem of the RTO system: Processware Lapses
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An analysis of the computerised system at the govt office of RTO. Major flaws in processware are found which could have been easily avoided to give a much better customer experience and save time and money for the applicants


My Experience at RTO Office

I recently did the re-registration of my vehicle at an RTO in Bangalore without engaging the services of any agent. I do this often with government services for two reasons - to study the computerized processes deployed, and second, to gauge the corruption in our government departments. I had done a similar study of the passport office and narrated my experience (Peopleware Deployment of IT Applications: A Study of Passport Office )

My experience at RTO revealed total lack of process study by the IT experts and total lack of concern for customer experience on the part of the management/ government.

This article looks at the car re-registration process.

The Web-based Self Help RTO System and the System at RTO

My observation of the computerised system revealed something very interesting.

I found few simple and basic flaws in the RTO system. RTO has a web based system designed for an on-line self-help process. In this site, the customer can fill up the application for various services, upload the supporting documents and optionally make payment before proceeding to the RTO office. I faced some difficulty in the process so I decided to only fill an application form, print it and do the rest of the process by submitting physical copies of the supporting documents at the RTO office (process starting with circle B in Fig. 2).

At the RTO office too they use a computerised system. At the end of my job, I felt that the basic problem lay in the fact that RTO has used the same system for on-line self-help mode and for manual processing at the RTO. The detailed steps and processes for online slf-help mode differ slightly from the steps and processes at the RTO. The system should have been modified to suit the changed RTO processes where an applicant made manual submissions of physical documents. The processes have somehow been stretched and manipulated to suit the system, rather than making the system to suit the process, It is like cutting your feet to fit the shoes Fig. 1). The net result is that the public suffers as it is made to do some weird things which could have been avoided. The time, frustration and money of the public could have been saved.

Fig. 1

I say so because there were some redundant processes which the applicant was forced to perform in RTO and some on-line approvals by senior staff which really delayed the process and caused major inconvenience to the applicant.

To name a specific process, the need to upload supporting documents by the applicant seemed to be a completely unnecessary process and was a remnant of the web based self-help system. This has to be done through an outside vendor who had set up shop only for this purpose and charged heavily for the service. According to me, it was only a waste of time, effort and money for the applicant, and a way to torment the applicant. Since this is a redundant but essential part of the flow, the applicant cannot proceed to the next step of making payment unless this is done. This step could easily be avoided if only the IT department had studied the actual process. This job can be done as a back-office activity by RTO and the applicant can be spared major discomfort and delay. This could involve some investment from RTO, but it is worth it if it can improve customer experience and reduce corruption.

The on-line system designed for self-help is not at all suited for deployment at the RTO where the process is largely manual. A different version of the software needs to be designed by IT folks with minor modifications to suit the processes followed at RTO. This will give a great relief to the public.

We will see with an example how the applicant is subjected to a lot of inconvenience because of this simple goof up. This is not the only process. There are possibilities of more improvements how customer experience can be improved and customer time reduced.

RTO and government should appreciate that most people take leave from their offices to get this job done. Most people spend heavily on touts and agents because they find the process very tedious.

The System at RTO

The following diagram (Fig. 2) shows the current process followed using the web based online system.

Fig. 2: Process Flow at RTO Office

The boxes within the grey colour represent activities carried out individually by the applicant say at home, like form filling (online or manual), etc.

The boxes in blue represent the activities carried out at the RTO office

The activities in red colour need some explanation.

There are innumerable small shops just outside the RTO which provide various services and sell various items demanded by the RTO staff during the application process. There is an entire ecosystem which thrives on providing the nitty gritties. The boxes in the red background are those activities which an applicant has to carry out in the "marketplace" outside the RTO which exists only because of the RTO.

This is the most redundant and torturous part of the process for the applicant and hence has been shown in red. A proper implementation of the system can do away with this entire ecosystem, but it appears there is no will on the part of RTO as there appears to be a dangerous synergy and interdependence between the RTO and this ecosystem.

Though this process flow diagram shows only one activity in the red box, in the detailed process you will find that there are many more activities for which the applicant has to time and again go to this ecosystem for frivolous requirements, wasting his/her time and spending money (described later). This article lists just one most prominent and redundant process in the red box as part of the flow. The other box is left hanging and is not part of the flow as it represents several activities for which the applicant has to go out to the "market" time and again.

The activities which involve long waiting are marked with a red star on the top right corner of the box in Fig. 2.

The Process Flow

The applicant starts the process either at A or B. Process A is a semi-automated process where the applicant fills up an online form and uploads scanned electronic copies of the supporting documents before visiting the RTO office where rest of the processes are mainly manual.

Process B is predominantly manual process where form is filled up manually and physical copies of supporting documents are submitted at the RTO office.

It is important to note that majority of the people (my guess is 95%) would be following Process B. And Process B is full of time consuming, tedious and redundant processes needing improvement. What is important is that the improvements can easily be done if there is a will to improve applicants' experience.

RTO Process Flow in Details

Let us look at the two processes in details.

Process A

  1. The applicant fills the form on-line and submits
  2. S/he uploads scanned copies of supporting documents, and optionally pays the fees too.
  3. S/he Prints a copy of the filled application
  4. 4. S/he visits the RTO office and submits the application form

In Process B

  1. The applicant downloads a blank form on the RTO site, prints it and fills it up manually
  2. S/he fills up the downloaded form and attaches physical copies of the required documents.
  3. S/he visits the RTO office and submits the manually filled application form and physical copies of the supporting documents.

This is when the tedium starts. The RTO clerk makes a brief entry on the computer and asks you to get tax approval from another gentleman (this step is not shown in the diagram). You would be lucky if the person is available on the seat. Most often s/he would not be there or would be visiting some other office so you are asked to come again next day. I fail to understand why it cannot be done on-line, as I am sure the road tax data should be available on-line at RTO. Anyway, after tax verification, you go back to the submission counter and are now asked to go out to the vendor outside (red box) and upload the supporting documents to the RTO site.

You check if you could soft copies of the documents with your smart phone, But the site is so slow that you cannot scan and upload the documents through your mobile.

The Problem Area

The problem of using the same web based online system for RTO operations is evident here. Just because the online self-help system requires the upload, you are asked to upload documents. For this you need to use a vendor from the adjacent “market” and pay a hefty fees.

This tedious process and cost could be avoided if the system had been tuned to match the process at the RTO, At least it would not be the responsibility of the applicant.

In my view, when you are submitting all documents physically, there is no need really to upload scanned documents before payment. The scanning and uploading can be easily a back-office activity to be carried out after the applicant finishes and goes home. But since the same system is employed, you are asked to go out to a vendor who gives this service.

So you go out to ecosystem (marketplace outside the RTO office), and find that the upload is done by a lady sitting in a Tata Sumo vehicle converted to a movable shop, where she has a scanner, printer and laptop. You find that there is a queue and wait for your turn. You need to shell out about Rs 300 just for uploading documents.

Once your turn comes and your documents are uploaded, you wait for an unspecified time (as the site is very slow) till there is acknowledgement or approval from the system (normally 15-20 minutes as per her). You keep waiting. In case she is too busy working for other customers, your wait time can be longer as she would be too busy to check your application status. Once the system approval comes, she prints a small acknowledgement and gives to you, which has to be shown at payment counter. Without that you cannot proceed to pay.

This demand of document upload by the applicant seems unnecessary. Making it a back-office activity will reduce customer’s tedium. Not sure why one has to get the acknowledgement of upload before payment. Just because in the online self-help web system it is there.

I did not see the person really scanning and uploading the document, so I doubt if the upload process was really required, but you got an acknowledgement number which was required before you could proceed to the next step of payment of fees.

There are more such redundant processes which could be redesigned to ensure that the applicant does not have to wait and can finish the process fastest and with least inconvenience. The activities which have a red star on the top right corner in Fig. 2 are activities which involve long waiting. But in most Indian government offices, improving customer experience is the last priority. In fact the more difficult the experience, there are more chances of corruption.

Such a system encourages the possibility of a nexus between the RTO employees and the vendors outside which resists any simplification in the process and ensures that the vendor market outside is an essential part of the entire process.

For the smallest and most trivial things, you are asked to go out to the market outside to either buy something or to get things done to complete the application submission. And there is no help to tell you the entire process so that you go out to the market and buy/do all the prerequisites in one go. Invariably you make several rounds of the market.

For instance, you are asked to buy a stamped envelope in which the RTO will send you the renewed registration card. Then you are asked to get a small plastic pouch/cover in which to submit your existing Registration card. So you go out to the shops looking for a small plastic cover (shown in Fig. 2 in an independent activity in the red box. It is not connected to the flow as these are random activities, can arise any time)

The entire process involves a lot of movement within office from one room to another as instructed by the last person (only when you complete one step, you are told what to do next and where to go), from office to outside vendors, payment to vendors, waiting for officers and frustration. Most people avoid going to the RTO and spend heavily on agents for activities which can be easily done if the processes are improved.


  1. The applicants convenience, ease of use and time spent in the entire process should be given utmost importance. Absolutely no thoughts seem to have been given while designing the automation process
  2. You cannot have the same online web system designed for self-help implemented in the RTO premises. The system needs some tweaking to tailor it for use in RTO. It can be easily modified if one studies the exact process.
  3. All the redundant processes should be removed and the government needs to ensure that some of the work which now requires applicant's time should be done at back-office
  4. RTO should stop asking applicants to go out to the vendor ecosystem to buy trivia's like envelops and stamps, etc. These can be easily provide by RTO to improve applicant's experience which is of utmost importance.
  5. The market outside the RTO should be abolished. There should be no need for the applicant to step out of the office except for vehicle inspection. This could be the biggest source of corruption and opposition to simplify processes.
  6. The author can provide technical, managerial and process improvement related help in tailoring the system to match the RTO process.

Additional Notes for the Tech Savvy

As a techy who has developed and implemented several business applications successfully, I call this a problem of peopleware and processware deployment. I have talked about it earlier with respect to the old Passport office automation ( My contention was that in IT/ERP implementations, considerable attention is given on hardware and software deployment, but very little on peopleware and processware deployment. The term 'Peopleware' in that article actually includes processware deployment.

Peopleware deployment involves deployment of people and non IT related equipment, infrastructure, facilities, etc. to be provided so that the new system can effectively be used by people. It also involves planning of, (and training on) the way end-users would use the system, and the changes in their interface to the new system. Peopleware planning should also include a training on Behavioral IT® skills to leadership. Click here to know more.

By processware deployment I mean making sure that the "as is" and "would-be" automated processes are minutely studied and defined, the software is built to suit the "would-be" process, and most importantly, the process is actually redesigned to "would-be automated" process during actual deployment.

The above story of RTO office automation is a good example to illustrate what exactly is processware deployment where there is a mismatch between the actual desired automated process and the designed system.

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