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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Profitable But Shame; True Story Of India Post COD

Location 1: A Branch Post Office
A congested small half heighted room under the staircase of an office complex built by the state government authorities.  The Branch Postmaster, a lady looking nearly 65 years old, is sitting in a damaged chair with dissatisfied face near to a small table.  A fan or even proper ventilation is not available in this office.
NB: Dissatisfaction may be due to her concern about the life after retirement (Sorry- Discharge of service)
This small room is filled with undeliverable parcels with label COD.  Actually the BPM is surrounded with different types of CODs i.e. BP-COD, SP-COD, EP-COD.
One college boy approached this Post Office and asked about one COD parcel to be received in his name.  The BPM told him “Your parcel has been received and this is your parcel, but I cannot deliver this to you since the message is not received.” 
The boy asked more about the message and argued for his parcel.  He told “my parcel has been received and I am willing to pay the amount, then why you are waiting for message? I don’t want any message… I want only that parcel.”
Helpless BPM!  She doesn’t know much about message and its technicality.  Instead she acts according to the instruction received from her Account office.
Finally the boy left the office by cursing the Department.
Location 2: A Departmental B Class Sub Office
Rented building with sufficient space but no space in the counter to place a voucher because the small counter is over crowded with various devices.  But one-man-show is playing in this office due to staff shortage.  But the man working in this office looks very enthusiastic.  (NB: The expectation of salary hike in the 7th CPC may be the one of the reasons of his happiness)
One network rack is fixed in a danger condition just above the head of Postmaster and that may fall at any time. (NB: Sify people will reduce the staff strength again)
COD-parcels are dumped in all corner of this office.
One middle aged man approached this Post Office and asked about one COD parcel to be received in his name.  The Sub-Postmaster told him “Your parcel has been received, but I cannot deliver it to you because three messages have been received of for this one parcel.  So I am waiting for our System Administrator”
He looked at the eyes of Postmaster pathetically without understanding these technicalities.  After that he left the office without any complaint or agitation.  But he might have said in his mind “What Message and What System Administrator”
Location 3: A Head Post Office
Red and white colour theme and standardized furniture increase the look but old 2000 model computers and dragging printers are losing the dignity gained from Look and Feel.
One e-commerce customer is waiting at the counter for booking COD articles, at the same time one Gentle man approached the delivery branch for his COD articles.  The official in the delivery branch told “Your parcel has been reached at this office one week back, due to error in the software it cannot be included in our software.  We are waiting for the solution from CEPT.”
The Gentle man asked “What is CEPT?”
The official replied with a smile “Centre for Excellence in Postal Technology”
Part II
Have you ever gone through any of the above said scenario?  If you are a Post Office staff, surely you will be well aware of it.  Most pain full part is that it is the sorrow of operational staffs only.  But others are simply closing their eyes towards the truth (may be due to ignorance)
If it is a single case, we can leave it without giving much importance.  But if is happening everywhere, there is something wrong somewhere.  But who will answer to the questions from field units?
Have you checked the impression of India Post COD in the web world? If the answer is no, please see the Google search result about India Post COD below.   If you search in with words “India Post COD Service” you can see the same results in rank number 2.
The above said search result is not at all a good sign for India Post in the ecommerce driven parcel service industry.  Till the introduction of COD service, the market share of India Post in the parcel service related to ecommerce sector was negligible.  But now lots of ecommerce parcels are flowing through the channel of India Post and it is the main revenue source of Department of Post.
If you analyse the evolution of COD in India Post, you can see that there were so many setback in its implementation.  Let us examine the reason for this fall.
Retaining an existing customer is more important than acquiring a new business.
1.  Implementation without proper planning.
India Post has glorious track record in the implementation of various services throughout the nation and thereby it has earned good trust from the people of India.  So the expectation toward any new product or service introduced by India Post will be very high especially the trust in security since it is a Government of India institution.
A mere implementation will not satisfy the needs of a customer in long run.  An effective implementation needs proper planning.  Here in the case of COD services, I think there was no such planning in advance.  It was like somebody got an idea in the midnight and they have implemented the same in the morning.
Through the next four points you can clearly understand that the DOP had implemented COD service without much planning.
2.  Lack of time for development and testing of software.
Creating error free software is the crucial part while introducing a new service.  Without stable software, it cannot implement on a larger scale without much complaint.  At the same time it is not possible to develop stable software in one or two days.  So many stages are involved in the development of software and each stage has its own time.
In my knowledge, CEPT is receiving late intimation from directorate in connection with adding new option in software.  In most of the cases the inauguration of new service would be fixed in advance without knowing the status of software.
Due to the pressure from the directorate or somewhere, the programmers will be forced to release imperfect software.  They will cut off the time taken in each stage of development and in some case they may skip some stages also.  This happened in many cases especially in the case of BP-COD.  That is why it is facing so many issues even after two years .
3.  Same way of thinking in software development.
Conceiving the idea is very important for the development of software.  Software for new service can be developed in many ways.  Attaining the goal through simple steps with minimum requirement should be the first priority.
In case of COD services, programmers are thinking in same pattern followed by the introduction of eVP service.  Since they are more concerned with the rules in the volume, they cannot develop with full freedom.  This is the main issue in developing software for India Post.
India Post has very strict rules and regulations in its operation but all such rules need not be implemented while developing software.  Trying to include all manual procedure in the software will make software complex.
The developers are not trying to explore the other areas to develop stable COD software.  Even if the BP-COD software is a failure, they simply followed same procedure in the SP-COD service also.  They all are based on RNet, SpeedNet and ePayment communications.  Using multiple communications and multiple modules for handling one service will make service more inconsistent.
COD services are prestige service of India Post then why don’t they use the possibilities of web application for this service?  If it is more expensive or time consuming, why don’t they try some simple methods through existing system?
Option for ePayment booking with flexible biller ID at delivery Post Office, receiving automated token from Central Server for retransmitting COD booking messages without human intervention, etc. are some other options.
If India Post invites idea from Postal Staffs across the country for better implementation of a service or Software, they will give hundreds of amazing options.
4.  Lack of proper software support.
Software itself is a problem then think about the condition in which operating this software without proper support.  That is happening everywhere.  For the past few years the condition of CEPT help desk is pathetic.  With the introduction of COD, the support is getting worse.
We have discussed the same matter through different posts like
Unfortunately there is no change in the attitude.  The comic replies from help desk make peoples laughing. 
A latest comedy is given below.
Scenario:  The case was happened at one COD payment office.  The SA raised ticket in HDMS for not receiving payment message of a particular COD in Treasury module.  The said COD was booked in another office and was delivered from another office.
Fortunately all details were get updated in the tracking.
Support team asked for epayment database of payment office and finally they have given a reply after analysing the database that “article details not available in the forwarded database, please check with out article details providing solution is not possible
If the details were available in the database there would be no need for raising ticket.
The helpless SA not reopened the case because if he asks more questions, it will invite the dislike of support team and finally they will reach in a conclusion “Database Tampering”, the final arrow towards the questioner.
You can read the original conversation below.
Ticket No: TICNO006XXXX
Ticket Raised Date: 09 Jul 2015 15:14:46:120
Problem Description: An SP-COD EZ746000XXXX booked at XXXX HO has been delivered at destination office on 26.06.2015 and the status has been updated in the ePayment server. But the message has not reached at YYYYY HO for payment. ePayment client is running without any issue and other SP-COD articles are receiving both for delivery and payment. Kindly give necessary guidance to receive the above said SP-COD message for effecting payment. The SP-COD tracking details attached
Screen shot: Download

Suspended Information: CEPT Replied: please forward ecounter database for analysis
Suspended Date: 10 Jul 2015 15:43:00:500

Ticket No: TICNO006XXXX
Ticket Raised Date: 13 Jul 2015 11:28:36:943
Problem Description: Google drive link attached
Solution Description: CEPT Replied: article details not available in the forwarded database, please check with out article details providing solution is not possible
Ticket Closed Date: 13 Jul 2015 17:50:03:820
5.  Lag in alternative and corrective measures
Setback is common in the implementation of a new service or new mechanism, but finding and applying an alternative solution in the right time is the success in failure.  At the same time, when you following an alternative methods, correction process should be started after studying the actual causes of failure.
After the introduction of BP-COD, so many software issues have been reported from various sides but no one had given proper attention to these issues.  Finally lots of customers complained for not receiving their money for the delivered article. After a long period the Directorate has issued an order showing the alternative method of COD payment through eMO.
The first order for sending CDD collection through money order was upto a particular period and after understanding the seriousness of issues they have extended this order to an indefinite period.
No corrective measures have been done in the software side after this order and the issues are still alive even after two years, so most of the offices are sending the COD collection as Money Order.
When you come to SP-COD, the scenario is not different.  So many issues are reporting from all sides but no effective action has been taken from any side. The higher authorities are not hearing the crying from the ground level, they simply admitting what CEPT is telling.  The ground level facts are more important than conceptual talking of software developers.  Everything will be fine theoretically but in practical it may not be like that.
No alternative method has been adopted for the payment of SP-COD collection so far.  India Post has all the facility to adopt an alternative method of payment quickly.  Then, why should they wait for long to introduce this.  The lost customer will not approach again so quick and effective remedy is needed.
Deploying a disaster recovery site or modules after the failure of software as a result of false implementation is not at all a good exercise.
After reading all the above points, you should not think that COD service of India Post is worse compared to others.  Compared to the benefits which one ecommerce customer is getting, the internal issues pertaining to India Post COD are negligible.  Since it is the prestigious and future deciding service of India Post, it should be completely error free and reliable.  If the issues reported from ground level are addressed properly, COD business of India Post and its rating in web will be raised to a new height in the near future.
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