Burn Before Reading

I’m sorry I just can’t help myself.

Every time I return to the fray I seem forced to grapple with a fresh example of inefficient, inconsistent or just plain inscrutable public sector blarney. My only catharsis is to write it down, here. Not to do so would create all manner of new, unwanted and probably damaging internal tensions that I would prefer to do without.

Here’s the deal:

“The Redacted is implementing a new multi-buyer e-procurement platform… that will allow us to manage our supplier base more effectively. To continue to receive notification of potential tender opportunities with the Redacted and its executive agencies… click on the link below to register…”

So. Registration. Should be straightforward, right? I’ve got the link and I’ve been “pre-invited” to register, so what can go wrong? I fling myself into the task with optimism and enthusiasm. Things start well: the first page has recorded some basic details and provided a system ID. Only ten more pages to go.

The second page requires some further information, which I don’t have to hand. Off I go to collect it. I’m already thinking “wouldn’t it have been good if I’d been provided with a list of things I’ll need”. Having collected the information I sit back down to key it in.

I’ve been logged out. Never mind, I’ll pick it up from where I left off.

Wrong. The form has forgotten me (already). So I re-key my previous entries and add the new details. On to the next page.

Rinse and repeat.

Too late I notice (by complete accident) that a date I had entered in free text had defaulted to the American format. I only discovered this by subsequently looking at the drop down calendar and finding that my input – 6/11/2015 – had been recorded by the system as 11th June 2015 – which, if it had gone unnoticed would probably have invalidated the registration. No guidance, no warning.

Rinse and repeat.

Suffice to say a really, really simple job took me nigh on two hours to complete. That’s two hours of quite expensive, sort-of-executive time. No doubt multiplied across the supplier roster. And we wonder at our productivity failings.

Finally, I finished. I figured that, as the invitation to apply had been extended by a specific Department, to SDA as one of their specific suppliers, and as the invitation had majored on providing us with information about “…a number of forthcoming tenders from across the Redacted and its executive agencies that we don’t want you to miss out on” I could now look forward to examining what was on offer. Of the 63 opportunities noted JUST ONE was with said organisation; the rest were from all manner of public bodies for whom we have never worked, and for which we were mostly unsuited.

I know the Government mantra: don’t build, buy; COTS is best! But really? At least put in some effort to MAKE IT WORK.

Disappointed by this episode I wrote to the “executive agency” that appeared to have been charged with the development of the system, explaining some of my reservations. (SDA are, after all, expert in form creation.) For the next couple of days I got the following message:

“This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification
THIS IS A WARNING MESSAGE ONLY. YOU DO NOT NEED TO RESEND YOUR MESSAGE.
Delivery to the following recipient has been delayed: commercialadmin@redacted.org.uk
Message will be retried for x more day(s)”

Culminating with:

“Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:
commercialadmin@redacted.org.uk
Technical details of permanent failure:
The recipient server did not accept our requests to connect.”

Doh!

Burn before reading.

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