Showing posts with label CEPT. Show all posts
Showing posts with label CEPT. Show all posts

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Manipulation Software Spreading in Post Offices

Changes are happening everywhere and people are start using gadgets and computers on a larger scale.  As a result of this, new generation people are searching for various solutions for getting their work done very quickly and smartly by bypassing some traditional mechanism.

The spark of above said changes can be seen in the newly originated work culture of India Post employees also.  Through this article, I am trying to showcase you one of such changes happening in India Post.


The practice of using unauthorized Software Tools developed by officials of India Post or third party is increasing day by day.  We can see this activity from different perspective.  I cannot say blindly that whether this practice is good or bad.  I am just trying to watch this activity from different view point.

After reading this full article, surely you can make a clear decision or at least you can understand the facts.


Few years back, when an error shows while doing an operation in any of the modules, the official would call the concerned System Administrator and explain the error. Then he would execute a solution supplied either by CEPT Mysore or SDC Chennai.  If the solution was not readily available with him, he will call another System Administrator who is working nearby office and ask for the solution supplied by CEPT or SDC.

He would report the error to CEPT or SDC and would get solution with in one or two days if it is a new error.

Likewise if any report was not available in a particular version, they had to wait until the next version has been released.

Now everything has been changed.  Let us see some questions or statements frequently used in the conversation between staffs in India Post.

Do you have any tool to rectify error …………….…? 
Do you have any tools to change the status of accounts in database?  
Please send me the tool for reviving all silent accounts?
Have any Tool for taking that report?
Use that tool and clear the discrepancy quickly, etc.

In short, Tools rules the operations of India Post.  Every one asking for tools and more people start developing tools.  Officers are also formally or informally insisting for using these type tools. 

Majority of the people insisting or using the software are not well aware of the software development concept and database security issues. That is why I have come with this matter to explain the background.

Evolution and Cause of Birth

While analyzing the evolution of such tools, you can see that the reporting tools were the first of this kind.  In certain case some required reports may not be available in the official software but the data will be available in the database.  Inorder to overcome this issue, persons having good understanding about the database might have developed reporting software for taking a particular or number of reports.

After the development of different types of reporting tools by various ‘in-house’ developers, the developers had started exploring new possibilities through such tools which was actually a risky job in different ways.  Let us discuss risk factors later.

In certain cases, inorder to complete a work within a stipulated time, changing database value is easier than doing it though the actual module.  In such case a new updation tool may be developed for bypassing many application level activities.

Delay for getting solution from CEPT or SDC Chennai may be one of the reasons for developing updation tools.

Picture of support from CEPT has already written in the previous post See how CEPTsupport team distract employees through HDMS

Good numbers of newly recruited Postal Assistants are engineering graduates or highly qualified persons and some of them are interested in programming and application development.  If such persons are working as System Administrator, they can easily study the database structure and thereby they can develop software tools based on local database.  Such tools may make the developer more popular through various blogs or social media sites.

In short fame or popularity may be one of the reasons for such development.

What is behind the curtain?

You will be happy if the error gets solved while executing a solution/Fix tool. But have you thought about what had happened in background while using a particular tool.  I know, you might not think about it.  That is why I have written this article.

I shall try to explain the back ground of database tools and its applicability as simple as I can.

Let us assume that some gold or equivalent valuable are kept inside a room and this room has two doors, one front door and one back door.  This room also has a very small window.  Here there are four possibilities to access the valuable kept inside the room.

a)   Through the front door( The Direct way)
b)   Through the back door (In Direct way)
c)   Through the window(Difficult but possible)
d)   By making hole on the roof or wall(Extremely difficult but possible)

Likewise in database concept, there are many way to access or manipulate the data.  Database is the collection of valuable data stored on the server which can be compared with gold in the above example.  Here Database may be accounts details or article details or employee details, etc.

If you consider the Database of a Post Office, it is also accessible through different ways like below.

1.    Through Application Level: - Accessing database through Front Door, This is the direct way of accessing database by end user and it is very easy and completely legal.

2.   Through Database Engine: - This is a formal back door activity.  Formal way of accessing database by database administrators.

3.   Through Custom made executable: -   This is using the advantage of window.  Here window means the knowledge about the database structure and its week security.  Person with insider knowledge can access DB through this way.  This is also an unfair activity.

4.   Hacking: - This is lime destruction of wall or roof.   A hacker can access the database by destroying the security or can intrude by using the advantage of week database security.  This is purely illegal in nature.

Developers of the manipulation tools use the third option to alter the database. You may think that developing a small manipulation tool is very difficult and only a smart programmer can do this.  But actually anyone with basic understanding of SQL query and programming language can develop a manipulation tool.
Instead of running SQL query in the Query Analyzer, the developers will run the same query using executable files in such tools. A programmer can include any number of queries in one exe file so while running this file he can make any modification in any database according to his will without your permission.
He can change the balance of all accounts in Sanchay Post or can delete all accounts by writing a single line of code.  In short the manipulation is as much as easy by using executable.

Inserting values in some columns of a table in a database according to the will of programmer is very common while developing a solution fix exe.  In certain circumstances while developing a solution exe, the programmer cannot insert the original values back into a particular column due to various constraints and such values will not be affected by the working of an application. In such cases developer of the tool may insert dummy value in to that field.

Such changes will not be identified by an end user but even if it will not make any adverse effect now, it may be questioned in future if any fraud has been committed.

Major Threat

99% percentage of the Software tools spreading and using in the Post Offices are developed with good intension.  They may not make any unnecessary changes in database.  There is another side for this case.  You people knowing only about the fair tools spreading through blogs or social Medias but there may be some other secret tools spreading or exchanging for malpractice or fraud.

Even if chances are very rare, special care should be given while preparing for CBS migration.  A culprit can make changes in database using this method without knowing any person and can reap the advantage after migration from any other office.

There is another chance for unnecessary alteration of database due to partial knowledge of the developer.  The change may not be intentional but it is also dangerous.

Administrative offices are very keen about Data Entry module and they are reluctant to give permission for data entry.  Because they think that data entry module is the only means through which a Post Office staff can do fraudulent activity.

But persons having knowledge in programming are actually laughing while hearing such comedies.  At the same time Administrative offices are silent about the use of manipulation tools which are more vulnerable than data entry. But in some places they are also encouraging database manipulation and tool developing.  This is actually giving license for doing fraud.

The administrative staffs are well aware that getting a solution from concerned software development centre is not practical and they are reading and hearing every day about the lapses from the part of Development centres.  So they may be forced to do such promotion due to pressure of circumstances.

How to Avoid This Threat

This is very simple as below.

1.   Avoid using unnecessary outside tools or Fix.
2.   Use the solution provided by official software development centres only.

3.   If it is absolute necessary, please receive from reliable source and verify the credibility of the developer.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

BSNL Customer Care – More Scare Than Care

                “Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.”
 —Guy Kawasaki

When the feature of Subscriber Trunk Dialling (STD) was introduced in India some four decades ago, the customers had to make numerous attempts to get through one call. Often the experience was testing and tiring. In view of this, some smart aleck gave a witty expansion to the abbreviation STD as Subscribers Trying and Dying.  As technologies kept advancing, the situation improved much and this humorous expansion of STD was forgotten.  Or so I thought. But I realized that BSNL customers would still ‘try and die’ – not dialling STD calls but trying to register a complaint online through its Customer Care portal. And this is the story of my first and last encounter with BSNL customer care portal.


It all started with the falling speed of my BSNL broadband connection. The service plan to which I subscribe should give me a speed @2 Mbps for the first 8 GB of data transactions in a month and @512 Kbps beyond it.  My broadband use is limited to accessing my email accounts and managing my blog, Google and Facebook accounts. By no chance could I run up a volume of 8 GB data a month. Thus, I have been enjoying a speed of 2 Mbps all through the month. But lately I found my connection agonizingly slow. And before making a formal complaint, I decided to confirm my feeling of low speed through a broadband speed test.   



I did a Google search and discovered the link provided by BSNL to test broadband speed online at the ‘BSNL Broadband Speed Tester Portal’ (http://speedtester.bsnl.co.in/). The page that opened had a link ‘Click To Start Speed Test’. That was easy, I thought. No questions… No hassles... I clicked the link. Another page with a message appeared on the screen. It read, ‘Conducting bandwidth tests. It may take a few seconds to exchange payload’. (Payload?  The operation sounded more like the launching of a guided missile, rocket or torpedo!)

In a moment’s time, the test result appeared on the page. It said. ‘Your current bandwidth reading (in Mega bits per second) is: 0.00 kbps. The tool obviously was defective. My connection was slow, but certainly not as slow as 0.00 kbps. I did another Google search. This time I found another speed tester provided again by BSNL at http://218.248.245.5/initialmeter_slow.php I clicked the link.  The look, feel and messages that appeared on this portal were exactly similar to the previous one. The system did the ‘payload’ exchanges. I waited expectantly. Lo and behold! The test result came in through a message that said, ‘Your current bandwidth reading (in Mega bits per second) is: 90.30 kbps’.    

I should say something about the speed tester portal before turning to my attempts at resolving the speed issue of my connection. I am afraid that the developers had paid little attention to the script displaying the result of the speed test. The static part of the message reads as follows: ‘Your current bandwidth reading (in Mega bits per second) is:' A broadband connection does not necessary have bandwidth in Megabits per second. In fact, the initial definition of a broadband was a connection with a minimum data speed of 256 kbps. This was subsequently revised to 512 kbps. Bulk of the BSNL broadband connections operate with plans offering a speed of 512 kbps to 2 Mbps.

The output message would become confusing when the speed tested is below one Mbps. For instance, assume that the speed as measured by the system is 550.35 Kbps. This would generate the message, ‘your current bandwidth reading (in Mbps) is 550.35 kbps. (Incidentally, Megabit is a single word and not two separate words as appearing at the portal).

Turning to the test result of my broadband speed. At 90.30 Kbps, the speed was roughly one-twentieth of the speed to which I was entitled as per my service plan. I decided to lodge a complaint. Since I mostly worked online, it was easier for me to register an online complaint rather than suffering the agonies of traversing IVRS maze. (Besides. I avoid phone conversations since it often ends up in bitter quarrels). I was already a registered user at the BSNL portal (http://portal.bsnl.in). So, lodging a complaint online should be cakewalk, I thought.    

When I tried to connect to http://portal.bsnl.in, I was automatically redirected to another address (http://portal2.bsnl.in/myportal/).  I glanced through the page and realized that it had undergone some major changes since my last visit. Overall, the page appeared more appealing than the previous one.  

I signed into the portal using my username and password previously registered with it.  Once inside, the system sought extra details to facilitate the migration of my account from the old system to the newly mint system. The first field I had to enter was my Customer id. I did not know it. In any case, it was too lengthy a number for most people to carry in their heads. Thankfully, the portal informed me that I could obtain it from my phone bill.  

I did not have a phone bill close at hand. I knew that the portal itself must have been holding some of my recent bills. I looked for a way to get it. I clicked the menu item ‘Land Line’ followed by its sub-item ‘Postpaid Accounts’ and its sub item ‘Individual/FTTH Bills’. The portal was displaying the numbers of both my landline connections.  I clicked on the phone number over which the broadband was riding.

A summary information on the last bill appeared on the right half of the screen. Account number and bill number were there. But there was no Customer id/Unique Id. A message at the bottom in extremely small print said, ‘For detailed billing information, please use ‘View Bills’ option’. Somehow, I had missed it in my hurry. I just could not understand why Customer Id was not part of the bill information displayed.

But I had no time to waste on higher thoughts. I had to get some previous bill. Then I remembered that I was receiving my phone bills by email. I opened a new tab, logged into my email account and located the last bill. I noted down the Customer Id and hurried back to the BSNL portal.  But it had already timed out.

I logged into the portal once again and entered the Customer Id and other information that the portal sought. It said that the username of the new system would be my mobile number, email id or the username of the previous system (How does it help having no fixed username Sir?). I decided to retain my old username and password.  But the system would not accept the old password since it did not fit the password specifications of the new system. I modified the password and my account was eventually migrated successfully to the new system.  I thought I was finally ready to register my service complaint. But I was downright wrong.

I scanned the menu, located the item ‘Book Complaints’ and clicked it. Another drop-down menu appeared asking me whether the complaint was with regard to Landline/FTTH, GSM, WiMax, CDMA or Pre-paid Mobile. Again, the portal just did not have the intelligence to understand that I had only my Landlines registered with it.

Since I had no choice ‘but to do and die’, I clicked the ‘Landline/FTTH’ option.  Another selection ‘Before Payment/ After Payment’ was presented. At this point it struck me that ‘Book Complaints’ item actually meant ‘Book Billing Complaints’. I had no billing complaints. But just out of curiosity, I clicked the option ‘After Payment’.  

A list with Radio Buttons appeared. The first item read, ‘Previous Paid Amount is included in the Current bill’.  I selected this and got the following message on the screen. “If the present outstanding bill is including with the past bill, please contact your accounts officer for rectification. However, if you wish to pay the bill, the excess amount paid will be adjusted in the next bill automatically …blah…blah”. 

Now, I do not understand what is meant by “If the present outstanding bill is including with the past bill”. Perhaps, what was intended was something like this. ‘If the amount payable on the current bill includes dues related to bills already paid, please contact the Accounts Officer concerned’. So much for the attempts of BSNL in ensuring user-friendly language.

Another problem with the advice was that the Accounts Officer often sits some fifty or even hundred kilometers away at the SSA headquarters.  Why should BSNL advise a customer to waste his day to go and meet the Accounts Officer?  Is it rocket science to capture the specific details of payments already made and pass it on to the Accounts Officer?  Why should not the system allow the customer to click a button to send an appropriate message to the Accounts Officer enabling the AO’s office to call back the customer to obtain further details, if any it needed? Or at least, why is the customer directed to the AO and not to the nearest Customer Service Center?

I cannot help observing that people in BSNL are still living in the 20th century. They should know that after the rolling out of the CDR based OSS/BSS (Operation Support System/Business Support System) the Technical and Finance functions related to services no more remain separated in to two watertight compartments. There is considerable overlapping and flexibility. I do not know whether the portal is directly integrated with the CDR system. If it were, the portal activities would have been directly notified to both Engineering and Accounts personnel.

Incidentally, standalone systems employing outdated technologies have been the bane of BSNL. It was hoped that the CDR system and an ERP system integrated to it would be the only two Management Support systems operating in BSNL. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the reality on the ground.  For instance, take the case of ‘Leased Lines’ which is high income and ARPU business segment for BSNL. God alone knows how many different systems were created and how much money was spent in the past by BSNL to deal with the management and billing of this service. It was hoped that CDR system would be the final solution for all services. However, I understand that ‘leased lines’ service is not dealt with through the CDR system but through some other crude system independent of the CDR system.

I hope that someone would seriously look into the CDR implementation agreements to assess the extent to which the requirements as per agreements have been fulfilled in actual execution. And just wait and see how fast the CDR based system would be besieged by primitive non-standard systems since people have vested interests in keeping things in an utter mess. Also, it would be revealing to conduct an inquiry into the amount of money spent on IT system development and implementation in BSNL. Systems were procured and either not used or where discarded in a matter of months. I believe that IT system costs are one huge expense item that has been bleeding BSNL white.

The curse of BSNL has been an over-abundance of technology experts. I hope that BSNL would disband all its in-house software development groups (if they still exist) where talent badly needed on its core functions are simply wasted or are self-groomed for seeking greener pastures outside. (This is more or less the case with its plethora of training centres). For instance, does the BSNL management really know how many ‘Inventory Management’ systems have been developed internally and also bought from local vendors and how much money went down the drain on it? It would not be an exaggeration to say that BSNL could have purchased a dozen Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems with the money it invested on the silly solutions it developed in-house or bought from outside.  In-house solution development endeavours and local non-standard systems were relevant 15-20 years ago. A modern organization simply cannot afford the luxuries of such experimentation. It needs systems of international standards.

Returning to the story of my adventures on the booking of broadband complaint, I left the ‘Book Complaint’ page. It was clear that the portal offered no facility to ‘book’ billing complaints. At best, it was a poor attempt at FAQ. Even at that level, it was not an easy one to traverse.  

I returned to the main menu and looked for an item on booking a service complaint. And there it was – ‘Customer Care’. Interestingly, it was the last item on the menu. (Speaks volumes about how serious is Customer Care for BSNL). I clicked it. I was taken to another website (http://www.bsnl.in/customer-care.html). I found a rectangle with the label ‘Complaint Booking’ in big fonts on it. Underneath it was the names of the services viz.
LANDLINE/BROADBAND/GSM/CDMA. I clicked LANDLINE. I selected my State and was asked to login.

As a registered user at the BSNL portal, I entered my username and password.  The system threw an error message saying that password was wrong. I knew that the password was right and tried again receiving the same error message. Then truth dawned on me that the problem may be that the customer care portal might not recognize the payment portal registration. I needed another registration for the customer care portal.

I clicked ‘User Registration’.  The registration form popped up. I entered the details starting with Customer Id/Unique Id once again. I tried to use the same username of the (payment) portal. It would not accept it. The rejection had nothing to do with the username already existing in the system. The rejection was because the customer care portal has system prescribed specifications for username (like there must be at least one alphabet and one numeral etc…). To make a long story short, after considerable struggle, I was successfully registered with the customer care portal.   Hallelujah!

Now, I could not find a link to register service complaints on the home page of this portal (http://selfcare.sdc.bsnl.co.in). I tried clicking the menu item ‘Service’. A page opened and to my immense thrill, the first item on this page was ‘Submit a Complaint’. The message underneath the link said, “Are you unable to make calls or hear clearly…for solutions to all your service problems, just submit a complaint”. Look at BSNL’s idea of a telephone complaint. I wonder why BSNL did not limit the description to just the second part…

I clicked the ‘Submit a Complaint’ link. A page carrying the heading, ‘My Service Complaints’ popped up. Great! The first item to enter was ‘Service Id’. I was stuck once again. I had no idea what ‘Service Id’ was. On the registration page, I was asked to provide Customer Id/ Unique Id. On this page, I have to provide Service Id. I once again glanced through the bill available online. I could not find any item matching the description ‘Service Id’. In fact, the bill had only Customer Id and not even Unique Id.  

Since I knew only Customer Id, I entered it. The moment I left the field, the screen refreshed and the entry vanished. After several attempts, I left the Service Id item blank and moved to the next item ‘Complaint Type’. I had to choose one of the two options displayed. One was ‘Technical’ and the other ‘Billing’. I chose Technical and the screen suddenly banked out. A message appeared which said: 

‘The page at selfcare.sdc.bsnl.co.in says: Your session timed out because you were idle for too long. Please login again to continue’.

That was reasonable. But there was second part to the message that read:
‘If you had Seibel attachment open, your changes may have been lost. Please save the file locally save it and reattach it to the appropriate record’.
What on earth did that mean? No idea… No idea… No idea…

I once again logged in to enter the portal. This time I went straight to the second item ‘Complaint Type’ and selected the sub-option ‘Technical’. The next item on the page was ‘Complaint Sub Type’. I clicked the arrow underneath the item. A little field in blue appeared. It was a dummy. There were also other items on the page like Service Type, First Name, Last Name etc. that neither sought nor displayed corresponding values.

There were two blank text entry spaces to record the complaint. The first part was ‘Summary’ and the other ‘Description’.  In the Summary rectangle, I typed in ‘Low broadband speed’ and in the ‘Description’ space a couple of lines explaining my broadband speed problem.  I did not supply the ‘Service Id’ for fear of the page going blank.  If the value was in error it should have said so at the first instance and helped the user get the right value. I decided to test my luck with the Service Id column blank.  

I looked for the ‘Submit’ button. I expected it to appear somewhere at the end of the page. It was not there. I eventually located it squeezed underneath the page heading. I do not know how many page designers would put the ‘Submit/Cancel’ option almost as part of the page heading. I clicked the submit button. For once, I was happy receiving the following message, “OM00116: Service Id is a required field. Please enter the value”. And for once, the page was not blanked out.  

I entered the Customer Id in the Service Id column. With my heart racing and hand trembling, I moved the cursor to the submit button and clicked.  The page shuddered for a moment and refreshed wiping out everything I had entered. I found the following message on the top of the screen. Wrong field values or value types detected in field Service Id <font color=red><b>*</b></font>. Please re-enter your field values. If you need additional assistance, please refer to the documentation (SBL-UIF-00299)”.  

My foot! That was unmitigated insanity...   

At this stage, I decided to seek some ‘additional assistance’ from the system. I pressed the help button. A page opened. At the very bottom of the list of help items, I found the link, ‘Contacting Us’. I clicked it. I had two options. One was ‘Finding Contact Information’. The other was ‘Submitting Feedback’. I clicked the former and another page appeared. It carried the same two links ‘Finding Contact Information’/ ‘Submitting Feedback’. I clicked the first link. Nothing happened. I clicked the second link. Again, nothing happened. I glanced down the page and found some text under the above headings.

There were no Phone/Fax numbers or email ids under the heading ‘Finding Contact Information’. There was no mention of ‘BSNL’ anywhere on the page. It was clear case of copy/paste…

The following items were listed under the heading ‘To find contact information’:

1.   Navigate to the Contact Us page.
2.   Click the hyperlink for the communication channel that you want to use.
3.   Follow the on-screen instruction.

I navigated to the ‘Contact Us’ page.  The page had two items. The first one was ‘Selfcare Portal Help’. I clicked it. Nothing happened.  The second item read, ‘Dataone Broadband’. I clicked this too with the same result. I wondered when the page was last updated. For instance, ‘Dataone’ is no more the brand id of BSNL Broadband service. Similarly, its Mobile Phone service is, perhaps, not ‘Cellone’ any more.  

I looked at the Copyright information. It said the solution is copyrighted to Oracle Corporation. Holy Cow! Sorry, ‘Cow’ could be a dangerous term to use in these times in my country. Holy Christ! Could Oracle Corporation produce garbage like this? I am sure that BSNL must have paid through its nose for this sickening solution.

I was too exhausted to go any further with my experiments with BSNL portal. I was more or less convinced that BSNL created its customer care portal simply because it was fashionable to do so.  Customer tries it. Finds it does not work. He tries again. Some go mad trying. Some die trying. Some others like me quit at the nick of time and save themselves from serious harms…

---------------

Tail Piece

This morning, I measured the speed of my broadband connection. The reading showed 3.6 Mbps! Really! But, my connection was supposed to have a maximum speed of just 2 Mbps. Well…That is BSNL. Truly, “BSNL Best Hai Mere Liye”.  

PS
I have since been told by a friend that Service Id is actually the phone number! When would BSNL start speaking plain English?

Read more articles by the author here

Saturday, 11 July 2015

India Post Carrying Ugly Face in Cyber World

Every time when I see the website of India Post, my mind will be filled with so many questions and concerns.  The first question will be “Why Department of Post is not utilizing its website effectively?”  Now the websites are the face of an institution in the Cyber world and people give significant importance to the quality of the website when they assess an organisation.  But in case of DOP, this face is not all an attractive one.

As you all know, India Post is on the way of sophistication in all the fields including technology and operations.  But without building a quality website, how India Post can say that they are on the way of technological renovation.



You may think that I am wrong on this subject because the present website of India Post may be good and sufficient according to your opinion. I respect your opinion, but after reading this article you have to think whether I was correct or not.

The definition of websites has changed a lot; once it was a place for mere presentation of information.  But now the websites are the part of online branding.  Since my areas of expertise are online brand building and SEO, I can give you a clear cut review of India Post website.

Instead of going for more technical, I shall make a review on the basis of visible elements which is more understandable for non-technical persons too.

1.  Template Width and Overall Look

The overall look of the present India Post website is very basic. There is no doubt in this even for person having basic knowledge in web world.  This type out dated templates are not using in any of the standard websites at present.

This is an era of High Definition (HD) visuals and resolutions of the gadgets are increasing day by day.  So a trendy website must be in a full width template and it should have a sufficient space for showing information in legible letters.  Big fonts and large banners are the specialty of the modern websites.

2. Responsive Template

This is the ability of the website template to change the style according to the size and resolution of the screen through which it is watching.  In simple words, you can enjoy the website in all size of screens without any difficulty. The user experience is same in the computer monitors or in the Tablet or in the smartphones.  The content and style will get adjusted according to the size of the screen.

In the recent years, the web traffic from mobile gadgets like tablets and smartphones are increasing drastically. But keeping separate template for mobile device is not advisable in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) perspective.  Making the website responsive should be the motive of every webmaster now days for exploring the benefits of SEO.

While coming to India Post website, it is not at all a responsive one and it is not optimized for mobile devices.  Through the following picture you can see the difference in the mobile view of www.speakpost.com and India Post website.



3.  Social media URLs and Plugins

Social media pages are vital part of an Institution and it is the presence of an organisation in the social media.  As the name indicates social media Vanity ULR is the major attraction in the social media presence.  Vanity URL or Custom URL is the easy identifiable or easy memorable URL of a social media business page.  In order to get a vanity URL, certain condition should be satisfied in some social media sites like Facebook and Google Plus.

India Post is a complete failure in this field.  They don’t have a custom URL even in Facebook or Google Plus, two most popular social media sites in India.  The higher authorities of India Post are actually unaware of effectiveness of social media marketing.   So they have not given any extra attention to this part.

A small initiative taken by Postal Directorate through their order No.11-01/2015-BD&MD was actually amateurish.  Instead of obtaining a custom URL they simply circulated the default complex Facebook URL.  Same URL is updated in the India Post website.  This is against all branding concepts.

A well planned brand will have social media page with vanity URL as its brand name.  See the custom URL of SPEAK POST below.


While coming to social plugins, India Post never attempted to add such plugins into its website.  Plugins in the form of Share, Recommend and Like buttons will increase the presence of websites in the social media.

4.  Quality of Slider and Images

Quality of the images used in the website plays a vital role in the overall look of the site especially when it uses in the sliders.  And at the same time clumsy animation should be avoided. 

In order to make website more appealing, separate banners or slider images should be designed with the help of professional graphic designer.  Wording on the banner should be minimum and in legible large sized fonts.


The images used in the India Post website are of substandard quality.  Most of the pictures used in the site were not designed for website.  Banners and images designed for some other advertisement or campaigns have been taken as part of the website.  If you analyse the images in the India Post website you can see the logo in all banners.  That means the images were taken from some other brochures.  Actually there is no need to place India Post logo in all banners which are used in a website because this will place the website in a lower level.

From the following picture you can understand that the banners used in the India Post website are not professionally designed.



5.  Browser Friendly

A standard website will load in almost all web browsers without any issue and gives same user experience.   India Post website is purely version specific and it will not give same user experience in all platforms.

6.  Standardization of Margins and Padding

If you analyse a beautiful website, you can see that one of main reasons for the attractiveness of that webpage was due to its standardized margin or padding.  A professionally designed template surely will have uniformity in margins or padding.  Padding means space between content elements and its border.

The developers of the India Post website have not given any significance for the margins and paddings.  This carelessness placed the website into a next lower level. 

See the image below to understand the mistakes in padding or margin.



7.  Colour Theme and Arrangements

You cannot apply all colours into one website if you are looking for stylish website.  You have to select two or three colours as the base colour and can apply different shades of these colours when needed.  Avoid contrast colours from template and images for standard looking.

Arrangement of gadgets or different element of content is as very important as colour theme.  Arranging appropriate item in the appropriate place is the main challenge in this process.  Most wanted or items to which more attention is needed should be displayed in the prominent place above the fold.  Least important item should not occupy more space from home page.

Style should not be affected while arranging elements in the website.  Arranging more elements in single page and putting un-even white space will reduce the beauty of the site.

India Post website is violating all the above said rules.  The developers have arranged the elements without any style conscious.  Arrangement in the home page is very clumsy and childish.  Unnecessary white space is another fault from webmaster.



8.  Multi lingual versions

Killing process of India Post website has been completed with the addition of translation widget.  This facility is good but it will not blend in all templates.  You have to consider so many factors before adding such widgets.  Fist is whether important section of the webpage is translatable or not. Second is whether web page contains more images another is whether the size of the translated texts will blend with the original template or not.

While coming to India Post website, even after translating to some other language, the website stands as somewhat same as its English version.  Even Header and Menu heads, most important elements in a website are not in a translatable format.  I think it is in image form.   And at the same time latest news section is showing in English format even after translation.  In short there is no impact in the home page after translation. And at the same time the translation widget is not blending with the template in any way.

Conclusion


In my opinion India Post has not explored the possibility of its website.  If it uses the heavy traffic of India Post website wisely, it will be another potential area of business.  I shall write a separate post on this subject later.  Many other points are there to be highlighted but stopping with this much and expecting a beautiful face in near future itself.  

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Marketing through Torturing in PTC Mysore

This time I am going to tell you a real incident happened at PTC Mysore last week.  After reading this article you should say whether it is a good move from a training centre like PTC Mysore or not and every one of you should respond in the form of comments.


This incident happened in between the MACP I training scheduled from 01/06/2015 to 12/06/2015 at PTC Mysore.  I don’t know, whether you know that there is compulsory study at PTC Mysore in the night every day.  Yes, there is, from 9PM to 10PM.

Not only study time, but there is inspection also in the men’s and women’s hostel between above said time inorder to ensure that everything is going well as scheduled.

Last week during inspection by an instructor in the women’s hostel, five trainees were caught for doing some illegal activities.  Do you know? What were the activities they have done during study time?  They are

1. Two lady trainees have gone to toilet and they were caught on way before reaching toilet.
2.  Three lady trainees were talking to their children as they are more concerned about them during the school opening time.
3. One lady trainee was caught on the way when she returned to her room from toilet.

It is heard that the caught by trainer was very adventurous and she had put all her efforts and used sharp intelligence for this hunting.  Most interesting thing is that the both Commando (Trainer) and terrorists (Trainees) were from Kerala Circle.


The trainer was a Postal Assistant from Kasaragod division having nearly five or six years of service and the MACP trainees were from some other division in Kerala Circle.

PART II
PUNISHMENT

Above said six trainees were asked to report at PTC office next day inorder to fix the penalty for violation of rules or misconduct at PTC campus.  As per the instruction of trainer, the trainees have reported at the Office and explained their side.  Finally administration declared their penalty as follows.

Each one of the trainees should market one commemorative Souvenir sheet of Cricket World Cup 2015 worth Rs.400/- for avoiding further punishment.  Another condition was, if they fail to market the same with in the stipulated time they can avoid the punishment by purchasing themselves.

This Souvenir Sheet depicting the Logo of Cricket World Cup and colours of 14 participating nations in the form of ball shaped stamps with National Flags of the participating countries was brought out by New Zealand Post.

If you are not aware of this Souvenir sheet, you can see the same below this post.

In short each trainee has to spend Rs.400\- as her penalty.  As you all know that this Souvenir sheet is a dead stock at every Post Office that received it.  Here PTC Mysore has adopted special marketing strategy for the sale of dead stock of philately stamp.

Have you ever heard about such a penalty or punishment in any of the training centres under India Post?

Somebody asked that “whether there is any legal binding for such punishments or penalties?”

Some others ask “Can authorities in PTC impose any penalty upon trainees according to their will?”

Hai man… you are mistaken, this process is called internal marketing and this is the next scope for business.

They can experiment with other product of India Post also.  If any fault occurs from MACP II or III trainees, they should be supplied with one or two Penta Mobiles as their pay is comparatively high.

Conclusion

The in-service training is not only for acquiring knowledge or skill but it should also be a relaxing environment for employees from their tight work schedule.  The refreshment course should be a motivating one and it should increase the morale of employees.

Clashes in training environment due to minor cases will not bring any good in the trainees’ or trainers’ life.  Harmony should be maintained in training campus but it should be within the boundaries of discipline.



Thursday, 7 May 2015

Unknown Cancer in eMO Database, Treatment expected from CEPT

You may be wondered while reading this heading.  But if you are a System Administrator or a person familiar with database in your office, surely you will understand what I am going to tell is.  Because, for the last few weeks, Database Administrators in Post Offices are struggling with this new disease of eMO database.


eMO database in your office may be infected by this cancer, but you may be unaware of its presence.  Like normal cancer this cannot be identified until its final stage.  But if I tell the symptoms, you will understand that whether your office is affected by this disease or not.

Symptoms

1.       Difficulty in accessing eMO and its communication module.
2.       Regularly showing “Time out expired” error in eMO module.
3.       Difficulty in invoicing eMOs in Postman module.
4.       “Time out expired” error in Postman module.
5.       Delay in calling eMO Client.

If you don’t understand yet, I shall explain the case in detail.

Cases are reporting from various parts of the country that the log file of eMO database is growing abnormally due to unknown reason.  After this phenomenon, the size of the log file is mentioning in terms of GBs.  Even in the B Class Sub Office, the size of the log file is growing to above 10GB.

Size of the eMO log file has grown to 45GB in an HO in Kerala Circle.  Normally the size was below 1GB for years.

While reading this GB figures, you may think that what the relevancy of this figures here is. Yes, there is a close relation between size of the log file (or data) and performance of the software related to that database.

Same thing happened here also.  The modules related to eMO database has started malfunctioning and due to which “Time Out Expired” error comes frequently.

Reasons

Actually I don’t know the correct reason, but we can presume something like below.


1.       Some corrupted files may be transmitted from Central Server and same may be received through eMO client.  This corrupted file may continuously try to access the database from data folder and file remains pending at Data folder.

2.       Virus infected files may be received through eMo client and continuously accessing database.

3.       Local virus issue spread through Drop Box or Google Drive.

Evidence

The first evidence of the issue is the large size of eMO log file.  But some more evidences pointing towards the same issue.  They are:

1.       Two files stand pending in Data folder (one is a temp file).  Name of the files are almost same in all Offices.

2.       Abnormal data download statistics.  If the office is using broadband, the monthly charge will be twice or thrice the normal rate.

Solution

Here starts the comedy. The available solution is shrinking the database or removes the log file, but this is not a permanent solution.  After shrinking, the log file will be reached to the same size within two days and will start interrupting eMO operations.

The System Administrators have to visit these offices in every two days inorder to clear the log file.  But this is practically not possible.

The case has been reported to CEPT by several System Administrators, but they don’t even trying to trace out the correct reason for the issue.  Instead, CEPT still is giving the same reply that Shrink the database or flush old data.  Everyone knows these solutions without contacting CEPT. 

Officials are expecting a professional reply from CEPT support team.  But the actual condition of support has already shown in my post See how CEPT Support Team distracting employees through HDMS.

Conclusion

Don’t see it as a silly matter because if it fails to bring a permanent solution, the issue may be spread over to unaffected areas.  This will affect India Post’s most prestigious and reliable eMO System.  So higher authorities should give proper attention to this case and obtain a permanent solution from CEPT.  
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