Reviving the ACES project..

My own personal views on the current status of ACES project implementation is as follows :

Date of Editing
Name & Designation of the officer

Whether training given for working with ACES sufficient ? If not, suggestion to improve the training module. TRAINING : 
Yes, what was given was sufficient, even though more training could have been aspired by both the users and the administrator. Since the implementation schedule and and firmness of purpose differed in gravity from Commissionerate to Commissionerate, a few commissionerates had to over-work atleast to keep up their past performance, owing to the incoming transferred officers having very lesser or no exposure to ACES at their previous locations. This mobility of officers pulled down the average performance of the aspiring commissionerates.
How far ACES is user-friendly ?
 Has ACES resulted in saving time and effort in your day to day work ?
User friendly to the extent of about 60%; Simultaneous navigation in two concurrent screens is not possible on many occasions, which makes comparison or verfication of documents within the two screens under ACES very difficult and to tackle this, extreme mind-mapping is required  so as to remember the flow of ideas without use of paper.

If features are not user-friendly to the expected level, then saving of time and effort is not possible. Scrutiny of Returns in the manual mode was much quicker and easier, particularly in the case of complex Returns (more commodities under same tariff).
Are there any difficulties while working on ACES ? Which part was the most difficult and why ?DIFFICULTIES TO REPORT : 
Scrutiny officers reported that it was difficult for the above said reason in 6.

Under ACL menu, assigning of roles to officers could not be monitored because absence of suitable menu to ensure that all the posts are assigned to respective officers. Conversely, it was only possible to check what role was given to said officer, and not the opposite.

For most of the times, the EDW reports module was not returning the data after search query was created. Officer has to sit unmoved and stare at the screen for hours during waiting to see the output report.
Whether the user guide provided by the vendor is able to cater to most of the problems that you encounter ?HELPDESK/ GUIDES/ CUSTOMER SUPPORT :
User guides were created in 2009-10 and they were very rudimentary in nature and they were effective only when ideal situation prevailed in computing, processing, connectivity, etc., All problems faced after 2010 were not compiled centrally and the knowledge was not shared quickly among the officers who wanted them. If the comm-admin was not active or not in the loop with other performing officers, the sharing  of answers to new questions was not happening. However, this issue has been addressed in Sept.2014 through community chatting portal created under the ACES (under 'Icegate' domain, by name 'antarang.icegate.gov.in'). This effort was attributable to very few officers who made it possible.
How far Aces reduced the work load in comparative with the manual systemWORKLOAD: MANUAL versus AUTOMATION : 
If all the modules were implemented strictly and removed of all the software glitches and bugs and all the reporting work was relegated to back-end level at Delhi, in such a case officers would have seen reduced workload, because working in ACES meant more workload to them by using both methods (offline, online) in the absence of reports in the online mode. Reports available in registration and returns modules alone were not sufficient, in the absence of reports under other modules where no data was captured..
Are you satisfied with the implementation of ACESPROJECT EFFICIENCY :

No. Five year time period was sufficient enough to test the software, update the patches, and to mine the data from five year warehouse of records.

Opportunity was lost by creating hardware assets in large scale, by not pilot-testing the hardware and applications in the capital city Commissionerate; if done so, then replicating to other locations would have been quick and seamless. 
Big bang approach, in lieu of 'think big, start small, scale fast' did not suit this project. 

Seventy percent of the assets have not been used, like almost all Indian e-governance projects are vendor-driven mostly.  Hardware became technologically out-dated by the time the Applications could stabilise.
The implementation was not satisfactory, less because of technology issues and much more because of non-technology issues like human resource management and commercial aspects of the project only.

Officers should have been given secured freedom of using their existing desktop computers or laptops through VPN system, instead of being provided with Thin Clients. 

There was large gap between the Vision and the Reality of the Project. Innovation and Reformist attitude envisioned at project stage could not overtake the British legacy of working.
Did you provide any feedback obtained from at any point of time on the problems with Aces and the areas of problem ?FEEDBACK : 
Yes, following feedback was given on some occasions like review discussions or training sessions or through official reporting ::

1. Commissionerate's efforts, initiatives :      
The Commissionerate took all the initiatives and various creative methods to implement all the modules and also to improve the performance under popular modules; yet the results were not proportionate to the steps taken owing to the reasons explained in the general feedback on the whole ACES project, the pre-dominant causes being the non-motivation, fear of duplication of work (offline vs online) and absence of strict mandate and leading drive beyond the commissionerate level.

2. Working versus Reporting :
If su-moto reporting was possible, officers would have sensed the opaque advantanges of the online mode of performance, i.e. the officers would have been spared from manual compiling of reports everyday which conventionally left them with lesser time for actual productive work.

3. Change management :
Anticipated change management strategy of the department in view of launching of ACES, did not properly address the needs or drawbacks of all the officers.  
Shortage of officers at the cutting edge level against new type of workflow to be done both in manual and electronic mode, suppressed the initiative to work online.No proper training was given to officers in the case of dept.officers-oriented modules; Inspectors were not given any workflow; if given, they could have filtered the errors in the documents for processing by higher-ups. 

4. Break from the Past (Top-Down approach) : 
The first trigger activity for workflow under any module was to be started by the section-level officers, not assessees (Registration or Returns modules); such triggering activity was not motivated or prompted from top as discussed above. In conventional mode, the inward correspondence first captured the attention of the top officers and were subsequently only marked down to section-heads. Thus, there was no system to motivate the top level / senior officers to use the modules on daily basis and see the peformance of officers or pending issues in abstract/aggregate manner, so that senior officers can drill down the pendency list to the bottom level to the isolated screens of section officers or the Range officers and have instant audio or video interface on the issue or peformance. In fact, the hardware had software provisions to get communication links to such audio or video interface. 

5. Feedback to Software Team : 
Software bugs / deficiencies discouraged the officers to take risk in the online mode, for fear of missing data or un-stored data or failed retrieval of data, when the workflow could not be completed
In turn, software vendor cannot complete the patch-works, as officers did not give complete feed-back on such bugs.

6. Hardware components : 
Frequent hardware failures in the form of disconnectivity, poor speed, poor maintenance status (both officers and vendors)

Above situations are common for all the Commissionerates, as the monthly reports from DG Systems on performance under ACES show capturing of very poor quantity of documents posted online in modules other than Regn. and Returns.
With the above background, how the same can be re-experimented among the officers, the ACTION PLAN :

Support Update from DG Systems : 
Commissioner may seek information from the ADG-systems-Chennai on 
what are the modules that are improved now to be taken up for active use ?
whether officers from systems directorate can conduct workshops and training sessions for officers at our site ?

Extending Trigger activity to other end : 
whether we can issue trade notice asking the trade and industry to use online modules for day-to-day operations like Exports, Intimations, Permissions (e.g. storage of goods outside, import of goods at concessional rate of duty, re-warehousing intimation, removal of goods for job-work or without payment of duty, application for remission of duty, apply for CT-1, etc., ) that are available online under ACES ?

Data Integrity : 
whether the same accountability on the part of the assessees, with regard to the security of the information sent across internet, as it applies to the Registration and Returns modules, is replicated for the other modules also ? 

Inputs workload and Outputs : 
whether systems directorate can arrange to generate various reports under the above subjects, so that inputs for ad-hoc or periodical reports to be sent to CC or Board can be taken from Aces instead of from field formations ?
in case any work is of repetitive nature and of low-key but voluminous, like data-entry, whether it can be out-sourced ?

If such co-operation is possible from DG Systems, then we can identify some officers or some Ranges and a Division to start working in a given module on online mode;  we can receive such workflow in the dashboard of the AC or ADC or Commissioner in the Hqrs.office, after the same is at least perused by the concerned Section Supdts / Insprs, if not editable by them.

We can improve the asset infrastructure in Hqrs. office and other formations, so that the online workflow is faster and devoid of lags and lacunas in connectivity, power, etc. and we can replicate the success to other Ranges and Divisions or other Modules.

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    I've recently taken over as Com. Admn. i observed the following points during my short tenure of less than two months. I feel the total list of groups and allotted officer should be available to the Com. Admn. the navigation from Administrator to user and vice versa should be available as a menu (at present i am either signing out and starting the app afresh or going back step by step if the no. of steps are less!). the work flow should show the range, date & time. moreover it should show the details of time lag between one user to the other like in ICES.


Pl send your response to saran@excisegst.com