Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Salik: Wading Through a Mountain of Forms

I was thinking about refusing to babble on about Salik, the Dubai congestion charge, any more simply because everyone's talking about it so much it's in danger of getting boring.

But then I have been giggling quietly to myself so much this morning, I had to share. As predicted in posts passim, Salik is turning out to be far too much fun to ignore.

When you apply for your tag (as I did on Sunday), you fill out a form with your name, address, mobile number and car registration. If the databases were smart, you'd be able simply to give your vehicle registration number and everything else would be pulled from the database. Which rather points to the fact that the registration database isn't linked to Salik. Which rather points to manual data entry of those forms. Which rather points to delays in getting accounts activated.

So I called the nice Salik people on 800 SALIK (800 72545) and asked why I hadn't yet received my SMS advising me that my account was activated, as advertised. And they said there was a data entry backlog and I should kick my heels for a further 2-3 days.

Today's Gulf News (Emirates Today, for some reason is suddenly silent about Salik) reports a four day delay from readers, with one unhappy chappie saying he applied over a week ago and still hasn't got his SMS.

Oh dear, oh dear. There are only three more shopping days to Salik day and I have only yet seen two cars on the roads wearing their Salik tags. Media reports are a little confusing, but it would appear that 200,000 tags have been distributed in total, with reports of sales of 80,000.

Now. Let us assume that each form can be data entered in an average of two minutes (including downtime, error checking & toilet breaks, I think that's more than reasonable). That would mean 333 forms could be processed by one operator in a working day. So 80,000 forms would entail 240 man-days of data entry. If you had a massive data entry operation with 50 people working on entry, you're looking at 6.6 days' work.

However, we've got 200,000 tags out there and, this being Dubai, most people haven't bought their tags yet. Let us assume, then, that the 80,000 already sold have been data entered (although mine hasn't!). From today, we have another 120,000 tag applications to enter. That's going to take our 50 data entry operators ten days. So they'll be entered around about the 12th July given that no more applications are received.

I am, of course, more than happy to be told my calculations are incorrect and do point out that this is all speculation, guess-work and conjecture. But that's what people do when they're not being told what's happening...

So someone, somewhere is likely sitting underneath a huge and growing pile of forms while retailers will be facing the prospect of a weekend of increasingly angry customers demanding their tags and the call centre's in danger of getting flooded and people whose accounts aren't activated are probably going to start triggering fines or just be too scared to go through the gates...

It's all kicking off rather nicely, isn't it? What larks, Pip!

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