Last week, I visited the Passport facilitation centre, that is recently launched in Bangalore. I had availed the Passport office's service couple of years ago as well. But, there is a sea change in the service experience from then and now.
The reason, the new service is being offered by a Service Provider and not by the Government directly. It is one of the largest projects under the E-Government Initiative launched by Government of India. It is a project that is first-of-its kind launched in public-private partnership model.
Some of the interesting things that caught my attention during the service experience are - process flow chart that guides the citizens thru the process, new swanky interiors, LCD display that updates the service desk assignments for applicants, Online application Forms, Document Scanning/Uploding, PC Cameras, Biometrics/Finger Printing, Bar Code Tracking for application Acknowledgements/receipts, Photocopiers to make additional copies of documents, if requried. The Service representative has a dual monitor that shows the contents of the passport application form that is being processed. And above all, the Service rep politely asked if I wanted to make any corrections in any of the particulars before committing the changes. That's wonderful!.
In this new project, the entire application processing flow is handled by a third-party, in this case, the Service Provider is Tata Consultancy Services. TCS is not only the System Integrator for the entire solution (Application/Infrastructure) but also the Operations Owner for Front-Office functions (IT and Non-IT Operations).
TCS Management owns and operates the entire physical facility where the service is being offered. The Enquiry Desk, The Service Representatives, Process Flow Coordinators are all provided and managed by TCS.
Here you see a truly 'Integrated Technology & Operations' Service in action. The typical IT services provider - TCS - not only provides the IT solution and walks away but manages the entire business process of application processing and interacts with the customer face-to-face (in this case the citizen).
While the Front office functions are managed by TCS, the back-office functions like verification, granting/dispatching all done by Government Staff. And they work in the new facility in collaboration with TCS Staff.
TCS got this contract couple of years ago to execute in Build-Operate-Transfer model and the project cost range in terms of Indian Rupees 1000 crores (close to quarter billion dollars). The solution is built on Java/J2EE technologies leveraging open source web application frameworks and hosted on IBM Websphere Portal / Application Server Stack.
I must say this is a huge feat by an IT Service Provider in India and the efforts are truly commendable!. Of course, the project had some glitches and TCS had to pay penalty for the project delays and bugs.
But, neverthess, a project of this scale that gets rolled out to the entire country would have some teething issues and am sure that would be ironed out sooner!.
In this new service model, TCS takes more risks, more responsibility, invests heavily (because of front office infra requirements) and reaches out to its customer's customers. In this case, the Citizens, the customers of Government.
Could this be the new model for Business Process Outsourcing?.