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Peopleware Deployment of IT Applications

Story of my painful (and a bit funny) experience with an Automated System having poor Peopleware Deployment


Need for Peopleware Deployment
Web Presence of Passport Office
The Commotion at Passport Office
New Wine Old Bottle
The Waiting Game
What Benefit of the Automated System?
What Peopleware Deployment Should have been Planned?

Summary:    Deployment planning is normally limited to deployment of Hardware and Software infrastructure, and the related training to IT and user folks. There is a third deployment planning which is required which I call Peopleware Deployment. This story of my painful (and rather funny) experience demonstrates through a real-life example what is Peopleware Deployment.

Peopleware Deployment involves deployment of people and non-IT equipment, infrastructure and facilities so that the new system can be effectively used by people. In this 'case-story' (as it is more of a story than a case-study), the deployment planning was not done and hence the case shows how the system is a complete failure without peopleware deployment planning. The entire effort of automation yields no benefit to the end-user. The implementation is a flop. The case is of Passport office.

Update Aug, 2014:

This article was written before the new system of "Passport Seva Kendra" was introduced by the Indian Passport Office. The new system more-or-less follows the peopleware deployment process prescribed in the article below.

Need for Peopleware Deployment

Most IT Professionals focus only on designing the technology automation part of a system and not much effort is put on redesigning the manual interface - or the way people interact with the new automated system. I call it Peopleware deployment.

Deployment planning is limited to Hardware and software deployment. There is a third deployment planning which is required which I call Peopleware Deployment. This could involve deployment of people and non IT related equipment, infrastructure, facilities to be provided so that the new system can effectively be used by people. It also involves planning of, (and training on) the way end-users would use the system, and the changes in their interface to the new system.

               Peopleware Deployment - People Interface

In the diagram, therefore, I have drawn an applications box and a human interface box which needs equal attention if not more. However efficient and attractive may be your technical system, it does not yield the desired benefit to humans unless the human interface is redesigned or effective peopleware deployment is done. (You may notice the Behavioral IT title in the second box. Peopleware planning should also include a training on Behavioral IT™ skills to leadership. Click here to know more.)

I will take a real life situation - a case story of how automation without the emphasis on peopleware deployment creates confusion and waste of all the effort which was put in the development of the solution. It is the real story of my experience (rather pathetic, a bit funny) as a user of automation in a public utility service - the passport office.

I had got my own passport renewed through an agent a few years back. At that time, I knew it was a complex process to renew passports and hence I did not have the courage to do it myself - I took safe recourse to the services of a travel agent. Now several years later, my wife's passport was expiring. Since I had to register a change in address during renewal, I started surfing the net to read and understand the address change rules. While surfing the net I was pleasantly surprised to see what looked like glimpses of automation at the passport office: how the passport office had made progress in customer relations / customer interaction and set up a site for customer information. To top it all, it was even more pleasant surprise to see that there was actually an on-line form to apply for passport renewal. Clear instructions were there to fill up the form along with a list of supporting documents to submit along with the application. I was impressed. To see progressive thinking in terms of automation for better customer service was almost unknown in most Indian government offices. So I thought India had really progressed in the last few years in terms of web presence since I last renewed my own passport through the agent.

Web Presence of Passport Office

I was impressed to see automation where you could do self service. So I was attracted to fill up the form myself. I filled up the form and hit the submit button. Lo and behold, a bigger surprise was in store for me!  As soon as I submitted the form, I was given an appointment with the passport office with Date and Time. TIME too!. Wow, which means (I presumed) that I don't need to stand in long queues starting from 4am in the morning. All I had to do was to walk in at the designated time on that date and walk away after presenting my application! What progress India had made in the last few years, I thought, and I was unaware of it. What great automation of passport issuance process!

When such great automation was there, I was emboldened to do it my self and not engage an agent for renewal process. I decided to do it myself - after all, all I had to do was walk in at the designated date and time at the window and walk out within minutes. How wonderful, I thought. Automation can cut down the middleman and all the time and money you waste with the middleman. Here was a wonderful system where you could cut the middleman completely. Wonderful! So the decision was made - I will go personally to witness the benefits of this magnificent automated system. After all I am a computer professional.

But as the appointed day approached, I was in for surprises. Casual talk with friends and neighbours revealed that it was still safer to go early to the office. So even if my appointment was at 11am, it was safer, I was told, to reach there by 7am. I thought I only need to register my presence at 7am, then maybe move out and come back at 11am for my scheduled appointment.

The Commotion at Passport Office

So early morning 7am I landed up at the passport office. More shocks were in store for me. To my surprise, I found a long queue already there. In fact there were two queues - one for fresh passport application and one for passport renewal. I thought that the queue must be for those unprivileged people who did not have access to the computer and who had not filled up the on-line form, not for me! I was one of those privileged IT guys who had the printout of the on-line form with the appointment time 11am very prominently written on it. But a closer look, and I was surprised to see that all those who stood in the queue had a similar printout of the online form. For a moment I was both shocked and impressed. Impressed to think that India had progressed so much that almost every Indian had access to the computer. The feeling of pride was short lived, as I learnt that all those who had printouts of online forms had got it through the agent. Oh, so people were still going to the agent and the agent had filled up the online form for them? I thought, "Well, they were lesser mortals who did not know how to use the computer so they had to go to the agent. I am a "computer Savvy"  IT professional, so queues were not for folks like ME". Least did I know that my big fat ego was soon to get shattered. I was soon to realize how wise they all were to have approached the agent.

For now, I quietly stood in the renewal queue. Since it was my wife's passport to be renewed, thankfully
she was with me to give me company. So both of us joined the renewal queue.

New Wine Old Bottle

From 7am to 9am we waited in the queue. At 9 am 3 officials of passport office appeared from nowhere and stood in the lobby in front of the two queues.

I later learnt that each one had stickers or labels which they pasted on the individual applications for each applicant. The labels were to indicate to you the Window number where you had to submit the form, and your waiting list position in the queue on first come first served basis. I learnt that there were three windows for service called A, B and C.  A and B were for Passport Renewal and C was for Fresh applications (Fig. 1). Each official had labels with queue number for each window. For example the first person had labels A1, A2, A3, and so on which were to be pasted on first come first served basis on applications for renewals. Second had labels running as B1, B2, B3 and so on, again for renewals as window B was for renewal. The third person had labels C1, C2, C3, etc. for fresh applications (Fig. 2).

As soon as they came and stood in front in the lobby, there was a big commotion. People standing in two queues started scampering madly to form three queues in front of the three officials. The renewal guys were supposed to queue up again in front of the two officials bearing labels for Windows A and B. Since we the "renewal applicants" were standing in one queue so far, there was a mad rush to form two queues. The people in fresh applications queue went to the third official having labels for window C.

Since I was unaware of all this, I started enquiring with people what the hell was happening. By the time I found that the renewal applicants had to queue up in front of A or B officials, I had lost precious time and the advantage position in the queue. So I went and stood in the end of one of the renewal queues. I was wondering how did the other guys know how to stand in the right queue at the right time, whereas I was dumbstruck? Well, the lesser mortals had gone to the agents who had probably nicely briefed them about the procedure and told them what mess to expect.

Imagine the plight of one person standing in front of me who happened to be standing in the wrong queue. He had come for fresh application and by mistake stood in the renewal queue. After waiting in the queue when his turn arrived to meet the official (who was to paste the label with queue number and waiting list number), the official saw his application and found that it was an application for fresh passport. He told him that he was standing in the wrong queue and quietly told him to stand in the other queue. This person then ended up from the top of this queue to the end of the C queue.

                              Passport Windows

                            Fig. 1: Physical arrangement of Application Submission process

                      As is system

                                            Fig. 2: Passport Application Manual Process

The Waiting Game

People still stood in their queues not knowing that now having received the Window number and the waitlist number, there was no need to queue up. People did not want to take any risk having laboured so much for their position in the queue. No official briefed us of the exact procedure. We waited endlessly till lunch time was announced and windows closed for a short break.

By this time it was clear that we need not wait in queues. We could actually roam around, eat and come back to the window before our turn arrived. So my wife and I also went around, had something to eat and came back for the waiting game. We waited and waited and had real anxious moments with the fear that our turn may not arrive on that day and we may have to come back again. When it was nearing 530pm and closing time, fortunately after several anxious moments our turn arrived. What a relief it was, but again short lived.

The guy at the window looked at our application and said we did not have right supporting documents. I said I brought the documents exactly as per the instructions mentioned in the website, but they refused to budge. So after all the effort and waiting from 7am to 530 pm, I had to return empty handed. I returned and immediately called an agent.

The agent later asked for supporting documents which were not listed in the website. I protested and showed him the website. He said each zonal office followed their own sweet will.

What Benefit of the Automated System?

So what did I as an end user gain from the automated system of online passport renewal, I pondered. Actually nothing. I only saved the work of some backoffice clerk of passport office who would have otherwise entered it from my manual form if it was not an automated system. Had this automation helped the front office clerks who were manning the windows (instead of the back-office clerks), it would have at least helped in reducing the waiting period of applicants. But this entire process of automation with online entry of form did not help me as the applicant at all. Instead I did some additional data entry work which would have been otherwise done by the backoffice clerk of passport office.

If you analyse why this automation did not help the end user or the applicants like me, you will see that the manual or human interface was not designed. The peopleware deployment was not done.  The manual procedure was not redesigned or changed to suit the new automated system. It was new wine in an old bottle. The same old procedure of officials pasting the labels on the forms still continued.

Passport office should have installed a token increment and display equipment - the type that you have in banks. When any one of the clerk at the window finished with one applicant, he should press a button to increment the token number. The people could be all waiting in a waiting room where there would be a display of the next token number and the window number where service will be offered. Since there were two windows A, B for renewal, when any of the two window clerks finished with an applicant, they would press a button which would increment the renewal token number by 1. When the clerk at C finished with an applicant, he would press a button which would increment the fresh applicant token. Both these token numbers would be displayed at the waiting lodge to indicate the next token number to be processed. The next applicant with that token number could then proceed to the window.

Even if the passport office did not want to invest in the equipment immediately, this work can be carried out by manually by having one or two persons monitor the token number and announce to the waiting crowd the next number every time any of the window was free.

IT implementation is complete and successful only if the process is designed till the last 'T'. In this case passport senior officials may have launched this new on-line facility with a lot of fanfare. I am sure these senior officers will be least aware that no purpose was being served with this system, at least to help the end user or their customer. At the same time, just think how much opportunity was lost to serve their customer after putting in so much effort, just because the last step of Peopleware deployment was not designed.

What Peopleware Deployment Should Have been Planned?

So what was the peopleware deployment that should have been done in this case?

I said that peopleware may include equipment, non IT infrastructure or facilities and people.

Non IT Infrastructure: In this case there was no major change, but in case the windows needed to be changed or increased /reduced, that would form part of the non IT infrastructure. The Current windows may need to be redesigned to suit the new procedure.

You need to create a waiting lounge with seats where people can wait. Queue is no longer necessary. You may have a display board to show the current token number being processed. (Fig. 3)

Equipment:  The auto increment counter is a new equipment which needs to be procured to facilitate implementation. It is optional, since this requirement can be fulfilled manually by deploying additional people to facilitate this. But an equipment is more sophisticated and neat.

People: The three volunteers who were pasting stickers or labels for queue position number should necessarily be removed now otherwise the system will not work. In case the auto increment equipment is not there, additional people are required who will do the job of the equipment. They will keep track of the next token number window-wise and announce to the waiting public. They will have to keep track of two different queues in this case for 3 windows. Whenever anyone of the two renewal counters is free, he has to increment the renewal token by one and announce. Whenever the third window of fresh applications is free, he has to increment the fresh applications token number and announce to the waiting people.  (Fig. 4)

                              New Window Configuration

                   Fig. 3: Desired Physical arrangement of Automated Application Submission process

                  New System

                                   Fig. 4: Desired Process for Automated Application Submission


The end user does not get the benefit of the automated system and often the entire application project may fail if the Peopleware Deployment is not planned and executed before implementation. In this case story, we tried to understand what was Peopleware deployment of applications and how important it is for the success of an IT application project.

Related Readings:

Managers Don't Need IT Skills, they Need Behavioral IT™ Skills:    Behavioral IT skills essential for all managers

Computing - A Field Job:   Real story of successful implementation

The Management is Shocked to Know that...:   Key success factors for on-time delivery of IT Projects

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Also See:

Manager's Key to Success in a IT-Driven World: A Top Management Seminar

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