April 3, 2020

In a crisis there has to be a constant balancing between the urgent and the important, and the primary focus has to be on items which are both. These activities get priority, they get publicity, and they get resource. That is often at the expense of activities whose importance is as great, or even greater, but whose urgency is less.


The resource issue is an interesting one. Throwing money at a problem doesn’t guarantee success though it can be essential to remove barriers to finding a solution. Throwing people at a problem can, beyond certain limits, become counter-productive. Come a crisis, effective resource management is critical. The right quantity of the right resource has to be directed to the right activities. When this is applied to the public sector priorities for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, there are some clear priorities, and resource needs to be directed to these. But what happens to the people not involved? The people not involved in the high-profile new roles? For some, the existing role cannot be abandoned – it may even become more demanding as the effects of the pandemic spread across the population.


That leaves a group of varying degrees of seniority, whose work, quite frankly, cannot be justified. Should they simply be put on gardening leave and treated as a reserve until such time as it becomes appropriate to redeploy them to fill gaps in the essential services? Or can some of them spend the time preparing for the day when the world emerges from lockdown?


With this in mind, the DeliveryDemon is about to talk rubbish.


We don’t know how long the pandemic will last. We don’t know what the world will look like when it comes to an end, or under control. One of the very few things we do know is that it will have generated one hell of a lot of rubbish, and that rubbish will need to be dealt with to prevent it choking the entire global environment. The earlier governments can start thinking how to handle this predictable problem, the more quickly it can be addressed.


Where is all the rubbish coming from:

  • Even with inadequate supplies of protective and medical equipment, there will be a massive quantity of infective waste to be disposed of. Incineration may be an appropriate resource, but barely 18 months ago it became clear that the UK did not have sufficient capacity for business as usual operation. There is no evidence of substantial capacity increase. This waste is a predictable problem.
  • A substantial increase in the demand for home delivery by supermarkets will more than offset the efforts of the past few years to reduce the number of single-use plastic bags. Picking and packing under pressure doesn’t allow the luxury of maximising the number of items per bag. And the bags are essential to minimise the level of contact between the delivery driver and customers.
  • Fear of infection predisposes food shoppers to prefer wrapped goods to loose, whether shopping in person or on line.
  • Working from home, limiting time away from home, home-schooling of children, all these create a degree of boredom and tension and the easy solution can be treats – an instant source of soft drink containers, wine and beer bottles and cans, wrappings from sweets and biscuits and other snacks. In one way this can be offset against the reduced waste due to reduced footfall in business centres and the closing of some of the big chains of fast food outlets. In another way it’s a shift from the commercial waste disposal route to the domestic one. Logistics and commercial agreements become as much of an issue as waste volume.
  • Panic-buying has already had a noticeable effect on waste volumes, with bin crews finding fuller bins and obvious disposal of just out of date perishable foods.
  • Tips have been closed at a time when people are forced to spend more time at home. Even those who can work from home will have more time on their hands to notice all the DIY jobs they never quite had time to do. That’s more waste being generated and it has nowhere to go till the tips open again. It won’t just be swallowed up by the newly opened tips either, they are not designed to cope with several months of waste arriving in a week or two.
  • Fly tipping has been an increasing problem for some time as local authorities applied more and more limitations to the usage of tips. It is in fact a growing organised crime. It is also becoming less socially unacceptable at the lower end of activity. As outdoor footfall reduces, and tracing resource is reduced or redirected to other activities, the risk of a flytipper being caught reduces from an already fairly low level. After a few months there will be a lot of rubbish to be cleared from countryside, wasteground, farmland, and parks.
  • And there’s the obvious point that legitimate waste disposal is as likely to be affected by resource problems as any other activity, where employees may themselves become ill or be required to isolate because of contact with others who become ill.


When we are able to look beyond the pandemic, when we are able to go freely from our homes into the natural environment, the DeliveryDemon expects that environment to look very different, and not entirely in a good way. We will not be able to ignore the aftermath of the lifestyles adopted of necessity during lockdown. It would be reassuring to see, as a secondary line of activity, some thought being given to helping our environment recover from what we have done to protect ourselves.

Deliver Brand or Deliver Product?

March 26, 2020

The DeliveryDemon has never been a fan of online grocery ordering. It may be convenient, but it just doesn’t seem to fit the complexities of a shopping list built round a planned menu. For example, she may want four courgettes, but if there aren’t any aubergines that drops to two and she doesn’t want the peppers either. And if the aubergine is a battered specimen, it might as well be no aubergine as she doesn’t want to buy it. And if that happens, she might pick up a couple of baking potatoes or the makings of cauliflower cheese instead.


It has always been easier just to go to the store and pick what’s needed. That’s till coronavirus intervened along with massive panic buying. Not by the DeliveryDemon, but suddenly the supermarket shelves were empty of the most everyday goods, making basic menu planning a near-impossibility.


That’s when the DeliveryDemon tried click and collect. It seemed like a good idea, and the confirmation email showed that some items were available this way that hadn’t been on the shelves since panic buying started. It looked like about 50% of the order would be fulfilled.


That’s when the perils of substitution became apparent. If the DeliveryDemon needs turmeric, she would order her favourite brand but in the circumstances would use an own brand if her favourite brand was not available. But a pack of the same brand of cayenne pepper would be no good whatsoever. And when she orders kidney beans, sure as hell she doesn’t want yet another tin of chickpeas.


First world problems in the context of the times, certainly. But when the world returns to some sort of normality, perhaps the supermarkets would like to consider splitting their substitution options. It only needs a simple split. Let the customer choose whether they would accept another brand of the same product. Let the customer choose whether they would accept a similar product of the same or a different brand. Two tick boxes instead of one, that’s all.


The supermarkets are focused on getting orders to vulnerable customers at the moment. But when life settles they will have a massively increased base of customers who have tried and tested their online ordering systems. That’s a huge source of information about the customer’s real requirements, invaluable for a revisit of online ordering systems which, inevitably, will be in need of tidying up to rationalise all the seat of the pants changes needed to be responsive in a time of crisis.

NOT a Good Delivery Service

March 31, 2011

The DeliveryDemon has been looking at what’s involved in renewing a UK passport. Even getting the forms is a bureacratic nightmare.

  • Option 1 is the ‘online’ application. What happens? You enter your details online, the passport service prints them off and posts them to you second class, with an SLA of a week, although the claim is that forms are posted within 24 hours. You then sign the documents and post them back with additional paperwork, and the subsequent process is likely to take in excess of 4 weeks.
  • Option 2 is to collect a form from a post office offering the Check and Send service – not all post offices offer this, and it costs £8.17 on top of the passport price. This option is likely to take in excess of 6 weeks.
  • Option 3 is to request an application form online. That can take 5 working days to get to you, and you still have to get on to the month-plus paperwork trail.
  • Option 4 is to phone and ask for a form. Again it can take 5 days to get to you before you get into the application process.

If there’s less than 2 months before you need your passport, there’s a ‘faster’ service. You first have to get an appointment, then travel to one of only 6 regional offices – particularly bad news for anyone living in Inverness given the distribution. It can take 2 weeks just to get an appointment. And even though you may have to travel half way across the country, you must not turn up more then 10 minutes before the appointment time, in case queues makes it appear that the service can’t handle the demand.

Once you get the apppointment, you can choose between the Fast Track, 1 week, service or the Premium, 1 day, service. With the Fast Track service, you must be at home to sign for the passport a week later. With the Premium service, you have 4 hours to wait once your forms have been checked and the cashier has given you a receipt – or overnight if you haven’t been able to get a morning appointment in all but 1 of the regional centres.

In summary:

  • Online application – £77.50, 5 weeks
  • Check and Send – £85.67, 6 weeks and 2 trips to the post office
  • Normal post – £77.50, a week to get the forms, processing time unspecified and high risk of loss.
  • Fast Track – £112, a trip to a Check and Send post office or a week to get the forms by any other means, 2 weeks to get an appointment, a day to travel to the appointment, a week to wait, and a day at home waiting for the passport to be delivered.
  • Premium – £129, a trip to a Check and Send post office or a week to get the forms by any other means, 2 weeks to get an appointment, a day to travel to the appointment and potentially another day to pick up the passport if you can’t get an early enough appointment for same day collection.

The passport service are investing in sexy technology like phone apps and online tracking of progress. Just how much effort would it take to provide a basic online PDF application form which would deliver a full week’s benefit for most applicants? Priorities?

Project / Programme Delivery and Service Delivery – Is There A Conflict?

June 1, 2009

(Shamelessly taken from a reply the DeliveryDemon provided to a question on LinkedIn)

Do you see a conflict?

The main interfaces with service delivery are:

  • When defining the scope of the project, acknowledge that there will be an impact on service delivery, and involve the stakeholders who can form a view of the impact and how it is likely to affect other priorities, and take decisions.
  • During the design / delivery / test stages of a project, identify and involve the service delivery stakeholders needed to provide input / carry out activities / test.
  •  As part of dependency management, identify dependencies / resource conflicts with other projects also impacting service delivery, establish a suitable level of communication with them.
  •  For transition to business as usual, allow for testing and business change within the service delivery function.

All of the above are down to planning and communication and should not be a significant source of conflict if well managed.

There is only ONE intrinsic and irresolvable conflict between programmes / projects and service delivery. Service delivery is there to deliver a service and that is their first priority. In the event of a serious incident, restoring the service has first priority.

In the event of a serious incident, all the programme / project manager can do is:

  • Keep tabs on the incident resolution without hassling those at the sharp end.
  • Make use where possible of resource not involved in the incident, provided their workload has not increased to cover colleagues dealing with the incident.
  • Carry out an impact analysis, work on a contingency plan and implement it.
  • Keep the project / programme stakeholders informed.
  • Escalate only in the event that it is likely senior management will give the project priority over the service.
  • Keep the morale of the team up when they can’t make progress.
  • When the pressure lifts, get in there with the key stakeholders to ensure that the programme / project gets appropriate priority as the pressure comes off.

Delivering According to Priorities

March 30, 2009

It’s a good thing to do away with discrimination in the job market, more so during an economic downturn when the sheer volume of jobseekers gives the recruiter so many adequately qualified people to choose from that discrimination in individual cases becomes virtually impossible to prove. So, with the ever increasing number of jobseekers in the UK it might seem like a good time to ensure that none of those millions qualified candidate is denied a job on the basis of, say, religion or gender.

But why, oh why, has the government given priority and Parliamentary time to THIS , a single job opportunity which becomes available only a handful of times a century, when there’s a crying need to deal with the pressing economic conditions hitting MILLIONS of jobs at the moment?