Parcel delivery, just a few years late

A few years ago, I wrote a bit of a rant about waiting for a parcel to be delivered without knowing when it would be coming – the middle class angst of the twenty-first century. The problem, I argued then was that the delivery companies’ information management was, perhaps not surprisingly, optimised for their needs, not mine.

I have no means of giving signals to delivery companies which encourage them either to create better quality information or even to let me see or use information they might already have but either haven’t worked out that I might be interested in or haven’t bothered to make available. I am not sure what that might be – I can’t know what I don’t know – but some combination of GPS tracking of the van and position in sequence (if mine is delivery 50, then knowing whether the most recent delivery is 1 or 49 tells me quite a lot) might give me a much clearer sense of what is going on – and much greater confidence that something actually is going on.

Life went on, with arrival slots for parcels (and plumbers) being as indeterminate as ever. Until today, when an email notification took me to this screen – which gives precisely the information I thought might be useful three years ago.

Parcel status screen

There is the van, there is my place in the queue of deliveries, there is the ability to plan the rest of my day.

That’s a really useful service improvement. From now on, I will choose this lot over all their competitors whenever I can. Except, of course, that I can’t and won’t, because I am not their customer and get no choice in the matter at all. It’s great that one company has thought this a useful thing to do (presumably as a by product of whatever tool they use to maximise route efficiency), but it can only be accidental that it does a lot of what I want it to. So the public sector moral of my earlier post still stands:

Making the data you have available is a good thing. It’s also relatively easy, so there is no reason not to do it. Building services which make use of that data is also a good thing. But even those two together don’t necessarily produce the optimum result, because the data may not have been what was most wanted or needed in the first place. And even with the extraordinary creativity of the people who have been turning open data into applications, there are still not enough ways for service users to act as customers, and still not enough being done to compensate for that by involving them much more directly in the process.

And now Paul the driver is three streets and three deliveries away…

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