It’s Thursday, May 26 2022 in Portland, Oregon. Today is a grey, warm, slightly humid day.
I’m still tired.
Here is some good news: the State of California has issued a challenge to improve the processing and analysis of tax returns! The challenge has its own website and it is easy to read.
Here is some not so good news. I heard about this challenge by receiving an email about a new RFI, a Request for Information. Which is not a Challenge. Challenge is a much better word.
The email subject was CDTFA RFI Data Sources and Data Analytics, and let me know that the Request for Information was posted on the state’s eProcure website! So I clicked on the link to the posting of the RFI - CDTFA Data Sources and Data Analytics Project.
Cal eProcure is the statewide giant purchasing/procurement system. It is like an ERP system, which is not named because when you hear about them you make a sound that sounds like “erp”. It stands for Enterprise Resource Planning, which is also not the name for a board game you play on board the starship Enterprise.
Anyway. The link is to an Event, and the page has the Event Details and a description which is a reasonably helpful description so I want to find out more, which means I click on a button called View Event Package. I click on this button because I am of a certain age and temperament which means I am not afraid of clicking on things and I have a very finely developed model of how computers work, which is to say they work badly and you have to imagine how a computer would describe things. The request for information is an Event, you see, and the information about that event must be in a Package, and so I must want to View it.
The Event Package has an Attachments 1 of 1, which is a file: the Bidder_Survery_CDTFA-DSDA.docx, and it has a description which is that it is a Bidder Survey Notice.
Some of you may be accurately predicting what is going to happen.
There is a button with an icon to download the Word document, so I click that, too because I would like to see the notice.
Clicking on the download icon brings up a modal dialog on the web page letting me know that my file is ready, so I click on another button that says “Download Attachment”.
A Word file is downloaded.
I open the Word file. On my Mac this is tedious because now it seems every single time I open Word macOS has to recheck the integrity of the application package because Security, and while I don’t disagree, it is very annoying. On my phone, I am able to open it either as a preview, or in Word or Office or whatever for iOS.
The Word document says:
To: Prospective Bidders
Re: Bidder Survey for the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA), Data Sources and Data Analytics Project.
Then there is a bunch of yadda yadda about doing some market research. And then there is a bit in bold, which is the third paragraph of the single page Word document, of which there are 158 words in total.
This is the bit in bold:
To respond, please click on the link to the Bidder Survey https://stp.cityinnovate.com/challenges/1288, where you will create an account, complete the survey and submit your responses.
This feels inefficient and yet at the same time I hope you realize it is significant progress. I want to recognize that there is a great challenge website with clear language. That is fantastic. And then I want to point to the system that requires using the erp-sounding system which is horrible and whether by requirement, design requirement, policy requirement or otherwise has somehow metastasized into including a link to a website inside a Word document.
I am very sorry for people who worked on this who clearly know that this doesn’t make much sense but do not have in any reasonable sense the power to do anything about it because it is always Somebody Else’s Problem and would require cross-organization collaboration in what I assume must be a tremendously psychologically unsettling manner.
Cal eProcure is part of FI$Cal, you see, and the State Auditor has a report from this January about it. The subhead of the report is California’s New, Centralized Fiscal System Will Miss Its Completion Target Again While Agencies Still Struggle to Use the New Technology.
The main system powering FI$Cal is Oracle, which is some software best known for running many of the world’s biggest businesses and also for being formerly run by a billionaire whose name begins with Larry and ends with “joined a November 2020 call about contesting Trump’s loss”.
It would be easy for me to poke holes at the whole notice-in-a-basement, locked filing cabinet nature of the roundabout announcement of this Request for Information, and I know I did, a bit. It’s obvious. But I also know that the people doing this job did the best they could do and honestly, the challenge is fantastic.
There’s just a lot, you know?
That’s it. I’m done. It’s Thursday, it feels like Friday, it feels like the goddamn end of the world.
May you be well, may you be safe, may you be healthy, peaceful and strong and I’m just going to say those words in the hope that just saying them helps.
How are you?