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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Online BEAR: thumbs up!

Well, I feel like we've run a pretty good test of the Online BEAR, and it gets thumbs up around here. It's a solid Web app, probably USAC's best.

Things I like:
  1. A surprising number of service providers were ready to use the system.
  2. I can use the browser Back button.
  3. The list of invoices is great, and having the invoice numbers be hyperlinks is good.
  4. Having the name of the certifiers be a link providing contact info is sublime.
  5. You can right-click on a link and pop it open in a new window, cut and paste back and forth, etc., and the thing doesn't break.
Things I don't like:
  1. The validation subroutine should be robust enough to strip out commas, dollar signs, spaces, etc.
  2. You can't cancel an invoice once you've submitted it.
  3. You can't amend an invoice once you've submitted it.
  4. Service providers can't amend an invoice before approving it.
  5. The notification emails are useless. All notifications should include FRN, BEN and SPIN at the very least. It would be nice to have applicant and service provider name, as well as the amount. It would also be nice if the "View BEAR Form" link at the bottom of the email actually worked. [I've heard that some people see the login screen when they click that link, but I just get redirected back to the SLD main page. Why log in? Is a completed BEAR some kind of secret? As I griped in items 3 and 4, no one can change the form once it's submitted. Shouldn't John Q. Public be able to see it at that point?

Numbers 3 and 4 should be on the list of features for the next upgrade. As it stands now, I end up cancelling a lot of invoices because the service provider doesn't agree with my numbers. They should be able to send me a note saying, "Cut the pre-discount by $5," then I change and resubmit. Even better, the SP should be able to change the pre-discount amount, certify, and bounce it back to me to re-certify.

But let's hope that before the next upgrade, this silly SP certification of BEARs goes away.

Bells and whistles I'd like to see:

  1. After I log in and choose to start a new form, the first thing I see should be a list of FRNs which I might invoice. The list would show funding year, FRN, SPIN, service provider name, and funding available. I'd just type a pre-discount amount next to one of the FRNs, click a button, and poof, I get a form with everything filled in except the form identifier.
  2. On the existing form, when the discount percentage pops in, so should the funding remaining in that FRN.

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