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21 December, 2017 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Stories, Technology
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When Apps Crash: Reliability is Key In Good Times and in Bad

Posted December 21st, 2017 | Author: John G. Self

When we make something we should make it the best it can be. It is not good enough for it to work reliably in normal use periods, it also has to be something that works reliably even when everything that could go wrong does goes wrong. This is especially the case in our emerging mobile applications world where travelers depend on app reliability for boarding passes, gate, and other critical information.

When you create an application and you attempt to drive traffic to the site to improve efficiency and reduce operating costs, and then the application cannot hold up to crisis time utilization, then you really have created more problems than you have solved, especially if this app has allowed you to remove human beings from the service equation.

In consecutive weeks, airlines operating to and from Atlanta – Hartsfield airport faced major operational challenges. First, an unexpected snow/ice storm that shut down all flights and then on Sunday, a major power outage that shut down not only all flights in and out but also the entire airport facility, creating chaotic pandemonium in and around the airport. As more and more people tried to use the Delta mobile app to rebook their trips, the system became unresponsive. On the day after this travel disaster in the world’s busiest airport, as thousands of passengers crowded through TSA lines, many people reported that their Delta app failed and they were unable to retrieve their boarding passes. So they were sent from the front of the line to the lobby for paper tickets and then back to the end of the line to begin again.

I am no technology expert but if I had to make a bet, I would say that the problem was not a lack of server capacity but rather in the design of the application itself. They did not build a program that could cope with maximum demand in a worst case scenario so, instead of using their apps, customers were forced to call the Delta reservation service where wait time holds were more than two hours – tough when you’re trying to catch a plane and still have a huge TSA line to contend with. The one thing that did work was their call back service. I left my name and return telephone number at 3:03 AM and they called me back at 6:06 AM. The agent did not want to talk about Delta’s app or the mess at the airport. She did find me an earlier replacement flight to another city.

Millennials and their successors live in and depend on mobile applications to manage their lives and coordinate their friendships. Healthcare organizations which have been notoriously behind in technology and the development of related business systems should take a pause and think about Delta’s recent mobile app meltdowns. If the app bellyflops but quickly recovers, you can cut them some slack, but if you are still getting error messages the next day, then it may be decision time. Millennials, as well as those of us older types, will lose confidence and find a more dependable alternative.

This is an important lesson for healthcare organizations.

© 2018 John Gregory Self

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