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Posted by Philip on 8 January 2017, 1:37 pm in , , , , ,

Technology — how we could use it more sensibly

Happy New Year! I hope you've enjoyed a break and are feeling the slightly easier energy 2017 seems to have manifested for us.

Young man wearing gloves and beanie, looking at his smart phone and smiling

I went to the movies the other evening. An unusual event — it's always a bit of a lottery so I tend to wait until they turn up on Netflix or Apple TV so if I make a mistake I can stop it and move on. Unfortunately, I lost the lottery with Passengers — one star from me.

I booked tickets for Jeannie and me online and took the confirmation email on my iPhone to the cinema. We got there and had to queue in the "Online Booking" line, which was twice as long and moved half as quickly as the old-school booking line.

Obviously, it was longer because more people book online to avoid disappointment or to choose their seats. The reason it moved so slowly was two-fold: firstly, people had booked food online so the cashiers were serving them as they verified the tickets and, secondly, the millennials in front of us, who were friends, were going up one by one, rather than together, hence slowing up access to the two cashiers.

When we finally got to a cashier (we both went to the same one and we hadn't ordered food), she scanned the barcode in the email on my phone, gave us two paper tickets and then asked me to confirm my email address.

Are you beginning to spot the stupidity?

We then went to the bar to get glasses of wine (an aside — I can't help but roll my eyes when bartenders pour wine into plastic glasses holding the bottle at the bottom like they would in some fancy restaurant). Then we had to queue again at the entrance to the cinemas, to have our paper tickets torn in half and be directed to the correct cinema.

Let's look at these procedures, identify what's wrong with them and redesign them so that they make full use of the technology. Because, as they are at the moment, the value add stops at booking online to choose a seat and avoid missing out.

The first step, queueing to scan the barcode to be given paper tickets, is completely redundant. The email is my ticket. The only reason to queue at this point should be to pick up any food I've ordered. I scan my barcode to confirm my order.

Being asked to confirm my email address — supposedly a security check — is also redundant. If I've stolen someone's phone and been able to access their confirmation email, then I've seen their email address! I could also steal someone's paper ticket and there's no way to verify it's my paper ticket. It's just bad luck for the victim of my thievery.

Queueing again to give someone a paper ticket to be ripped in half? Not only redundant but also stupid, stupid, stupid! All I should need to do is scan the email to get past the usher into the cinema. The barcode has the movie, cinema and seat numbers, which pop up on a screen for the usher to direct me. If there is any doubt at a later stage that I've deftly slipped in without a ticket, I just need to be asked to produce the email on my phone again. I may even need to rescan it to confirm I entered lawfully. Far more efficient because I've probably already biffed my half of the paper ticket in a bin, so I' d have to produce my phone again anyway.

Technology is only as useful as the streamlining of processes and procedures to accommodate it. Without this structural redesign, technology adds no value and can, as in this case, actually create hold-ups and inefficiencies.

A couple of other examples. I use online shopping and receive reward points. When I reach a certain number of points I receive a cash voucher. Excellent. But instead of being emailed a voucher code to enter at my next online checkout, like I do my bulk delivery discounts, they post me a voucher, which I have to post back with a packing slip and my credit card is debitted with the amount of the voucher.

If that's not jobs for monkeys, I don't know what is.

Finally, making appointments. There are hundreds, probably thousands, of online booking apps, from free to costing maybe $10-20 per month, depending on their functional sophistication. I use Calendly, embedded in a simple Strikingly website to create a quick and easy way for people to book time with me. Does anyone else I work with use anything similar? Not a soul. So they email back and forth, or text or try and call to book time. Some refuse to use my system because they can't get their head around it or, even worse, their organisation has a firewall that prevents them from accessing it.

The potential efficiencies and time-savings technology offers are abundant, but it requires a personal and procedural commitment to change in order to unleash this potential. Just like we gave up faxes for email (though, god forbid, I was given only the option to fax or post information to a Government department last week), we can say goodbye to paper tickets and vouchers, embrace online booking forms, and the world will continue to spin.

Let me know​ if you have other examples of poor technology use, or are using a system you think could be improved, in the comments section below.

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