technology "must work"

December 21st, 2006

As I'm reading about enterprise integration patterns, which is a study of common software design solutions in enterprises, it strikes me how many points of failure these technologies have. And that instills in me a sense of compassion for the deployment of such solutions, there are so many angles to cover. And to our benefit as consumers, these complex structures appear simple.

Making an airline reservation can be a process which requires several different systems on different machines to co-operate. There is recording the order, which could be handled by an Order Processing System. Then there is recording customer data (address, date of birth etc), which could be stored in a special Customer Database Registry. Then there is checking for flight availability (websites currently have browseable calendars where dates/times of available flights are highlighted), and this would require checking a Flight Database and a Flight Booking Database, to 1) find flights and 2) see if they have open seats. Then there is processing payment, which is often handled by a third party, like Visa. Then, once a flight has been selected, it has to be recorded in the Flight Booking Database, upon which a confirmation is sent and the order is complete. This whole transaction has to be handled alongside another thousand bookings happening right at the same time.

All of this appears to the customer as a series of simple web pages, sometimes poorly designed and annoying to use, marred by server outages. But it's not just the web server displaying the pages that can face problems, any of the systems can give out and the booking procedure would face a serious problem. Now, as a developer involved in building this infrastructure, I would certainly appreciate the possibility for errors, and how errors anywhere in the chain could be very damaging. But as a customer, I have no sympathy nor patience for problems. I demand to be served, and that's that. It is, in a sense, a curious contrast between the two worlds.

But if technology is considered by critics as "unreliable", just imagine what it would be like if we didn't mind waiting for our bookings, didn't mind our reservations being canceled, didn't mind our tickets becoming invalidated through glitches and so on. Our standards at least drive technology to excel, heads to roll, companies to go out of business, and customer services to improve.

As fate would have it, a perfect example of the lack of patience we have with technology: getting pictures from a camera.

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1 Responses to "technology "must work""

  1. erik says:

    "Our standards at least drive technology to excel, heads to roll, companies to go out of business, and customer services to improve."

    True, true.

    It's odd though. I'll demand someone else to excel, but when it comes to my own achievements I'm much more tolerant to failure :D