Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Duct tape and string"

Or as we used say back in the hills, spit and bailing wire.

From James Kwak's recent piece on United Airlines:
There are two lessons to be drawn from these entirely unexceptional examples of air travel gone wrong. One is that United’s computer systems don’t work — for the same reasons that many large companies’ core systems don’t work. The overnight unbooking and rebooking was probably a computer error, and in any case United had no way of rolling back all the automated changes to its reservation system. The automated cancellation of my return flight was either an incompetent customer service representative who didn’t preserve my return reservation when I asked her to, or a computer system that didn’t give her any way of preventing the cancellation. I was downgraded from first class because some marketing genius at United decided to add a new upsell feature to the website — but no one bothered to extend the legacy system they use behind the scenes to capture the new data from the ticket sales process. (This is a common problem with enterprise software these days: companies build new features in their websites but can’t integrate those features properly with their core processing systems.) All of this just reinforces a point I’ve made several times before: the computer systems holding together the world’s largest companies are held together by duct tape and string.
I've got at least a couple of posts I'd like to write on the how bad this side of the business often is. Having seen some of these systems up close, I'm surprised things don't crash and burn more often.

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