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Why Good People Still Need Great Software Systems

Software systems can’t replace your people. But they can help manage your message if you need them to. 

I recently took a trip to Miami with some friends – and we happened to arrive during a huge storm. On top of that, there was a political rally not too far from the area. So, we had the perfect storm of a literal storm along with a lot of people around. 

Because of the storm, airlines had to push back some of their flights. Now, here’s the issue you run into with these delays: the policies of the last four years have created a situation where profits need to be artificially bumped up across the board so that when you have crises like we’re having right now, laying lots of people off to make shareholders happy seems like a good idea. 

But when things start to come back to normal, there are industries that don’t have people with the specialized skills to deal with the demand. At that point, you have a problem. 

So, you have this big storm, you have airline people working shifts and federal regulations stating that you can’t work longer than a certain amount of time for safety reasons. In our case, the airline finally ended up canceling our flight completely around one in the morning because they couldn’t find enough pilots and/or flight staff to crew the plane, and they couldn’t get enough employees in from their homes, because they’d laid off most of their people. 

On top of all that, most of the other airlines were suffering from the same issues. In total, there were 143 flights all canceled at the same time in Miami. And they basically told us that we wouldn’t be able to fly out until a couple of days later at the soonest. 

Needless to say, we decided to drive.

But in the whole scope of what was happening at the airport, the biggest issue was that there were not enough desk staff around to deal with all of the angry customers and not enough flight staff to actually man the planes. 

Going deeper, none of the systems were integrated to talk to each other. They didn’t have a good idea of where the planes were and where the crews were, and how to get in contact with the crews proactively if they needed to get more people in to cover those shifts – all of those things weren’t working correctly. 

Now, from what I’ve heard, it’s because the airline software systems are even older than some of the transit software systems currently being replaced. But if you had software systems that could proactively keep track of all the moving parts, it could help the people that are behind the desk message and communicate things better. 

In the case of the airlines that day, the setting of expectations with customers was so poor because they didn’t have enough information. And honestly, I think a lot of the people were simply new and didn’t have anyone letting them know what to say or do, or any sort of software system backing them up to tell them what’s going on and how to handle it. 

Software systems can’t create seasoned people to do the job. But they can at least help your new workforce with the next step in the playbook if you don’t have people around to give them the information they need.

Love, Tim


P.S. – This is a really, really important topic (and not just because it made me cranky at the airport). As such, it bears a little more fleshing-out. Keep an eye out for part 2, coming soon.

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