Monday's technology issues at the Iowa Caucuses reaffirms the following case study ...
(if you're a non-US reader, please do a quick US news search on "2020 Iowa Caucus" – you won't be able to miss it!)
Years ago, I was attempting to get a beer festival client to change over to an online ticketing system. At the time they utilized a half-online ticketing system.
What's a half-online ticketing system?
It's where you take payment online and then get one of your employees to manually snail mail hard stock tickets. The person manually fulfilling thousands of ticket orders was my client's General Manager.
When asked, the General Manager had indicated that manually fulfilling ticket orders added 30 hours of work to their already busy schedule.
So, with the General Manager's time in mind and a few other factors, I strongly recommended that the client change to a full online ticket solution. That's where tickets are purchased online and printed at home or work by the consumer.
The client was apprehensive about making a change. They wanted me to guarantee them there wouldn't be any issues with online ticketing. My guarantee to the client was this …
"I guarantee you that something is going to go wrong. That said, I also guarantee you when it goes wrong, I will be onsite to handle any issues promptly."
Sure enough, a significant issue arose onsite while scanning event attendees into the beer festival.
A few hundred printed tickets had the same barcode. That meant that the first person scanned into the event without issue. After that, hundreds of "ticket already scanned" warning messages appeared on the ticket scanners.
Initially, the ticketing company insisted such a situation was impossible.
One poor guy who had one of the first duplicate barcodes was almost denied entry and he did nothing wrong! Add on top of that thousands of excited event patrons waiting to be scanned into the event. With the duplicate bar code issue, entry into the event slowed significantly. It was a real kick in the head!
Ultimately, I made good on my promise to my client. We created a quick on-site solution (in less than 5 minutes) and made all the affected patrons happy!
Back to the case of the Iowa caucus. It started with a simple coding issue. Usually, not a problem. That is until you add in the backup plan failing. After the backup plan failed, apparently there wasn't a well thought out plan. Then the chaos started, followed by a media firestorm!
When it comes to technology, especially with critical cogs like your event ticketing, prepare for the worst! Have a backup plan for your backup plan. Especially with onsite ticketing issues.
Do you have contingencies in place for when your on-site ticketing system goes down?
Play through a variety of scenarios. Such scenarios can be an online-only ticketing issue, ticket scanning issues, or a combination of both.
Also, have you practiced all your contingency plans?
Practice execution of all your backup plans with your team members. It's not enough to have a great backup plan or series of backup plans. I've seen some of the most magnificent backup plans fail, not because they weren't great, but because of an inability to execute the plan.
Be prepared and practice!
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