I recently had to travel by airplane after a surgery. My mobility was limited and I requested wheelchair assistance, which I used from Denver to Houston to Amsterdam. Across three airports and two countries, the process was interesting, especially the data integration needed to get things to happen in the real world. As often is the case, there are all sorts of ways that systems don’t work well together.
In this case, there are actually multiple digital systems integrated. Since airlines contract with passengers, they record their own data that a particular person needs something. However, the actual service is provided by the airport, and each airport has their own system. A classic case of data transfer being needed between multiple systems, in this case three different airport systems.
Like the digital applications and databases many of us work with, there are disparate ways the data is handled in different systems. In Denver, the young man pushing me had to update his location constantly, so that there was tracking of how I moved through the airport from check-in to security to the train to the gate. I assume some notification gets to a person at the gate, but it was late. Without my wife, I wouldn’t necessarily have had a good way to flag down someone. I assume the delays I had at all gates were more human than digital, but I really don’t know. As a “customer” here, I have no idea when data moves from one application to another, much less when the humans in the real world get notified.
Many of our digital transformations are taking place with the idea of bringing more transparency to various processes, either digital or analog. Our DevOps changes are to make it clearer how we build and deploy software. Many new app features are built to help employees better understand some part of their business. Others are there to inform customers and give them more reasons to stay our customers and not move on to a competitor.
I think it’s important that our software developers and UX designers keep evolving and growing to better meet the needs of our customers. I think it’s amazing how well software has grown and changed from a one-size-fits-all to adapting and customizing for different users. We all might use and react to software a little differently, so allowing the software to meld with the way we work is incredibly helpful to reducing the friction and flaws in the human to computer integration.
This was a good reminder to me of how important data integrations can be between systems, and how much of an impact those friction points can have on a customer. The trip back was much smoother, with people waiting at the airplane doors and showing up in time to get me onto the next plane. That was a wonderful reminder of just how data integration between applications can mesh with humans to create a incredible experience for the customer.