How the FA Cup creates unnecessary pain for IT managers Thursday, March 13, 2008
Making your IT department endure unnecessary pain would seem like a reasonable idea to many users seeking retribution for their computer experiences.
One recipe for this but which may to rebound on you [and your customers] is to follow these steps:
- create conditions in which your IT system will have a sharp spike in activity
- ensure the activity will far exceed any system capacity you have or would reasonably need at any other time
- avoid any measures which might level the activity load out
- make sure the end users are encouraged to keep bombarding the systems with repeated requests, perhaps by offering them an emotional/valuable reward if they are lucky enough to log in, and telling them to ignore any messages designed to discourage them
This morning, for instance, the sale of West Brom's FA Cup semi final tickets go on sale online to season ticket holders, who will have an exclusive window of 4 days to get their tickets before the eligibility criteria is widened. They are guaranteed to get a ticket and allowance was made for people to buy groups of tickets together. Hence, there should have been less panic other than where you got to sit and at what price. Made no difference - the site was inevitably under strain from the high volume of log-ins being attempted.
Result - the customers will be unhappy and criticise the "lack of preparedness" of the site when it was inevitable it would be hit with high volumes. The club will challenge the supplier about it readiness, and the supplier's management will question its' IT team. They in turn will complain about "lack of resources" and no one ends up happy with the situation.
Whilst the service provider, Tickets.com, will be familiar with this scenario [they also handle Chelsea FC's ticketing], it is immensely costly to carry capacity for such occasional spikes and no one really wants to pay to have this idle capacity.
Is there a better solution I can suggest to mitigate the problem? No solution is perfect but a few options include
- open the "doors" in the early hours of the morning. Naturally some people will not be deterred but it will undoubtedly thin the queue since with a guaranteed ticket more people will be happy to log in when they wake in the morning rather than disturb their sleep
- sell the ticket in tranches by price band, highest price first. Since not everyone will want the highest prices, sell these first and clear that portion of the market with any left over rolled over to include with the next tranche. Tapering of this sort also helps sell the highest price tickets to those willing/able to pay the price eg I might be able to afford £55 but if I can buy at £35 then I might do and thereby deprive someone of a ticket unable to afford £55.
- allow people to submit their interest online and in advance by price band [prioritise which bands you want], and then randomly allocate the tickets within those price bands such that time of submission is not a factor
- worst case, buy on-demand computer processing capacity that scales to handle 24,000+ simultaneous applications