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Top of the Traps

Trap #9: 100% digital coverage

November 21, 2019

Many well-meaning digital and customer service people are of the opinion that if your organisation offers a service to patrons it stands to reason that users should be able to self-serve over digital channels.

The phrase it stands to reason is dangerous because it abdicates responsibility for research and for using our resources wisely where they will have the most impact.

I’ll give you a clear example that we come across time and again. You’re two thirds of the way through some major web build, and suddenly someone remembers the scheme. It’s some kind of youth access scheme that the artistic director came up with a few years ago. Twenty young people (or to be more accurate, their parents) took it up last year. Everyone knows that the scheme should be cancelled, but no-one has the authority to make the call, or the desire to plead with the Artistic Director. So now, when you should be QAing your major web build, what you’re actually doing is building a dedicated application that includes identity checking, parent-access accounts, the whole nine yards, to be used by approximately twenty people. It costs £20K to do it. You’re spending £1,000 per user to subsidise 4 tickets each with a total value of £200.

Congratulations - You Played Yourself

Some tactics:

  1. Let’s let go of the idea that everything you do should have a digital interface. Let’s treat our in-demand, hard to recruit and retain digital resource carefully. Before we start considering anything a requirement, let’s ask - how many people are using this service? What’s it costing per user to digitize this service? There’s actually a simple formula you can use: 

    Manual_task_in_hours_per_week * Salary * 1.3 / 38 > Development_cost / Lifespan_in_years ? 
    2 hours per week * 35K * 0.0342 * 5 = £12,082 

    So in this case if a manual task took someone earning £35K two hours per week, you need a development cost well under £12K to make it worthwhile digitizing and it will take five years to earn that value. And guess what - code needs maintaining too, there will be maintenance, hosting, changes to browsers and legislation. So a degree of human intervention will always be required.

  2. By the way - this doesn’t just hold for customer-facing stuff. Your own digital team will instinctively want to automate lots of things that aren’t even customer-facing too. Is it justified on a cost basis? You should check. Digital staffers are kind-of the opposite of luddites, they find manual tasks offensive, even when they’re being paid to do them.

  3. It might be outside of your control to close a scheme with few users. But you might reasonably say that the number of users is too small to justify the digital development. Make that scheme ‘concierge only’. Service it through phone or chat interfaces.

  4. I’d extend that thinking to anything legacy. And you might be surprised by what I’d consider legacy: Direct Debits, Microsoft Edge, Desktop Computers, Paper Tickets

Yes people still use these things now. But are you confident that it’s worth investing in them now for your new digital project, based on a 5 year lifespan?

Trap #10 Building a Monument
Trap #9 100% Digital Coverage
Trap #8 Divide & Conquer
Trap #7 Designing for your CEO’s smartphone
Trap #6 False Prophets
Trap #5 Post-it Fetishism
Trap #4 Building not Buying
Trap #3 Buying not Bodging
Trap #2 Bogus User Stories
Trap #1 Cutting Against the Grain