On October 1, 2013 the Affordable Care Act website was launched. This website, which is intended to help Americans purchase health insurance, is an integral part of President. Obama’s signature legislation. Unfortunately, the website was a disaster for the President, for everyone else involved, and for Americans wanting to purchase health insurance.
What can community theaters learn from this as they select box office software or undertake website projects?
Keep the Software Simple
The ACA website ended up being overly complex. Certainly, purchasing insurance is more complicated than purchasing a ticket to a community theater, but clearly, the architecture of the underlying ACA website was too complex to make it work within the time available.
Indeed, this lesson can be applied to the community theater box office software. There are many box office or ticketing systems – particularly ones that have been around for a long time – that have become overly bloated and complex. For community theaters who are looking for new ticketing software, ensure your shortlist includes only clean and simple systems.
Keep the Contracts Simple
President Obama himself said that the overly bureaucratic nature of government contracting contributed to the website project not getting completed effectively within the time available. The lesson for community theaters is that not only should the software itself be simple, but your contract with your software vendor should be straightforward. The vendor should provide a software service for a set price. Nothing more nothing less.
Certainly, everyone involved in the ACA website project must wish that they had tested much earlier than they did and had insisted on successful tests before launch. There were reports that final testing for the ACA website did not occur until 2 weeks prior to launch! Obviously too late.
For a community theater installing new box office software, ensure you and your staff take time to thoroughly test all aspects of the software – both from a box office perspective as well as from a ticket buyer perspective before you turn on the new system.
Tests should include selling a ticket as a box office staff member, purchasing a ticket as a community theater patron, processing credit card transactions and all variations thereof.
Defer if You Must
It is never a good situation to defer a website or software go-live. However, sometimes this is the lesser of two evils. Perhaps the ACA website should have been deferred by one or two months. While that would not have been good, it would have been less of a disaster than launching software to your community that does not work.
If you are installing new software for your community theater, and have a date in mind on which to go live, remember that meeting the date is less important than providing a system to your box office staff and to your ticket buyers that works reliably.
Clean the Mess
Despite all precautions, all software has bugs. Some are minor; some more blatant and major like we saw with the ACA website. The point is, expect that some problems will occur. Ensure you have a software vendor that is going to address the defects immediately and thoroughly. Usually going back to an old system is not an option.