Monday, December 18, 2006

Solve your customer's problems.

It's important when designing a solution that you understand the environment that your users work in. If you don't, then you may use an assumption that causes a problem. This is a true story, not something made up or something that happened years ago, this happened last week.

To reduce the chance of theft gas stations have to drop money into a drop safe frequently. That way if any theft occurs they can only get a max of about $100. To solve this problem the cash registers were programmed to force the cashier to drop money into the safe at $100. However, the starting cash in a drawer is $100. That's what is used to make change. Thus every purchase puts the register over $100 and the only way to take another order is to pull some money out and punch in the amount being dropped into the cash register so it can continue to track it.

The problem is that the developers didn't realize that the cash register started with $100, they expected the register to be empty and when it hit $100 to force a drop. They didn't realize the users neeed to be able to make change to help the customer.

This is not a joke, the problem occurred at a major gas station last week and was not solved yet over the weekend. So if you are in a major gas station and the cashier is cursing and asking you to wait while dropping some more money into the safe, remember, it's because the IT department didn't understand the problem that they were trying to solve.

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