Let’s not Travelodge software development

20120918-190734.jpgAs I tweeted last night, I’m currently staying at the Travelodge for some business. I must admit that I have fond memories of it as a child. Well, there’s another childhood perception blown away! Or not, as it was 40 years ago and I’d like to think they really were better then.

Anyway, to now when I checked in. The first thing that hit me was the smell! It was kind of like mouldy carpet mixed with cheap perfume… I went to the front desk and asked for them to check the room and was told it was the “Travelodge Smell” and perfectly normal, so stayed there. The funny thing was that I managed to get another room today and met the cleaner. I asked her not to “Travelodge Smell” my room (which now doesn’t smell i.e. is quite normal :) – she said no problems and remarked that it smelt like “Old People’s Home” to her anyway. How did they get it so wrong?

So, to the main subject, which is software and process. When I woke in the morning I was thinking how they must of worked out the absolute minimum that people would tolerate: soap that was mostly not soap, toilet paper that was cheaper than cheap, minimum cheap furniture and shelves made from MDF with the tackiest faux wood grain pattern plastic veneer…

THEN IT HIT ME! This was an Lean / Agile hotel room! The customer was not me, it was a corporation that wanted to maximise profit. The only thing they cared about was that I didn’t walk out, but couldn’t give a crap if I enjoyed my stay. How could you in a room like this? Talking with a colleague who was a local about this, he remarked the this place had just had a fit-out, which would explain the amazing space in the rooms. They were built for a previous era, but that had all been rationalised in to a cheap, sterile “sleeping place”. Unfortunately for them, I’ll never book Travelodge again – I normally stay at B&B’s, but fell for a brand that probably decayed a decade or more ago.

So this is mostly what I see in my work – things going to the lowest bidder, supposedly expending the minimal possible effort (but that’s a false economy) to achieve the minimal necessary solution (that’s usually less than adequate) in the minimal time (but that either slips or crucial features are thrown out) with the maximum quality (yeah, right!). But it’s not bad enough for most people to leave whoever it is. They tolerate it because the “competitors” probably have similar crap anyway.

After this rather extensive but passionate rant, I ask the question : “Where are the Quality Hotels in Software ?” What are the Mandarin’s, Four Seasons, Andaz, Armani, Bulgari and Park Hyatt? Whereas you can easily find quality hotels the world over, can we do the same for Software? Apart from Apple, who else comes to mind for quality software? Yes, there are other places like the good ‘ol Aussie Atlassian, but it’s a struggle… Most software for brands is average and probably heading towards Travelodge – is that what we really want?

PS I’m well aware of Agile / Lean practices in theory, but I’m commenting on the reality. Your experience may differ and more power to you if it does! ;-)

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5 comments

  1. Andrew Dearing

    I like the analogy, and as you rightly point out, it is a business that does not give a crap about forming relationships with customers and fostering repeat business by providing a good experience.

    In terms of being a lean bedroom, I would disagree. I thik It’s just a cheap bedroom that you wouldn’t use twice. In the current economic climate cheap is sometimes the only option.

    So where are these high quality software organisations ? I would like to say that I work for one of them, but I could be biased. In my experience IT companies, whether they are vendors, independant SI’s or consultancies generally try and achieve excellence but face a constant challenge from customers to cut costs of projects by reducing timescales, margins and manpower. This is usually a short termist strategy as a project usualy ends up with problems, delays with the business value ripped out as the ‘project’ becomes more important that the goal.

    The key is being able to articulate the value of quality and high standards along with building customer trust by delivering on that promise of value.

    • changearc

      Hey Andy, I agree about your point regarding vendors and maybe should of broadened it from Atlassian. I’d say that a lot of vendors are high quality, but the problem is with organisations, who really should know better! They seem unaware of the brand damage they’re doing to themselves…

  2. Virginia

    This is very interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger. I’ve joined your feed and
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    • changearc

      Thank Virginia. I’ve been otherwise occupied with work and life… But I have a few posts in the works so stay tuned as I have some free time this weekend…

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