IT enabling commonman for real
I have been involved in the transition of businesses to adopt technology, particularly the web for the past 14 years. So, grand visions are a great start, but the practical aspect of getting buyins and making it happen is a wonderful ride by itself.
So, when airlines started etickets, it seems easy and cool for us net-savvy folks.
I have been traveling in India and London this summer and the paperless ease of etickets is amazing at not just the technology, but the clean way of execution and adoption by people.
Of course, my international air tickets were etickets, with built in security asking me to update a web site with my personal data for confirmation. I flew 8 planes inside India, all new private airlines buzzing with entreprenurial energy and competing in making the customer happy. Everyone of them was paperless.
Now you have to understand the landscape of India to appreciate etickets there. India is technologically advanced with Internet kiosks in many street corners. With 70% villages in the country, they have adopted Internet even for their public exam results allowing students to check the net and not look in papers for results.
But I didn't have access to print my paperless ticket confirmation from many kiosks. I need this to show to enter the airport! So they have setup a booth for each airlines outside the departure entrance for us people without the confirmation copy to get a copy from them by showing our ID. Ah! that doesn't make it paperless, does it? So, one of the airlines uses SMS which is very ubiquitious in India (I could not understand the prelevance of SMS in India, while sitting in US). They sent me a SMS of an eticket confirmation number which is easy to remember or to scribble on a piece of paper to take it to the airline counter.
Thats what excites me, a seaminly simple use of a combination of technologies, but crafted for the particular geography of customers!
What topped it for me is traveling by Indian railways. They are famous for their volume of traffic. They had etickets too! They have used technology so well, that its effects are experienced and you can neither see the technology nor any expected change of behaviour anywhere. Reminds me of Prof.Venkatraman's "IT Enables Business Transformation" from early 90s.
In Indian railways they have several classes - First class, II class AC, II class non-AC. Earlier, when each class was not filled, those seats were left vacant. Now they offer those seats for free upgrades to randomly selected passengers of the next lower class, all done by computers behind the scenes. This allows people to taste the next higher price-range class and become potential customers of that class in future travel. Classic cannibalization of a segment to upgrade them to a higher price segment!
Then finally on my way home, I visited London. I love the London tube. They are yet to implement paperless tickets. We spent lot of time in lines (oh they call it queues) to buy the combination of ticket that worked for us - real human interaction! Well, as a tourist, I appreciated that interaction, but etickets would have saved my much time.