Could your business handle an 18 day shutdown?

Zip's cabinNext month, I have a US Forest Service wilderness cabin reserved for a weekend. Good place to hang out for a birthday.

Because of this reservation (and others), yesterday I received an email from ReserveAmerica.com, the service that powers Recreation.gov. Recreation.gov provides information about and handles reservations for campsites, cabins and other Federally managed recreation sites.

It was a notice about an 18 day long event that will begin later this month.

The notification arrived 26 days in advance to warn me about this 18 day long event. I really appreciate that notice, particularly since it could affect my reservation in October.

The event? They are upgrading their online reservation systems. That’s the good news.

The lesson – and the bad news?

Because of this upgrade, the online and call center facilities for making, changing or canceling reservations – much less finding details about these properties – will be completely unavailable for 18 days.

Not only is the web-based system affected, but you will also be unable to make any changes, cancellations or new reservations by calling them. This affects US Forest Service properties, US Army Corps of Engineers properties and countless others.

The bottom line:

  • For 18 days, you cannot cancel a reservation ONLINE or BY PHONE.
  • For 18 days, you cannot amend a reservation ONLINE or BY PHONE.
  • For 18 days, you cannot make a reservation ONLINE or BY PHONE.

A huge “business”, effectively 100% shutdown for eighteen days.

Oh, but it gets better. Not only will you be unable to do these things via the web or by phone, but after their upgrade is completed, some combination of the existing historical and future reservation information will be inaccessible permanently. Either you wont be able to see past reservations, or you wont be able to see current reservations, or you wont be able to see either, according to the notice I received.

Imagine what would happen to an airline or hotel chain that not only couldnt take reservations for 18 days, but also couldn’t allow anyone to view historical or future reservations. It’s a great example of what NOT to do when you upgrade systems in your business.

You would think that this inane business decision had been made by some government agency, because of a lack of personnel, equipment and technology resources. Perhaps the upper level decision was made that way, but the systems involved aren’t running on some old 1950’s era FAA computer. They’re from Ticketmaster, the people who own ReserveAmerica, the system that runs Recreation.gov.

Conversions of this nature occur all the time, but they are handled differently depending on the culture of the company and quite often, the nature of the client/nature of the business.

Sometimes, businesses warn their customers beforehand about a new system that is coming. Some (like Paypal’s recent beta) let them try it on for size to work the bugs out and get some early feedback. Some silently make the change and the users find out when it occurs – presumably with proper testing (Today’s Fogbugz rollout of v6.0 to hosted Fogbugz customers is a good example).

In over 25 years in the technology world with clients owning 1 computer to clients owning thousands, I’ve never seen an upgrade completely shutdown a business for 18 days by accident, much less intentionally.

Insanity.

One thought on “Could your business handle an 18 day shutdown?”

  1. I wanna go!!!

    Another example of government efficiency, even if it is a non-gov’t gov’t contractor saying ‘bend over”.

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