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Developing with total solutions in mind

When Elon Musk brought Tesla to the market, be solved more that just one problem. In fact, he delivered the unusual tech-on-wheels product brimming with genuine innovation, and alongside everything needed for a total solution for his customers. Tesla is not a car company. It is a total solution tech company and I believe in HOW they put their products together!

TESLA Total Solutions

The innovation that went into the first Teslas is easy to see. Patents on the battery technology, structural component arrangements never seen before, and even interior design decisions in the Model S were all unprecedented and all a matter of public record. There is so much new technology and clever choices in these cars (delivered to the general public almost 10 years ago now) that the success of the company is no wonder. In this aspect, Tesla reminds me of Apple. Before the marketing messages and brand control of Apple was what it is today (a scary machine of precision and lawyer-controlled consumer mind-melting) the products did the selling! When you bought a Macbook Pro in the late 90s, you discovered stuff, amazing stuff, that nobody talked about. I remember how my keyboard lit up by itself when the lights went down. And when I wanted to compile java I didn't have to run DOS... no. I just dragged and dropped my code file to the compiler. Blew my mind. I loved apple back then. They went to town looking after my needs, well after I bought the product, giving me stuff that I hand't even asked for, or knew I really really wanted. Who cares if they were twice the cost of anyone else?

Similarly, Mr. Musk loaded his cars with innovation that will only do good for the relationship with consumers. Apple lesson learned. But he did not stop there! He delivered to its customers both a lovely car and a charging solution in the form of a complete, fast charge-point network. This allowed drivers who didn't want a luxury car just for shopping, to actually use it for long trips across the vast road network of northern America (and eventually everywhere else). He then went further. He started offering battery packs for your house! Battery packs that can be charged by the sun, through photovoltaic roof tiles!

His cluster of standalone-yet-merging solutions has also created an entry barrier for the incumbent, old-fashioned car producers who - to this day - have not managed to get two charging cables together for their drivers. If you are not blown away by this statement, you aren't paying attention. In one move of his Harry Potter wand he  made Volkswagen, Ford, Mercedes, Volvo, Fiat incumbents. Leaving them wondering where they would get their batteries from, when (in an apple-esque way) he was building his own network of gigafactories and supply of everything he needed. 

To me, it was when Tesla delivered a super-fast charging network alongside the unique car offering that he threw the real gauntlet in the faces of internal combustion car companies. He made these companies both incumbents AND pushed them in a position where they would have to spend gazillions just to catch up in their consumer offering. And it worked! Look at Volvo today. Committed to go fully electric, hugely experienced in delivering excellent quality, eco-friendly, well designed cars. Yet, I wouldn't buy one. For the price, their batteries are a joke and there is no way to charge them without braving the insanity of the standalone charge networks. Their total solution is simply not there. You buy a car from any of the European car markers today, you have to be able to brave the complexity of horrific apps (two or less stars quite common), comparatively extortionate charges, no availability of charging points (risking waiting for a couple of hours before you even plugged in), and total fragmentation from country to country. I used to live one hour from Dover, but I would never dare to take my EV to France. I can hardly make the charging work in English! 

I think we should all now agree that total solution thinking works! But wait. There is more.

What tends to hit the news, is the big stories. Tesla doing great, Apple producing magical phones, Amazon taking care of end to end fulfilment for the shops in its store... What we don't get to hear much about, is the failures. And that is a shame, because failures is where we can learn the most. Some fifteen years ago I listened to an Australian bicycle company talk about their expansion efforts to Japan. They did their own translations of adverts into Japanese for Yahoo.jp and the mistakes they made with translations were fantastical. I will never forget their mistake, or their presentation. It was like a lesson learned, but without having to go through the experience myself! So I wanted to share this small story of failure with you. One that I hope will drive home the need for total solutions when you look for hospitality solutions.

Total Solution Mistakes Happen - We should learn from them

A few years ago I was working for a technology company, and was involved in a payment solution project. We were supposed to deliver an interface between a booking engine and a smart digital wallet company, allowing customers to book hotel rooms using apple or google pay. The project lead discussed the needs with the customer (who was a hotelier), our team built a summary of requirements, and once everything was vetted and approved, we set the team to work.

Our job was simple. All we had to do was allow the smart payments/digital wallet company to collect  credit card details directly from the customer on our booking engine. They would then do their magic and everyone would be happy. There were of course some minor complications as our side  would also have to accept a token that a payment was legitimately completed (for pre-payment bookings), but from there we would utilise existing delivery mechanism to CRS and PMS.

When the project was nearing a within-time within-budget completion, someone from the PMS company (to this point they had not been involved at all) heard about the project, and started making noises. When I picked up the phone to speak to her (known player in the market and very good at what she does), she asked: 'How are the payment guys actually going to deliver the payment info to the PMS?'. I immediately knew what she was talking about. In the way the solution was agreed, it was the job of the smart payments company to deliver the reservation record to the PMS, but nobody from over there had even worried about it. They had done their part with us really well, but they knew nothing about PMSs and reservation needs so they hadn't even picked up a phone to the PMS company. They had done half the job!

Fixing the problem was not easy for anyone, and especially the customer. The solution was delivered late, out of budget, and - although we had nothing to do with this one - my employer and I were inadvertently part of a partially failed project! And I couldn't help feeling guilty. It took me a while to realise why. Our digital wallet counterpart was not up to the job, and we didn't see it. What we should have done is a little thought experiment (test use case if you know your IT Projects) with them, checking our plan for the solution end to end. You don't always have control of the other party, but I learned a hard lesson that day. In pursuit of a successful outcome, when you take any part in a project, you are responsible (equally with everyone else involved) for the total solution of the project.

"In pursuit of a successful outcome, when you take any part in a project, you are responsible (equally with everyone else involved) for the total solution of the project."

Today, when we take on anyone to work with us, I personally explain this responsibility to them. Other people's mistakes are everyone's mistakes. That is what 'putting the customer and the project first' really means. Ownership of responsibility and a focus to deliver something that in the end, will be good.

Thank you for reading - and watch this space. Another total solution project will be announced by cookiebite.net in the next few days.

This article was an opinion piece from our CEO

Leave your comments


  • Guest (Nick Bates)

    As always, well put. As a consultancy, we exist because hoteliers don't have the skills to oversee and check that they are getting a total solution - and ecosystem changes are always hard. I remain impressed with your focus on this Vladimir. Jon A. Joy K. and you perpetually impress - and THAT is what counts. Caring. About all of it! Well done.

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