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Don’t Make the Same Mistake as Southwest Airlines

Since Southwest Airlines recent holiday travel debacle, there are many articles discussing what lead to the chaos that caused them to cancel thousands of flights and leave countless weary travelers stranded. There are several social media posts from current and former employees sharing their insight as well. According to these articles and posts here is the reason behind the customer service disaster:

The near-collapse of Southwest Airlines service, when winter weather began disrupting air travel on Thursday, December 22, 2022, exposed troubling questions about the airline: obsolete technology, tone-deaf executives and a business model that couldn’t scale.

What just happened to Southwest Airlines? A cautionary tale about underfunding key IT technology (diginomica.com)

Obsolete technology wouldn’t allow the company to scale because business leaders didn’t want to spend the money to upgrade it. This situation sounds very familiar to someone who takes care of technology for small businesses. Here are some reason why business leaders resist these important upgrades and why it is a mistake to do so:

  1. “It’s too expensive.” – Not as expensive as the disaster that results when it won’t work anymore, or there is a catastrophic loss of critical company data due to a cyber-attack. There are many Southwest Airlines customers that will never come back. 60% of small businesses hit by ransomware go out of business.
  2. “What we have works ok.” – Until it doesn’t. The fact is that technology moves at a rapid pace. Your current applications and systems may work, but the other moving parts they have to work with are changing and updating. Older versions get left behind, and end up with vulnerabilities and incompatibilities that will, not might, cause something not to work eventually. When that happens, you might not be able to limp along any longer and be forced into a frantic and more expensive upgrade.
  3. “Change is painful.” – Yes, it can be or at least difficult. Change is also inevitable, and the most successful companies embrace it appropriately. It could also be argued that the change of a well thought out implementation is much less painful than scrambling to get converted to something new in a hurry due to a crisis. In most cases, when the appropriate upgrade decisions are made and implemented, people wish they had done it a long time ago.

Technology is like the cardiovascular system in our bodies — it keeps the blood flowing and delivering oxygen to the other critical organs and systems so they can accomplish their tasks. Unless your business runs completely on paper, such an integral part of business operations requires investment and care.