MetroTix needs an SOA (among other things)

As a subscriber to the broadway series at the Fabulous Fox here in St. Louis, I occasionally get email about upcoming concerts and shows with the ability to buy tickets before the general public, or at least before the portion of the general public that doesn’t know someone who has broadway series tickets. Last night, we came home from a meet the teacher night at my daughter’s school and in my inbox was a message that the Cheetah Girls and Hannah Montana had added another show and we could pre-buy tickets tomorrow. Well, my oldest daughter is only in first grade, but my niece is in third grade, and lives and breathes those shows on the Disney Channel. So, my wife was tasked with the responsibility of getting tickets the next morning.

This morning, 15 minutes after tickets went on sale, my wife called me with her frustrations in trying to obtain tickets. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to what tickets showed up as “best available.” When I decided to help out, the site went haywire and would only return me unreadable characters. While we think we managed to purchase some tickets (we still haven’t received any email confirmations 10 hours later), the experience was about as bad as it can get. Of course, MetroTix has a virtual monopoly on ticket sales so they can get away with having awful service, because there’s nowhere else to go.

Anyway, my point was not to complain about the awful service. What I wanted to discuss was their need for SOA. For all I know, they may have one, but if they do, it certainly doesn’t work very well. Ticket sales are certainly a classic case of channel expansion. Years ago, you had to go the venue to get tickets. Slowly, ticket brokers were added, then phone orders, and then internet orders. Unfortunately, the only thing the channels have done is allow you to wait and get frustrated in the convenience of home. MetroTix has a unique problem in the nature of their traffic, since it comes in huge surges at the time tickets go on sale. What’s worse is that for whatever reason, all shows tend to go on sale at 10am, rather than spreading the shows out over the course of the day, spreading the load.

So, I suggest the following to the IT department of MetroTix:

  1. Embrace SOA and make available some services for ticket purchasing! I’d suggest letting some resellers handle the customer facing end, but you need to fix the next item first.
  2. Leverage some infrastructure on-demand. Could something like Amazon’s EC2 handle the load?
  3. If you don’t do this, then get some consultants/advisors on becoming a customer centric organization to help you. I’m sure Patricia Seybold would love to have a chat.

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