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Corporate Productivity Takes a Hit From a Bug

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While most people were ringing in the new year, one retail shopping network in Australia decided to leap forward to January 2016.

The Sydney Morning Herald has an initial report on the computer glitch:

Retail businesses across the country have lost thousands of dollars over the long weekend because a computer glitch left shoppers unable to use the Bank of Queensland’s Eftpos terminals.

BOQ’s Eftpos machines skipped ahead when the clock ticked over to January 1 and started date stamping January 2016.

BOQ staff have not been able find what caused the problem, but a temporary solution has been put in place to ease retailers’ frustrations.

The glitch cost businesses untold amounts as the Eftpos terminals read customers’ cards as having expired and refused their transactions.

We may never know exactly what caused this problem, but certainly countless small retailers are angry about the loss of sales and having to turn away customers. But even without understanding the technical details, we can identify two process problems:

First, it seemed the Bank of Queensland had not flagged the 2010 rollover as a condition which required intentional testing. This doesn’t take a computer genius to identify. After all, moving from 12/31/2009 to 1/1/2010 clearly required more attention than say, moving from 12/15/2009 to 12/16/2009. This was a new month, a new year, and a new decade. After the world spent billions of dollars to fix the Y2K problem, one would think a major world bank would have thought to test their systems by setting the date forward.

angry consultant

© Flickr user joshjanssen

To understand the second process error, take a look at the comments of one frustrated business owner:

Barry Jones, owner of Sharky’s T-shirt and souvenir store in Cairns, said his business was without an Eftpos machine for two days.

He spent close to an hour on the BOQ’s helpline on Friday to no avail and did not receive as much as a courtesy call from the BOQ to explain the problem or tell him it had been fixed.

Apparently, the Bank of Queensland failed to communicate with stakeholders regarding process issues. It’s okay for companies to make mistakes, but talking to customers, explaining the problem, and letting them know when it is resolved reduces the impact of the problem and builds confidence.

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