My Parking Technology is No Longer Supported
Welcome to February’s edition of Ask Kevin Anything: the monthly parking technology question and answer column. This month we discuss what you could call a technological “Dear John (or Jane) letter.”
I just learned that my long-time parking tech solution is no longer being sold! What should we do now?
Distressed in Dallas
Dear Distressed in Dallas,
First off, it is going to be okay! Notifications like these can be worrisome, or even traumatic, especially depending on how they are performed. The double-edged nature of technology is that, over time, it has to be upgraded and replaced. This fact is especially true for devices that connect to external networks, process credit cards, or handle sensitive personal information. The security techniques utilized are rarely unique to your system. As such, if and when they are compromised on one system, your system is now vulnerable to the same attack and should be patched.
Technology systems, like most things in this world, require maintenance to continue working correctly. Depending on the age of the system, it is difficult, and sometimes impossible, to find people who can work on the base technology or know it well enough to provide on-going support.
Now that the shock has begun to wear off, I think it is useful to look into the broader context around the news. This will help you make decisions for your organization that can help minimize the overall impact on you and your team. First, you should begin to investigate what exactly happened: how was the message delivered to you and your team? Was it just a simple form email, or a phone call from your account representative? Was a plan moving forward included in the message or just a future deadline set for more information?
Much can be discerned about a company’s viewpoint of you as a customer based on how they treat important and sensitive situations such as this one. This information is valuable when deciding on your next system. Work to discover why the system isn’t being sold anymore: are there actual technological reasons for the change? Is there any risk to your current system? Is the company making the change to force the sale of new technology? Is this change due to some broader issues with the company itself? Was there a change in ownership or leadership, new investors, etc.? Sometimes, decisions such as these can be the proverbial canary in the coal mine for more worrisome company issues.
Next, develop a plan for the immediate term. A few key questions are essential to get answered quickly: how long is the current system supported? What level of support will be provided? Who will be providing that support moving forward? Will the support be provided by people who know the system well?
Developing a new system is hard. It takes much longer than expected to achieve feature parity, especially when a company is trying to sell the new system to new customers, as well. Will the existing system be fully supported until the feature and the functional parity is achieved? Once ready, what is the upgrade plan for your organization?
How is data converted to the new system? What training, project management, and hands-on support will be provided? Ask to test the new system before making the decision to move forward. When selecting technology, always trust, but verify. Make sure it works as you expect in your operation. Assurances are great, but the vendor is not the one answering angry phone calls from your customers (and boss) if it doesn’t work as promised.
Finally, decide what is next for you and your organization. Reach out to other customers of the same solution to discuss their plans moving forward and how they are mitigating the immediate impact on their team. Set up or join a group communication channel specifically on this topic to more easily stay connected and share information. It can be beneficial to share what has been learned by all of those affected.
Examine why the system was selected initially, if it was performing as expected, and how the system was genuinely being utilized daily. Consider if your organization still needs the functionality provided or if newer, different technologies will improve the customer experience or operational efficiency.
Honestly evaluate the actual track record of the company you have been using. Have they consistently provided a high level of customer service? Has their technology been improved over time? Do they have a clear and stable path forward? It should not be enough that the company has been in use for years, or that you enjoy their user conferences or trade show parties. This change is a unique opportunity; make the most of it.
Thanks to everyone for their questions so far. If you have a question, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org