Plan the work, work the plan
build apps on the edge
Invite experts into your inner circle for those times when you don't know what you don't know!

As I was trying to help my parents with their vaccine registrations, I was shocked at how poorly the app was developed. Certainly the state of California had to know that millions of people would be simultaneously hitting the app for weeks on end! 

This is a good lesson for any organization. Bring in experts if you’re in over your head. If you don’t have tech experts on your roster, bring one on. If you don’t have cybersecurity specialists, seek them out. Know what you don’t know and be ok with it. Barbara Jones and Fred Croshal both discuss in their episodes that no one knows everything, and if they say they do, they’re lying. Reminds me of a parenting quote: The younger you are, the more you know.   

The first mistake was that the county likely didn’t know the right questions to ask as evidenced by the $1.2M contract languages. Zero mentions of uptime guarantees. Security language consists of about 3 sentences. One mention of HIPAA in the entire agreement. One!

By having an expert in your corner, you’d know that the app developer wasn’t sophisticated enough to leverage any of Akamai’s offerings. As an industry leader, Akamai has led with edge computing since 2001. What this means is that they truly are the last mile, getting data and content to users as fast as possible. They’re the spokes to a wheel if you need a super simple visual. Customers at the end of the spokes, the “internet” at the hub. Akamai also offers a powerful and robust waiting room technology that keeps your customers happy.

In those early vaccine registration weeks, California residents struggled with the app that immediately had prolonged outages. Sadly, it was the only vaccine registration app offered at the time before the hospitals and pharmacies realized they needed their own solutions.

In addition to outages, the app was riddled with typos and grammatical problems, which made me wonder how safe my parents’ info was in their database. If you’re leaving typos on your home screen for more than an hour, how’s that code looking? So let’s look past the typos…what about the ineffective notification system and sad inability to handle the traffic loads?

I immediately wondered why California didn’t leverage local teach giants Ticketmaster or Fandango, who both certainly had capacity since live music and movies had been shut down. These two tech companies are accustomed to handling massive traffic spikes and protecting customer data. The reservation systems and fast edge distribution infrastructures exist – why reinvent the wheel? Makes ya wonder how these fly-by-night app developers won the no-bid contracts!?

So the moral of the story is what my Dad has drilled into my head since childhood. Plan the work, and work the plan. Leverage your network. Know when you’re in over your head and ask for help! 

Thanks Adel Zahiry for forwarding this article. Great read.