Software Reliability – Technology or Black Magic?
As a hard core user of cloud software and services, in literally every area of my life, I likely see or notice many things that other people don’t. I often feel that I have the rare ability to consistently jam or break things that should be working for millions, if not tens of millions, of people.
I am also an intense person that tries to accomplish a lot every single day so when something that is supposed to work smoothly doesn’t I get very frustrated and try to look for the logic as to why it isn’t.
Yesterday was a great example of this. I was on Bank of America’s online banking doing payroll for our development team in Colombia. Every month on the 15th I send a number of international wires there. I toggle between Quickbooks Online, where our transactions are recorded, and BofA’s online wire screen to enter and send each transaction individually.
The process usually moves along quickly from wire to wire and I am generally done in 15 minutes or so. About five wires into the process I attempt to do a wire that is above a certain dollar amount and BofA prompts me to text a Safe Pass Code to my cell phone. This is usually just one click to send the code and then one more second extra to enter the six digit code and then press send as usual; not a big deal.
I enter the wire details and click send to get my Safe Pass Code. I immediately pick up my cell phone to retrieve the number. Weird, the text message does not pop in. I click on the Messages app on my Mac desktop and don’t see the text there either. I go back and resend the message to try and start over but on the second and third attempt still nothing. Already my blood is starting to boil.
I find a phone number online for BofA to call their support. Luckily I operate with two iPhones (the X and the SE) so I can call from my secondary phone while leaving the primary open to receive the text. I dial in and get placed into a series of on hold advertisements from BofA partners. First it’s a roadside service offer. After listening to the offer I press # to pass, then comes home security, # to pass again. After listening to about six offers it seemed as if this would never end. Now I am practically floating out of my chair in anger. I try to collect my rage and hang up to start over.
I go into Google Contacts and pull up the BofA support number for business customers. I dial in a second time and after entering my account number the system tells me that it will be a 12 to 15 minute hold or I can leave my number to get a call back. I am fuming. I leave my number and luckily enough about 15 minutes later their system calls me back and I get a seemingly nice guy on the line that says he is in the BofA office in Tampa, FL. Now I have spent a lot of time in Tampa and I know the city well. With my blood still heated I am thinking this is how much money this company is making, their tech support agent is in the Bank of America Plaza building in Tampa. This is one of the nicest buildings that makes up the downtown Tampa skyline; a very expensive place to have phone support staff.
Before I can tell him what’s wrong he wants to send me a text message so I can confirm the code with him to validate me as a customer. I explain to him my that this is my exact issue and that at this point not being able to receive a simple text from them has my 15 minute routine of doing payroll now cutting into an hour out of my day. He apologizes and tells me he will send me an email to get me the code.
After we validate that he asks me to text the word HELP to a six digit number he gives me. I send the text but there is no auto response back. He doesn’t see anything wrong on their end and doesn’t have any logical answer as to why their software systems are not working properly so he tries to tell me that maybe BofA is not compatible with my carrier.
I explain to him that I have done this 100 times before and it always works. I then reminded him that I use Verizon and BofA and Verizon are both monopolies that rule the world and if their systems are not communicating properly maybe the world is coming to an end?
He chuckles and tries telling me maybe short code messages have been disabled on my phone and that I should contact my carrier. Great why don’t I just take the whole afternoon off and go stand in the Verizon store for a few hours. I wanted to rip through the phone and smash the guys head on my desk.
I explain to him that I have not changed any settings and have no reason to believe that short code texting would be disabled on my phone. He realizes he is out of answers so I catch my temper and deicide to let him off the hook. I said look I think I remember that this happened once before a long time ago. Your systems are probably experiencing a temporary glitch and I will give it a day and try again, if that doesn’t work I’ll contact my carrier. He says great and is happy to end the call.
Sure enough three to four hours later I get text blasted with four or five consecutive messages from BofA with random six digit codes that I no longer need. LOL, I guess their systems came back up. I returned to login again and received a new code and did the wire within two minutes with no problems.
The reality is that building and maintaining software, that we expect to run without fail, as part of our everyday lives is extremely challenging. I often realize that this is the case even for massive companies like Verizon and BofA.
What we are building at GLX is super sophisticated and I am guilty of being a perfectionist that is paying attention to details that other people will never likely notice. The result of this seems like it is hard to see our progress. I am positive that in the long run the sum of all of these minor details, that have been perfected, will add up to result in a superior product. I do not want to sacrifice that at any cost. Sometimes we need to take a deep breath and remember good things come to those who wait.
As a goof I found the article below that outlines some catastrophic software failures by massive companies in recent history: