This is the second time I’ve enrolled my son in a summer soccer camp -- the biggest and most popular league where I’m from. Fun for my son, but a complete nightmare for myself and other clamoring parents trying to complete registration and payment online and on time. Registration opens at 8am and is available on only one site! The only thing you’ll see for the first four hours is “Server is busy. Please retry later.” Only after the four hour mark can persistent parents finally access the system and complete registration and payment, while the more discouraged parents will give up thinking the last available slot has gone.
The whole ordeal got me thinking. Where most parents are thinking about soccer performance, I was thinking about performance. If we were to monitor network system performance and the visibility on the success rate not just for soccer camp, but say, the financial markets, and even consumer retail websites that face the exact same problem at larger and more complicated scales, just how much more monetary return could businesses be getting?
Engineers seldom realize that network inefficiencies or problems directly affecting customers can directly affect whether users sign up, buy, engage, etc., and therefore can directly affect sales. For example, the service provider for the soccer camp registration site could implement tools to study traffic volume and then ultimately accommodate the registration demand for years to come (much to the joy of parents looking to satiate their child’s endless amounts of summertime energy). Maybe this is ambitious for a soccer camp, but with the fees I'm paying I know they can afford it!
At the same time, however, we rarely think that UI/UX/top level user problems can be traced back to deep problems from the network. While soccer is a relatively harmless example, we have to remember that internal problems are usually felt externally, even if this may be hard to see for the guy stuck in the server room or in the IT department. Network problems, in the packets and in the little stuff, can eventually affect the customer experience enough to compromise reputation, profit and longevity.