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The Client is Always Right... Their Industry is Wrong

Written by Gordon Fecyk, 10/6/2006

Safe computing saves travel agencies hundreds of dollars a month in IT upkeep.

All this effort goes to nothing when one supplier insists on making a client use buggy, broken, untested software.

I BUTT HEADS WITH CLIENTS quite frequently in my line of work. Not that I have a hard time with them, no. I understand that they're not computer experts; this is why they pay me, right?

No, what I have a hard time with is the insistance that their entire industry is doing things differently from how they do things. "Other travel agencies can run this software, why can't we?" My usual response to this argument is, "other travel agencies pay more in computer costs than you do, too."

The fact is, safe computing saves travel agencies hundreds of dollars a month in IT upkeep, simply because their computers work longer, work faster and break down less. Furthermore, it is possible to replace a broken-down computer in less than one hour -- without losing the user's work. Not to mention that it ensures compliance with Canadian federal privacy law.

All this effort goes to nothing, however, when one supplier insists on making a client use buggy, broken, untested software.

IT'S WESTJET'S TURN FOR FINGER-POINTING today. WestJet is Canada's only profitable airline as of 2006. Originally servicing western Canada only, they've succeeded in expanding as far east as Halifax, posing a dangerous threat to the national carrier Air Canada.

In general, this is because WestJet does its job well and their employees, um, ok, owners, enjoy their work. This is also why, in spite of a very broken piece of software called "Get Set," I expect they will fix it. My only problem, really, is this product wasn't tested more thoroughly before its release. Come on, WestJet! How long was Windows 2000 in the marketplace? It's not a tough question to answer.

WestJet isn't the only guilty supplier in the entire travel industry. Travel Port Corporation, formerly Cendant Corporation, formerly Galileo International, etc etc, released Galileo Desktop in 2004... much to the same chagrin of safe computing fanatics, heh, enthusiasts like myself. likewise released at least two editions of Agentshopper, Sabre Holdings released eVoya Webtop and MySabre, and Travel Guard released ezTips.

However, there are many good examples in this industry. TRAMS' current versions of Client Base Plus and TRAMS Back Office work fine, even if you have to move program shortcuts around. Likewise for Agentware's Trip Console Desktop, which worked without any hacking on my part. The same goes for Amadeus, who uses IBM's 3270 terminal emulator for Windows 2000 rather than fashion their own. Ditto for Royal Bank Insurance, who used Callinfo for their sales training classes, and Sunquest Holidays, who used Enunciate for theirs.

Seriously, it's not hard to design applications that work with safer computing.

BUT THE FLAME OF THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY goes to Travel Port, formerly Cendant, formerly Galileo, etc etc, for not only telling me to stick my safe computing where the sun doesn't shine, but to tell my clients this at the same time. This, I reserve for Travel Port's Sandi Reynolds.

[Gordon] is the only one who has ever refused to use WebEx or had any concerns about its use.

Of course. The user that practices safe computing is a nobody. But all hail the jerk who barely survived an attack.

Sandi insists that her company's hands are tied because they use WebEx Communications' software for training. She also insisted that so many large corporations use WebEx that nothing I could say would persuade them to switch, or persuade WebEx to fix their broken product. I originally wrote her privately, but she felt the need to tell my clients:

From: Reynolds, Sandi []
Sent: Monday, September 11, 2006 18:06
To: Gordon Fecyk
Cc: [several clients' addresses omitted]
Subject: FW: KDS, WebEx, Continental and limited accounts (again)

Hello Gordon,

I have passed your concerns once again to one of our senior technical consultants. Please see Kelly's reply below.

The outcome of his reply is that Galileo uses Webex, and we are not going to be changing our provider any time soon. We have not had any other complaints about Webex that I am aware of, and as you can see by his reply below, Kelly works with some major customers in the United States who seem to be very satisfied with this product.

I don't know what else to tell you, and sincerely hope this clarifies our position at this time.

Sales Executive, Account Development
Galileo by Travelport
From: Smith, Kelly (Galileo)
Sent: August 30, 2006 1:21 PM
To: Thompson, Don; Gouveia, Ed
Cc: Hull, Marcia; Allan, Maryanne; McHenry, Gordon
Subject: RE: KDS, WebEx, Continental and limited accounts (again)

I assume this has come up because Galileo uses WebEx for training and the tech doesn't like WebEx. If that's the case, there is no way for us to do remote training for this customer. WebEx isn't going to change their business process, and I don't see Galileo using a one-off tool to do training for one customer.

[several lines omitted]

The Active-X control and the files in the \Program Files folder get updated periodically, which is what he is referring to when he states "...that WebEx frequently updates their software so often that maintaining it on a secured network is difficult and expensive. Now I discovered today WebEx requires us to reinstall the WebEx meeting manager software for each of their customers (,, etc)."

Bottom line, while he doesn't like WebEx, nothing is going to get changed just because a tech doesn't like the product.

As to what other "actual large organizations use..." I can tell you all of the Auto Clubs in North America, JPL/NASA, Toyota Motor Company, Mitsubishi Motors, C&H Travel, Nippon Express, Linksys, Cisco Systems, Novell tech support and on and on... all have used WebEx with me personally... and this person is the ONLY ONE who has ever refused to use WebEx or had any concerns about its use.

Kelly Smith, MCSE, CCNA
Senior Advanced Solutions Manager
Galileo by Travelport
Americas Region

I apologize for the length of this. I omitted irrelevant bits, but I otherwise needed to include what I did to demonstrate the level of ignorance I'm facing. And to my own clients, no less, who I'm trying to save money for by keeping their IT security costs down.

I'll leave this rant with a short comparison. Kelly Smith insisted on presenting a list of corporations he works with. It just so happens:

  • JPL/NASA was hacked by some kid,
  • Toyota Motor Company had a laptop theft involving loss of customer personal information which should've been kept on a terminal server, and
  • Linksys and Cisco Systems (same outfit) have routine vulnerabilities found in Cisco products impacting Cisco customers.

These were the most obvious that come to mind. I could go digging for more. Compare these companies with my clients if you wish.

The last word belongs to Orvile Fudpucker originally from Compuserve:

The user that practices safe computing is a nobody. But all hail the jerk who barely survived an attack.

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