2011.38 | The challenge of ongoing support…

I was visiting a few sites in downtown last month and made a quick visit over to one of my oft-visited sites.  The Marks’ Vending Kiosk at the Go section of the Union Station Bus Terminal.  The kiosk was presented with some fanfare as part of a vending project back in January of 2010.  I’ve always thought of it as a well built kiosk that filled a potential need.

My recollection of this project was that the plan was to put these vending machines for clothing in hospitals or arenas, where consumers could find themselves without the right sort of apparel.  It seems like a great idea on paper, so I’ve enjoyed going back to visit the kiosk to see how it has been faring.

Unfortunately, this visit was not what I was hoping.  The vending machine seemed virtually abandoned.  Merchandise in the unit was inappropriate for the season, much of the inventory was gone.

There were a couple of scarves left in it – an interesting choice in the September timeframe when I was there, and unfortunately on a 30 degree day.  Truth be told, I encountered the same thing when I visited this same kiosk back in July 2010 when it had some polar fleeces and tuques.

There was a message on the screen indicating the Kiosk was unavailable.   I hope that it has been updated and re-stocked since that time.

The kiosk did remind me of some of the challenges I have encountered in projects over the years.

It is a great deal of fun and excitement to be part of a project team – to be part of building something new and original .  The less glamorous part is getting a solid infrastructure into place across marketing, operations and IT to ensure that a solution like a vending kiosk can continue to live and flourish for the many years that it takes to provide an ongoing service.  Without this ongoing dedication, it is very difficult to attain success.  While less exciting, I would argue that it is this ongoing dedication that really makes the solution.

While there may well be technical issues with the kiosk, it certainly appears to be more of a change in strategies, an unfortunate location, or perhaps a lack of cross organizational planning.  All systems have technical problems from time to time, but this seems more systematic.

Perhaps I am wrong, and I had bad timing.  Perhaps the kiosk is selling so much that it was out of inventory that day, and I hit a blip of operational integrity.

Whatever the issues, I’m sure the solution will be addressed one way or the other. Rent can’t be insubstantial in downtown Toronto, and it would be a waste of a great technical solution for it not to be used.

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