with the feds’ TV box program
Unless you don’t watch any TV—or pos- scenarios of the product they were offering. This
sibly live in a cave—then you know that situation isn’t unfamiliar in companies.
in mid-February traditional over-the-air How many times have you seen an application
television broadcasts will end and con- designed for one specific department of a business
sumers who rely on antennas to get their TV will being used by other employees? For example, a col-need to buy either a new TV with a digital tuner laboration application built to help developers with
or a digital converter box. project management is seen by salespeople, who
To help with this change, the government took a ask if they can use it for risk management and their
small portion of the money it made from the spec- meetings. These situations happen all the time, and
trum auction and launched a coupon program to it can be hard to say no to departments that want to
provide $40 to any citizen who needs to purchase a use an application if the application has the potential
converter box (which tend to run from $50 to $60). to improve productivity and save money.
Now, because of poor planning, some fraud and This can also cause headaches if the original devel-traditional government waste, the coupon program opment and planning didn’t anticipate multiple units
is running out of money, and usingtheapplication. Maybethe
many people who needconvert- ‘other units … security system isn’t set up to
ers won’t be able to get coupons silo off different departments so
before the analog signals go will ask for they can’t view and access what
dark in February. other departments are working
There are plenty of consumer on. Maybe the application isn’t
angles to this story, but the part I designed to scale to larger num-
weren’t … in the
find interesting is how the situa- bers of users. And, of course,
tionis alessoninpoor planning— once other units start using the
a lesson that can also be valuable application, they will ask for fea-
to developers and IT managers. tures that weren’t anticipated in
The government clearly underestimated the the original design.
number of people who would need or want these So it’s a good idea during the original planning
converters. It’s clear that government officials just phase of any application to make sure other stakehold-
looked at the number of people who don’t get cable ers at least have an idea of the program being built.
or satellite, and set the program based on that The early information can be key to determining if an
number. Also, they clearly assumed that people application will expand beyond its original intended
would buy new TVs and didn’t anticipate the poor user base. Having this information at the beginning of
economy or the simple fact that many people are development also will go a long way toward reducing
perfectly happy with older televisions. potential headaches down the road, making it easier
But there are many reasons why these numbers to expand the application to new users.
were wrong. First, like me, many people may have Otherwise, you might end up like the govern-
satellite in one room but don’t find it worth the ment’s digital TV program, with a lot of unhappy
effort to run it to a bedroom TV that’s used less users and the potential for things to go dark.
often. People have TVs in RVs and vacation homes And in the case of business applications, the
that don’t get cable or satellite, and some people consequences would be worse than just losing
may just want to know that they have a backup in your TV signal. ´
case their cable or satellite connection fails.
In short, this is an example of program officials Chief Technology Analyst Jim Rapoza can be reached
who didn’t understand the potential reach and use at firstname.lastname@example.org.