My family vacation trip to Disney World yielded one of the most unexpected but profound understanding of how corporations should look at technology.
Technology should be considered part of the company's DNA to drive innovation, efficiency and an aura of modernity - and this is even more important for companies where IT is not part of their core business.
The last thing on my mind during a trip to Disney World with my 5 year old was work! I was assured by people who've been to Disney before that it would be a fun trip and I wasn't disappointed.
At the end of my trip, the biggest takeaway was how a company started in 1920's was able to embrace technology into its DNA thereby transforming every bit of its offering.
I wasn't surprised by the use of technology in its shows and rides - that's a given because its Disney's bread and butter. But my astonishment was how technology was used in other "Non Core" areas of its business to give the customer not just entertainment but an unforgettable experience.
For example: Why use a finger print scanner to identify a person when you can just ask them for a photo id? Simple - an index finger scan takes 5 secs whereas a manual check of ID takes upto 20. No big deal - but given the number people coming in and their excitement to get in, the last thing you want is a bureaucratic red tape.
More examples below.
I'm sure Disney spent millions of Dollars doing research to come up with these innovations - but the key point is that Disney decided to spend money on this "Non Core" research instead of just focussing on the rides and other entertainment pieces. Why?
Here are some of the items that I found very interesting:
- Photo pass: A multi park, single source of all your paid photos
- Mobile Apps: A plethora of mobile apps to tell you wait times and GPS based mapping services
The next step...
When doing research for this article, I found out that Disney is currently prototyping a RFID based single source of truth system named MyMagic+. Here is snippet from an article from NY Times
"Visitors would wear rubber bracelets encoded with credit card information, snapping up corn dogs and Mickey Mouse ears with a tap of the wrist. Smartphone alerts would signal when it is time to ride Space Mountain without standing in line."
As a customer, these non-core innovations did not provide a Big Bang impression like the rides or shows - but it gave me the following intangibles
- A good user experience
- A feeling of the place being modern (the park opened in 1971)
This is very important because I don't mind going back there next year!
I'm using my experience at Disney as a showcase to drive the following points:
- Technology and innovation should travel with you as a partner and not as an outlier
- The usual argument on "Dont fix what's not broken" leads to antiquated technology and processes
- Research centers or Centes of Excellence should not just be for IT companies
- Dont consider IT to be a cost center - look at it as the engine for innovation