Barrier to Entry

If you follow the Guardian Arts online (and I know you do), you likely saw Chris Bryant’s comment on the arts world needing more diversity (there was no missing James Blunt’s response and Chris Bryant’s response to the response). Around the time of Blunt-Bryantgate I was reading an article about technology’s high barrier to entry for the underprivileged.

It struck me that this barrier to entry happens in a lot of fields where you see a few things line up in a perfect storm.

  • Lack of access – if you can’t get to the opera, or afford the tickets – how do you get interested?
  • Lack of mentor – for a young person exploring an area of interest a guide or mentor is invaluable in terms of teaching, connections and real world experience.
  • High cost of entry – equipment costs money – and in some fields equipment can be extremely expensive. Sailing, computer programming, horse back riding all require expensive equipment to get started and/or get training in.
  • Lack of support during the learning process – take the example of computer programming. Ongoing support – even if not from a mentor or expert in the field is crucial. Teachers and parents can fill this role, as outside motivation and support. In addition, some careers require a university degree – which for some can be out of reach.
  • Lack of peer support – peer support, or rather peer acceptance, can help tip the scales for young people.
  • Lack of career support – in the case of the arts, the struggling artist of the 1950s is a different beast then today. Today many artists need either supplemental income or a family that can support them financially while they get their feet.

While there have been a lot of amazing initiatives in both arts and IT to give access to underprivileged kids it seems – at least based on my 20 years in the industry – that we need a more multi-pronged approach.

But as O’Neill points out, the young boy from Brooklyn who is making it against all the odds, was lucky, had the right mix of (basic) support, but had a huge amount of drive and interest as well. Personal drive and interest is not something we legislate for, nor can we force it upon others either.

I would love to see the barriers for entry lowered for kids interested in IT, but lacking the access, support and money required. The talent is certainly there – we only need to nurture it.

 

 

Is Scalability Really Important?

Happy New Year! We trust your holiday season was good. Our customers had a busy holiday season, and one piece of feedback that struck me was a customer who commented, “I have to say I didn’t think scalability really applied to us.  I was (happily) wrong – we had some unexpectedly popular shows over the holidays.” So is scalability really that important?

What does scalability mean?

Scalability in software means that as demand for the service grows, the system can handle the onslaught without toppling over. In other words, can your ticketing software handle high demand from your customers? For many theatres and venues, scalability is required on occasion, and most people hardly think about it. But is it really that important?

Dealing with high demand.

Customer’s preferences change, our marketing and sales tactics change, our shows change, in short, while you can predict some high demand shows and times, sometimes high demand happens when you least expect it.

Take our customer we talked about at the beginning of this post. Typically, demand is dictated by the show rather than time of year for them. Data  showed that while there was strong demand in the 2013 holiday season, there was nothing to indicate that they would be slammed in 2014. And yet, they were. Like some kind of perfect storm, it seemed everyone wanted tickets to the same show – on virtually  the same day. In the past, with their in-house system, had problems dealing with high demand, sell out tickets. Because they now use a cloud based service, their ticketing scales as they require.

And here is the great thing. Scalability in your ticketing service doesn’t cost anything extra. A cloud based service is all you need to give you piece of mind that when your customers want to make a purchase you are ready.

 

 

Agile Software Development and Ticketsolve

We have been feeling rather nostalgic here at Ticketsolve. #LoveTheatre got us thinking about how Ticketsolve got its start. This is our story from technology consultancy to working with some seriously inspiring and creative organisations in the UK and Ireland.

8 years ago the Ticketsolve founders were running a technology consultancy company. Their goal was to improve software process and production at companies such as Vodafone, BT and the like – specifically using Agile software methods. Along the way, they worked with companies large and small creating software and harnessing new technologies and innovations.

“We met Jameson Dublin International Film Festival some 8 years ago. At that time, we were solidly a technology company, working to improve software processes and building customer software ourselves for a variety of clients. This meant we had some of the best and brightest in software development working with us. Our development team – then and now – really understands how software can improve businesses. How it needs to be user friendly, efficient and utilise technology not for the sake of it – but for real results.”   – Sean Hanly

But back to JDIFF. They needed ticketing and box office software that could support multiple venues, be reliable, scale for big sell outs and be affordable. They looked in the marketplace – but there was nothing that met their needs. They tasked us with building them ticketing and box office software that fulfilled their needs well into the future. That early collaboration set the pattern for how Ticketsolve is run today.

When we started working with JDIFF, we of course used Agile. The methodology stresses iterative development and close collaboration between developers and customers. It is focused on building working software and responding changes quickly. As the manifesto states:

Individuals and interactions over Processes and tools

Working software over Comprehensive documentation

Customer collaboration over Contract negotiation

Responding to change over Following a plan

What that means is that customers get working software faster, which means they can see it in action quickly, give feedback quickly and get a new iteration back – quickly. It is not all about speed however, Agile uses extensive, regular (think every day/hour) testing to ensure the software is of top quality.

For us, Agile fits seamlessly into our collaborative way of working. We work very closely with our customers to ensure they get exactly what they need to deliver results. Agile allows to create this close working relationship with each of our customers.

From a business point of view, it means we have really streamlined our software process – we do a lot with less.

Since our early days, over 160 customers are now using Ticketsolve everyday as a core part of their business. Ticketsolve has evolved into more than just a box office solution and provides deep CRM, marketing and sales and reporting functionality as well.

As for JDIFF? We are proud to still have them onboard with Ticketsolve.

 

Thinking of Implementing New Ticketing Software? Here is What to Expect.

Transitioning to a new ticketing and box office system doesn’t have to be difficult. In this post we will show you what to expect, and steps you can take before the transition event starts. If you are still in the process of thinking about how to choose ticketing software, check this out for great tips and questions to ask before deciding.

So you have decided on a new ticketing system for your venue, theatre or festival. Now what?

People First

For us this has to be the most important first stage. Implementing new box office software, inevitably means change. Change is never easy, and for some it can daunting and even frightening. Communicating and having open discussions with staff across the organisation is a way to help ease the change, and bring people onboard and engaged with the new system.

Merchant ID

Why not a roadmap first? Because this is the bit that is out of your control and out of the hands of the ticketing software too. Your bank has to issue this to you. Many venues and festivals already have a merchant ID, but if you are new to selling online, for example, a new tourist attraction, you will need to get the process rolling on getting an online merchant ID as soon as possible. Just enquire with your bank manager.

Create a Roadmap

Step one is to create a roadmap of what you want to achieve. It is important at this early stage to set out exactly what needs to happen and when. Milestones and clear end goals need to be defined so you can measure the progress of the implementation.

Who Are the People Involved?

Next it is important to be very clear on who is responsible for what during the implementation. Also what approvals may be required along the way and who is doing the approving. Often there are different department heads responsible for banking issues, website branding and data. This is fine, and not an issue, but there could be unseen bottlenecks. For example, are any of the key members of the implementation team on holiday during the roll out? How will you work around that?  If you can identify bottlenecks as early as possible this will help clear the way for rolling out your new box office software.

Use a Tool to Coordinate the Implementation

For any project, a project management tool is a must. This helps keep everyone on track, focused on milestones and what exactly is needed and required from them. There are a number of moving parts that can be done concurrently, and using a project management tool helps to see the project clearly. One caveat about the tool though. Make sure whatever your provider decides to use, is simple and straightforward regardless of IT experience. There is no need for fancy charts, just something to track to dos, documents, etc.

Data

Your most valuable arsenal for sales is your data. This is where your ticketing service provider needs to really understand how you are currently set up and how the data is currently managed. Data migration should be done in a step fashion, so that a portion of the data is tested in the fully working system that you intend to use. You need to throughly check this data migration and analyse it for any obvious (and not so obvious) issues, so that these can be addressed before all the data is migrated. Again there are some snags that you may encounter such as network restrictions and the like. Again, understanding early where these bottlenecks might be hiding is key to a clean migration.

Website Integration

There is a lot of talk about conversions, calls to action, customer buying experience, etc. This is how your patron works their way through the buying process on your site, what is driving them to purchase and how many of those patrons complete their purchase. During website integration, it is a good time to really think about this flow and how you want your events to appear online. This is important, as your patron needs to feel a consistent experience from the homepage all the way through the buying process to check out. For a consistent look and feel, the key things to carry through would be colours and clear branding.

Training

Training, regardless of how easy to use a ticketing system is, is critical in the implementation process. The training should go across staff members covering day-to-day usage, financial, sales and marketing reporting and of course go through training for event programming and anything else specific to your system set up.

All of this training should be part of the implementation – at no extra cost to you.

Ongoing Support

After the initial implementation of a new system, even the best training in the world will leave questions. Be sure your support package with your ticketing software company is comprehensive and can provide extra support especially during the first few weeks after roll out. The best support is provided when you need it – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – and free!

Ultimately  . . .

Whatever ticketing software you decide on, your partner’s number one goal during the implementation of the new system should be making the transition straightforward for you. Yes there will be some work involved, but your new support team should take the brunt of the heavy lifting.

Are you interested in learning more about implementing and rolling out new ticketing and box office software? Contact us for more info!

Why is a Cloud Based Box Office Better?

Thinking about a cloud-based box office for your venue, festival or event? Here are our top reasons why a cloud-based box office’s are better.

Inexpensive

Because you can take advantage of economies of scale, there is no expensive outlay for hardware when using a cloud-based box office.

Zero Maintenance

Because you are not having to buy any extra hardware, you are also not responsive for having to maintain this hardware. You can focus on your business alone.

Better Functionality

Because you have great economies of scale with cloud-base box offices and ticketing software, you also get better functionality. For example, Ticketsolve has over 150 customers across the UK and Ireland. We develop functionality across a wide spectrum – allowing any of our customers to take advantage of as they develop and grow their business.

Continuous Upgrades

We’ll use Ticketsolve as an example here. We deliver upgrades constantly and consistently to all customers. How can we do this? Having our system be cloud-based means we can provide upgrades and improvements to our ticketing solution anytime.

Access Anytime

Cloud-based ticketing and box office software means that your system and data is accessible anytime 24 hours a day 7 days a week. You can get to your information from any internet capable device.

Better Security and Compliance

While there has been some discussion about the merits of security over the cloud, it will always be better than what can be achieved in house.

Better Reilability

Again going back to economies of scale, cloud based ticketing software affords you less downtime – if any. This is extremely important when it comes to ticketing and box office sales.

What do you think? Hardware or Cloud?

Welcome Björn!

A big welcome to Bjorn our newest Ticketsolver joining our development team! Bjorn joins us with a host of systems development, web development and project management expertise.

Bjorn has worked with companies around the world, including Enigma Solutions in Thiruvananthapuram, India and Tretti.se in Malmo, Sweden. Bjorn has excellent experience in a variety of languages, fameworks, databases and web servers, and will be working on refining and improving Ticketsolve’s front-end.

We are super excited to have him on board, as long as he doesn’t force us to eat SurströmmingWe are happy to start the tradition of lördagsgodis – sweets every Saturday!

 

Is Your Ticketing System User Friendly?

There is a lot of talk about “user friendly” when it comes to ticketing and box office software. But what does user friendly really mean? In this post, we break down what a user friendly ticketing system really means.

User friendly is not necessarily a visually appealing website or interface. While that is certainly an element of user friendly, it is not everything.

User friendly, is really about usability, which is defined by Wiki as “usability” is the “ease of use and learnability of a human made object.” That is, it needs to be easy to use and you have to be able to easily be able to learn how to use it.

There are some other elements that make a ticketing system accessible and intuitive.

  1. Ease of installation.

    When it comes to box office software, the ease of installation is our first stop. In tandem with this is the necessity for new or additional hardware requirements. Look for services that are web-based (cloud-based). These SaaS box office systems will have a lower install footprint and be easier to install, and typically require no additional hardware.

  2. Updating the software.

    Lengthy and infrequent updates can lead to problematic software and downtime for your box office. Look for a service provider that offers continuous, automatic updates. Software updates like this mean they happen automatically (no intervention is required by the user), and they happen frequently cutting down on issues or bugs with the software.

  3. Intuitive.

    This is the one area that impacts box office staff and patrons the most. And it is certainly one that has to be right. Ask for a demo to see the software in action and ensure it really is intuitive and easy to use.

  4. Efficient.

    A big cumbersome, lumbering system is not going to be fast or efficient. A demo will help to understand if a system is efficient and fast.

  5. Support.

    This is another big one. No matter how great your box office software is, occasionally there will be problems. A provider that offers multiple support access points is important. 24/7 support is even better.

  6. Technology standards.

    When considering a user friendly ticketing system, check that the technology adheres to industry standards. An example of a non-adherence would be Microsoft. Rather than adhere to industry standards, they adhere to their own. The result? Problems, problems, and more problems.

  7. Error handling.

    How the ticketing system handles errors adds to its ease of use. Clear, concise is what you are looking for here.

  8. Training.

    Training on any ticketing system is critical to the learnability aspect of the box office software. The training should be easy to follow and cover basic and advanced options. There should be the option for ongoing informal and formal training if required. Importantly, the training should be appropriate for all staff regardless of IT skills.

  9. Feedback.

    While this is not strictly speaking about the user friendliness or usability of a ticketing system, how providers deal with feedback directly impacts it. Look for informal and formal channels that allow box office staff to give feedback. Feedback should be a core of any ticketing company’s usability practice.

Ultimately, if your ticketing software is efficient, makes your work go smoothly, and helps you to make more sales – you are on to a winner. 

Is your ticketing system user friendly or user aggravating?

Why Theatres and Venues Should Consider Kiosk Sales

It is hard to imagine a time when ticket sales via a kiosk was the height of innovation. 20 years ago it was – people were finally used to cash machines, so buying a ticket from a kiosk was gaining in acceptance.

Today of course, kiosks are everywhere. From cinema tickets, to checking in at the airport, to buying furniture kiosks sales are ubiquitous. If you have not previously considered kiosks for ticket sales, some benefits include:

  1. Fast secure purchase and entry for patrons.
  2. User friendly.
  3. Can function as collection only or pay and collection.
  4. Seat selection option available on kiosk.
  5. 24/7 availability for ticket purchase.

In addition, kiosks such as Ticketsolve’s are completely integrated. This means you get a full set of data whether purchases are kiosk based, online or at the physical box office.

Do you currently have kiosks sales? Are you interested in learning more about kiosks?

Donations Opt-in not Opt-out – are you compliant?

On the 13th of June 2014, new Consumer Contracts Regulations in the UK will come into force. Your arts organisation needs to be compliant with the new donations regulations.

For the arts and festival industry, at issue, is the opt-in versus opt-out for voluntary donations at ticket purchase check-out.

Opt-in versus Opt-out

Opt-in versus opt-out means that the customer must actively consent to the payment. For example, in the case of ticketing, a pre-ticked box (during the check out process) adding a donation to a theatre or a venue will no longer be allowed. The customer must actively “click a box” to opt-in for the donation.

The Challenge for Arts Organisations

This change will have an impact on arts organisations, when you consider the psychology of giving. Defaults are typically left as is in the check out process so an opt-out donation box, especially for a “low” amount such as £1 or 50p, generates quite a bit of income. Opting in will likely generate less.

What Can You Do?

Definitely consider how to message and position the donation. Creating a strong motivation and (suggested giving amount) can help keep donations steady. One example, is to state the goal clearly : “We would like to raise £1,000 this year and with your help we can! Just £1 from you is all it takes.”

How Does Ticketsolve Support this Change?

Ticketsolve’s donation feature takes patrons through to separate donations page during check out. Here is how it works – in a simple example:

  1. Patrons add tickets to their basket.
  2. Once they click “buy now” they are taken to their cart.
  3. Their cart will show the their line item purchases.
  4. One item is “donations” which is set at “free” or “zero” (see below on how to do this).
  5. When they click “proceed to checkout” they will be taken to a donations page where they can set the donation amount – if they wish – and continue with the check out process.

If you use the auto donate feature in Ticketsolve, here is what you need to change in order to be compliant.

  1. Change the “price” field to 0
  2. In the “donation prices” box enter 0 as the lowest price, separating from other prices with a comma.
  3. Change the value for the auto tag to 0, e.g., “auto:0”

If you don’t currently use the donation feature, but would like to set it up contact support and we can get you started.

Do you use the auto donate feature? How has it worked for you?

How

What Does Continuous Upgrades Mean?

Software updates come in two flavours – periodic updates (yearly for example), or continuous (monthly for example). Periodic updates typically have huge lags between releases. This means that the user of the software has to wait – usually a significant amount of time – before the software improves.

Continuous upgrades mean the the software can be improved all the time. You don’t have to wait a year before seeing improvements.

From the perspective of a software user, continuous updates are much better – here is why:

1. User controlled

If we take Ticketsolve as an example, we provide continuous upgrades on our software, that are user controlled. We get feedback from customers on a regular basis, this feeds into our upgrades. Users have the choice to turn on these upgrades if they wish. An example would be  . . . .

2. Automatic

There are certain types of upgrades that happen automatically. For example in Ticketsolve, for some updates, there is nothing to download, no new hardware, nothing to buy. Updates happen automatically, and typically you don’t even notice them. You will notice their impact. These sorts of updates might be to do with improving the software infrastructure or speed.  

3. Efficient, Flexible, Secure

Continuous upgrades give users an efficient and secure way to upgrade their ticketing software, without added headache.

Our advice? Look for a ticketing software provider that can deliver continuous upgrades, regularly and that gives you the flexibility to choose certain upgrades and not others (not withstanding upgrades that improve efficiency).

Does your ticketing solution offer continuous upgrades?