When rubbish execution spoils brilliant systems

Nick Booth paid a visit to the Samsung stand at the Olympic Park in London to test-drive the latest mobile wizardry.

Samsung makes fantastic hardware – but like many IT companies it’s the last mile that lets it down.

This column yields to nobody in its admiration for Samsung’s machines. Its best printer ever was a Samsung desktop laser. All this column’s photography would be produced on a Samsung camera if I hadn’t left the car unlocked one night. And should you choose to phone this column, we’ll be speaking over a Samsung Galaxy from now on. But most of its thousands of features are still a bit of a mystery.

With education in mind, your columnist visited the Samsung stand at the Olympic Park to see what the people there could teach him. Samsung is one of the major sponsors of London 2012, presumably because they want to reach out to as many people as possible.

So the people manning the Samsung stands are the most important interface between man and machine since Tim Berners-Lee came up with the web. But sadly, Samsung seems to have skimped on its investment in human components. The people it has hired for the Olympics don’t have a mission to explain like the man from MIT; they’ve got more in common with rejects from G4S.  

They were hopeless. The idea of the Samsung stand was to showcase their wonderful technology so you’d expect the staff on the stand to rave about all the possibilities, enthusiastically demonstrate everything in the Galaxy and to be endlessly creative about the ways to use it.

But instead they displayed all the classic symptoms of reluctant temps who’ve been given some technology but no idea what to do with it. Instead of the machine being used to do the work of five, you get five people standing around the gadget, trying to work out what to do. So you have a reverse business system, where technology forces five people to do the work of one.

The Samsung Experience sounded fun enough to persuade dozens of people to queue up for it. The idea was that we’d be able to get creative with Samsung Galaxy and an assortment of props – presumably this would fire us all up and persuade us to buy a Galaxy and tell all our friends to do the same.

Instead, we found ourselves jostling in a very different queue – one in which all human decency threatened to evaporate as desperation set in – as we waited for the end products of our ‘creativity’ hours later.

Minor disputes began to break out in the queue about who’d been here longest. The Samsung crew didn’t bother to try and restore order. They had their own problems trying to work out how to transfer the pictures from the phones to various printers that were going to be used to create images for badges and t-shirts.

It must be really, really fiddly and complicated, we all concluded.

Those hardy souls who didn’t abandon the queue were rewarded with even more disappointment at the hands of our hosts, as the pictures they’d posed for were either lost, shot appallingly or framed ludicrously.

Any attempts at creativity were stymied by the temporary Samsung representatives. Where did they get these people from? Is there a cut price temp staff recruitment firm called ComputerSezNo?

Man trapped in mobileI used a prop of a giant Samsung handset to perform my trademark mime “Man Trapped inside a Mobile”. The Samsung rep said she'd wet herself laughing, which I took as a compliment.

But sadly, she didn’t like it enough to try and frame the shot properly, so it looks rubbish.

Another refused to video me juggling the three official Olympic flames that are on the Samsung stand. Instead, he said he’d video me if I danced. So I did. I thought it might be worth making a fool of myself in front of the queue if I got an amusing video out of it. But that investment in shame was wasted, as the Samsung rep clearly didn’t know the difference between a Jpeg and a video file.

So somehow, instead of showing a mass audience how fantastic the Galaxy is, they managed to persuade us that it’s about as user friendly as an IBM AS/400.

Instead of inspiring creativity, they brought out the worst in the public.

And all because someone couldn’t be bothered to train the staff. Or someone wanted to save a bit of money on the budget.

Imagine all the hard coding that went into developing the Galaxy, only for those lines to led by donkeys (to misquote a military saying). Or, as they save in the Navy, they spoiled the entire ship for a happorth of tar.

As we’ve seen so many times in the IT industry, ideas are useless without execution. There’s always massive attention to detail on the machines, but bugger all on the humans. And as we know, humans are far more temperamental.

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