Christmas Paperwork at North Pole Cut Dramatically Thanks to Captricity
December 14, 2012 by Brian Busch
Every year in December, children around the world write letters to Santa Claus. They write to lobby the big man that they have been nice, not naughty, and to list all the presents that good behavior merits. But at the North Pole, on the receiving end of millions of handwritten lists, the elves struggled to keep up with kids' needs.
"First you've got a growing global population," says Mr. Claus. "Then, more and more children are asking for branded electronic toys - we had to plug directly into the ERP systems of the major manufacturers. And finally, parents create Facebook pages even for their babies and constantly post photos; the elves on the naughty/nice check have a whole new set of data to sift through." These trends have combined to force the North Pole to adopt some modern electronic systems in order to deliver the right gift to the right child all in one night.
"Digitizing all that information was a nightmare," says Mike Mechanic, who makes toy cars and now doubles as a systems architect. "Not only do elves hate doing data entry, but it was taking too long and we're under the gun every December." Electronic systems did ease the stress of keeping up with today's demands, but only after bridging the paper-to-electronic gap for incoming data. "Entry errors were killing us. Almost 10% of the time little Johnny was in line for a Lalaloopsy doll, not a PSP. Just because of errors during manual entry? Unacceptable."
"Thank goodness for Captricity," says Rose Needle, who oversees sewing, weaving, and knitting. "I used to read the lists and my sweaters would almost pack themselves. Now there are twice as many lists to get through and exactly 18.4% need to say 'Justice' for the little girls. We've all seen what happens when children get 'terrible' presents [referring to Jimmy Kimmel's YouTube challenge]." At first the elves did the necessary data entry in-house. But as demand picked up they had to look for other options. "We couldn't even outsource the work to India - millions of letters in just two months and then nothing? They wouldn't even talk to us," says Rose. "With Captricity, we get pay-as-you-go pricing and no limits for crunch time."
This year, the North Pole turned to Captricity to digitize all the wish lists from children worldwide and push that information directly to a centralized database. "What sold us was the cloud," says Charlie Chisel, whose specialty is the lathe. "Last year a reindeer accidentally damaged the HVAC unit for our server room. You have no idea how close we came to shooting totally blind for the the entire South-East US." As the whole system moves to the cloud, Charlie applauded Captricity's API to plug into all the other services in the IT stack. "Then the guys from SAP wanted to sell us an upgrade that cost almost as much as the whole system! I couldn't believe it."
"Best of all, I now have real-time visibility," says Mr. C. He's stationed elves in post offices around the world with smartphones and Captricity's mobile app. "I know what kids are asking for with just a click of a smartphone. The only surprise comes from the kids on the Polar Express."
*Names from "Santa Claus and His Elves" by Mauri Kunnas, one of my favorite Christmas books.