lastminute.comness

I’ve earned an unfortunate nickname over time. Last Minute Louis. Totally undeserved, I might add.

But I do tend to “sometimes” leave things a tad late. It’s not that I like to be late, I just perpetually think I’ve got more time than I actually have to do this, that and the next thing.

Take a recent Friday red eye flight to Slaapstad. I planned a surfski excursion for the Saturday morning after the business day on Friday. An ocean paddler course at Fish Hoek with my coach, multiple world-champion surf-skier Dawid Mocke.

I like using my own paddle, so I schlepped it in its bag to the airport.

As a piece of fragile hand luggage it’s not allowed in the passenger cabin, but by the time I reached the bag drop check-in counter, the hold had already closed. The fact that I mobile checked-in earlier didn’t help.

With my surname blaring over the loudspeakers for probably delaying the flight, I ran back to my parked car to deposit my paddle and raced to the departure gate. Which was firmly closed.

With much begging, pleading and emotional blackmail the friendly, if exacerbated airline ground staff kindly re-opened the gate again and implored me to “Run!”.

I arrived safely on the plane. Red-faced and frazzled. Last… but on.

Blame the internet. In the pre-mobile connected world you didn’t have a choice. Everything took a lot longer to do than now. You had to make sure things were properly in place well in advance. No lastminute.com.

This made me think about how the efficiency of digital has caused most things to move ever closer to the actual, eventual, real deadline. The increasing global popularity of mobile-ordered food delivery is one example of how one can leave dinner planning very late and still have food on the table at 19:00.

Even in the recent past lastminute.comness was rare, with only a few businesses allowing you to get things done much later than usual. Nowadays everything seems possible. With fiber connections and soon 5G, with cloud services such as WeTransfer, for instance, multiple gigs of digital move seamlessly between parties. Quickly.

Everything now seems as if it can be done later and later and later.

The unfortunate side-effect is that one tends to think deadlines are not real anymore. But they are. With our experience in the physical world of old-school weekly magazine publishing, one of the things we learnt was that the trucks roll at 06:00. If your printed weekly mag is not on it at that time, forget about it. Try again next week.

The efficient Japanese inventory management system Just in Time allows for production parts to arrive at the factory door just when it’s needed. Not long before,
in order to balance lower inventory cost with seamless production lines. You don’t need the part, really, until you do, right? With connected mobile and the internet of things, just in time becomes possible for everyone and everything.

A client of ours, an experienced senior executive told me the other day that a large global accounting firm is nowadays extremely serious about running paperless offices. They have removed all table credenzas in an effort to force staff to only communicate digitally. A bit draconian for my liking, but you know how corporates can get.

The client then asked if they had also removed all printers. The answer was a firm “Not yet”. We’ll see. The idea of a completely paperless world still seems idealistic to me. Especially during load shedding when the generator’s diesel is running low.

A place remains for non-digital, of course. A friend of mine loves the phrase IBM: It’s better manual. He’s right. And he’s often proved it too. In the last-minute rush, automated systems can be unreliable.

WhatsApp is fantastic and is rapidly overtaking email, but nothing beats a face-to-face meeting. Less gets lost in emoji-confused translation.

On the plane to the Mother City, after calming down and with the realisation that I made it on and won’t miss my meetings, I remembered I hadn’t booked a place to stay over at. Sigh. No worries though, there’s always booking.com to save me from myself.