How many Lego sets does it take to setup a new phone?

8th January 2021

An-Chan Phung, CIO for Master Data Management at Civica, talks us through his Christmas technology challenges with a fun infographic.

My holiday period was spent around two of my favourite things: my family and technology. I just love integrating the latest tech into my life but it isn’t always a positive experience. Let me tell you a story about my love hate relationship with it this Christmas.

Imagine it’s the big day and the family is gathered around the tree in the morning. Everyone has been patient and the presents haven’t been touched until the whole family arrives. I have decided that this year would be a great time for a much-needed smart phone upgrade for the family and several similar sized boxes lie under the tree.

Smart phones are getting exactly what their name suggests –smarter. And consequently a lot more expensive. So sadly, upgrading a phone is no longer a yearly ritual for me. It can be several years between upgrades and there is definitely an air of excitement as the presents wait to be unwrapped.

The next 15 minutes are carnage….

I love the joy that it brings but years of practicing calligraphy and origami along with about a week of wrapping presents is over in 15 minutes. Everyone is happy staring at their little shrink-wrapped boxes containing a new digital best-friend. The big problem with modern technology is that it is not always instantly accessible. Gone are the days when you could put in a couple of AA batteries and instantly get into jumping barrels and rescuing princesses. Nope – today’s technology requires setup and this falls into my domain. After the initial joy there is the realisation that they can’t actually do anything with their devices until everything is migrated over, setup and connected. I now have several new phones that I need to deal with. This is why child-distracting Lego will always have a special place in my heart at this time of year.

For the purposes of brevity I’ll share with you my experience with setting up one of these phones and we can extrapolate what my Christmas mainly consisted of. So, after fiddling with little pins and ever shrinking SIM cards we can actually switch on the device and start setting up. The mainstream manufacturers are getting a lot better at this process and the whole setup process is not difficult – a few simple questions, get the device connected to the WiFi then, after a few spinning hourglasses, the phone is ready to go! Great! Now, just a quick test call to make sure everything is working and I make the mistake of opening my contacts.

How on earth do I know this number of people? Why are there three entries for the same contact? Why do all three entries have different information? At this point I realise that my “smart” phone has decided that I need all my contacts from various sources (emails, phone contacts and social media) to be aggregated together and dumped in a large unmanaged mess called “my contacts”. My OCD just won’t allow for this and it makes finding the right contacts an exercise in pressing the back button multiple times. So my next few hours are spent cleaning up and de-duplicating all of my contacts and afterwards I feel quite good about myself. Then I remembered that I have more phones to setup.

On average my family has about 200 contacts each and it takes me about 30 seconds (after some practice on a slightly clunky user interface) to link and clean up each contact. So it takes about 6,000 seconds or 100 minutes per phone. At this point I’m racing against the competent Lego-building skills of my children. On average a Lego set has around 300 pieces and on average it takes about 10 seconds to find, identify and assemble a piece. Therefore an average Lego set takes around 3,000 seconds or 50 minutes to build. So effectively it costs me two Lego sets in setup time for each phone!

I put together a fun infographic to show you what my Christmas looked like in numbers:

So how does this relate to my day job in master data management? If you imagine this same problem but instead of having three or four sources that my phone had to pull contacts from, you have several hundred. Also imagine that you don’t just have a hundred or so actual contacts but hundreds of thousands to manage. You get a sense of the scale of the data problem that most organisations are dealing with. Just imagine what you could build with Lego in the time taken to clean up all that data! Or get in touch and we can sort the problem for you.