By Irina Ionita, Senior Consultant, ICE ICT
When you are looking for a travel technology system, finding the right solution for your company can feel like walking through a minefield. Technical jargon and well-crafted sales presentations from vendors sound like the answer to all your needs, but very often can be misleading.
Here are some of the most common mistakes made by travel companies when looking for a new system:
1. Choosing a product outside your expertise and falling for the ‘new and shiny’
All too often the client-vendor relationship breaks down because of a lack of expertise with two different sets of people. First, because a proper procurement process was not followed, and instead carried out by well-intentioned people with limited knowledge of the breadth of applications and technology.
Second, because travel technology sales people, like anyone else in sales, will always convince clients that their product is the one. They often forget, or don’t know, to point out that you will need additional integration to get the final solution.
2. Not performing enough due diligence and fail to plan the new system transition
It sounds a bit like a Sunday night drama, full of intrigue, spellbinding costumes, made for a broad audience, but produced at speed with lots of continuity issues. The biggest complaint of these TV dramas is that the screenplay does not represent the original novels.
Implementations today follow a very similar path, in that they often don’t relate to what the business needs, instead are driven by your IT team. The system selected must mould its solutions to fit around your business, not the other way around.
3. Buying at the wrong time and not thinking about company future plans.
‘New’ does not always mean ‘better’. Define the gaps in your current business before heading out on a venture to replace the current system.
Not keeping in mind your company plans to grow and how your current operation will be impacted by the new system implementation could lead to additional work load for your teams to streamline new processes at a later date.
4. Not buying based on your needs, but based on the price
There is rarely one system on the market that will cover all your requirements and even if there were, it is not possible to work in a vacuum. Therefore, it is extremely important to have solid and reliable integrations to your other systems and to those external systems that provide content for your products.
Always consider all those aspects before engaging into purchasing a system that comes at a cost matching your budget, however it does not account for the rest of the integrations.
5. Assuming certain features are included and ignoring the missing functionalities
Pay close attention to how the demo of a product is provided. Always prepare some scenarios relevant to your business and ask the sales rep to show you how the system can cater for them in a live environment, not using screenshots, confirming that those features will also be available to you once purchased.
6. Thinking product can be upgraded easily
Because the travel market changes so frequently the travel system becomes a living solution that constantly requires updating. Many travel solutions will involve multiple vendors, software developers, third party software vendors, infrastructure providers, data providers, hosting providers and end users. Usually, each vendor will only work within the confines of their systems, functionality and scope when releasing updates.
7. Not testing the designed applications before implementation
Changes needs to be managed carefully to ensure it performs correctly with all systems around it such as accounting or CRM systems. Each application should be developed and tested with the ability to revert back to a previous version if necessary.
Once a new system is implemented it also needs to be monitored to ensure all applications are performing correctly.
8. Size isn’t everything
Just because the system has an extensive number of functionalities and modules, does not mean they’re all really relevant for your business.
9. Choosing a system purely on the ‘looks’, not evaluating all costs involved with its purchase.
Getting the desired outcome from the new system is a process where various elements need to be considered, so it is not a ‘one-stop shop’. Hosting services, loading, staff training, migrating and maintaining your data in the core systems are critical aspects of this process and are often not ranked within top milestones.
10. Setting expectations high, thinking that you’ll find the perfect software
Get a team together at the start of the project who understands the current system issues and is open to accept positive aspects that they would like to see carried forward in a new system. Not every need listed on the ‘wish list’ will make it into the new production environment.
11. The ‘human element’
The end-user is often not being considered by the management whenever a new system is being reviewed, especially in the travel industry, where the bulk of travel agents or resources handling FIT and Group reservations do not reside in the company’s headquarters, but are very often spread across the globe, working in various time zones.
As it has already been mentioned in one of the other ‘lessons’, when such projects are being driven by leaders in your IT department, the ‘human-element’ may be very easy ranked low on the priority list, whereas technical details such as web design, network infrastructure, licenses and compliance to be rated as top priorities.
Your end-users are an important link to consider not only when it comes to training phase of your new system implementation, but also involved in sharing important day-to-day user stories which can actually turn into critical requirements when it comes to the system selection.
It is vital to consider all of these elements when choosing a new system to make sure you end up with a solution that fits your business needs, budget, goals, and the needs of those operating the system on a daily basis.