By Ian Richardson, chief executive, ICE ICT
At Travel Technology Europe the vendors that have solutions to your Technology requirements will be in attendance. It is rare that any single vendor can fulfil your requirements on their own and it is usual that you will have a core technology integrated with other products on display.
How do you navigate the technical jargon and well-crafted sales presentations to work out which solution, or even range of solutions will actually meet your needs?
It is critically important never to underestimate the time it should take to purchase a new IT system. If you have bought it and installed it within a short timeframe, then you probably will find it will have low user adoption and ultimately be doomed to failure. That often means you end up starting again, which of course is not ideal.
Take your time and follow this six-step process to make sure you get it right:
1. Gaps and requirements
Review your current system and consider the areas in which it is lacking – what doesn’t it do now that it should? Then think about the desired functions of your future system.
This should be an in-depth process and ideally you should run workshops asking all of your departments to contribute to a detailed list of gaps and requirements. Remember to think ahead as much as possible to how your organisation is likely to look in the coming years.
2. Business process mapping
To get the right IT system, it is really important to understand all the different business processes taking place throughout your organisation. Going through the process of analysing and detailing those will give you a better understanding of the existing demands.
One of the most effective ways to do this is during workshops with key stakeholders run by experienced technology experts who are not stakeholders. Ensure this is then included as part of the Request for Proposal (RFP) process.
3. Request for Proposal (RFP) process
Once you understand your gaps, requirements and business processes thoroughly, use that information to research which vendors offer potentially suitable systems. Draw up a shortlist and send them a Request for Proposal based on those needs.
Once you receive responses, make sure you review those in detail to narrow down the list before inviting the most suitable vendors to pitch their product to your key stakeholders.
Then you can select your system or systems, but remember to refer back to your gaps and requirements and business process mapping to be sure it really does fulfil all of those needs.
4. Project lifecycle management
Embedding a new travel system into a business can be a challenging project, and if not done well this can lead to unexpected delays and associated costs.
You will need a dedicated team to project manage the installation and ensure the system is delivered as efficiently as possible, both internally and on the vendor side. If done well, you can ensure users throughout the organisation will adopt the new technology. Implementing a new system is not a part time job
5. Testing, product loading and migration
It is all too easy to underestimate the time it takes to finalise the setup. However, this is a vital step to ensure your system will work well and you can maximise the benefits.
Make sure you test it thoroughly, across all departments and activities within your organisation, gathering feedback from the users.
6. Application Lifecycle Management
It is important to remember that the operation of a travel system does not end with its procurement and implementation. Ensuring you have the right expertise and process in place to manage and maintain it is just as important.
Begin by making sure that all users are properly trained. This is key to ensuring both widespread user adoption and proper use and understanding of the new system.
Providing detailed user documentation is also important to ensure the ongoing correct use of the system. Also, remember that every new software release should be thoroughly tested to ensure your business is not adversely affected.
This six-step process is by no means a short one, it can be daunting, and to do it right, you should ideally dedicate resources to carefully planning and following this through. The challenge for many companies is that they simply cannot dedicate internal resources to this process for the time it takes to get from Step 1 to 6.
ICE ICT is independent and vendor agnostic, so if you can’t spare the resources, come and visit us at Travel Technology Europe (stand T280) to find out how we can help you with this process.