By Darren Barker, independent travel technology consultant and former director of distribution for Orbitz Europe, and advisory board member of Travel Technology Europe (TTE)
Data and the correct usage of it offers arguably the biggest and best opportunity for travel companies to transform how they deliver services to their customers and improve their overall business.
Despite this universally agreed upon axiom, many travel businesses have a wealth of data but struggle to turn it into meaningful, actionable insight that helps their business grow.
There are many reasons why well established brands or those on the cusp of success seem to stall at this hurdle. Lack of investment to join the data up or having different sets of data in departmental silos being just a few of the main culprits.
While some have truly mastered it, the reality is that very few medium and smaller businesses have even begun to think about it, despite the time and money it can save them, especially from a business analysis standpoint.
To use an analogy, picture a business as an airplane flying through the air and the pilot as the chief executive. As the airplane starts to nosedive, a CEO with the right data management in place will check his dashboard in the cockpit and as a result know exactly what’s wrong and why, immediately.
On the flipside, the one without this investment will need to run to the engine to find out what’s wrong, checking the fuel levels or electrical wiring.
It’s the same thing with data in a business. In order to make any sort of informed decision, a CEO or senior executive will need all of that data front and centre in order to steer the business on the best course of action.
At ebookers, I was responsible for the Business Intelligence team and took it through a period of transformation which changed our trading approach because data consolidated from many sources was made readily and immediately available.
Historically, if someone wanted to understand how the business was doing they would have to pull 40 different reports.
Aggregating all the data into one dashboard that the C-suite level executives could look at and that gave them a much better insight into the business.
It changed the culture as well. No longer were people able to make decisions without looking into what impact that would have in another part of the business.
With everyone having access to the same data set without having to wait or aggregate multiple reports, it became much quicker to determine if a decision had been a positive or negative one for the business.
To sum up – the use of data in travel is directly linked to driving business performance. Here are my four key tips for doing so and making the most of your data:
- Remove data from silo’s and link important elements for the end user – Like the pilot and the plane analogy mentioned earlier, one of the most critical aspects of overhauling your data is to ensure it’s all in the same place so that there is one central place where employees can go to get answers.
- Let everyone see the same data and remove arguments about data to speed up decision making – Every department measures things in different ways. Spend some time coordinating each department’s measurements so that all employees are using and working off of the same indicators. For effective decision making, it’s important to have the same data and have clarity around what that data set means.
- Ensure quick access to the data and make it easy to play with – Create a user friendly interface that encourages employees to enter and query, avoiding the inevitable back and forth that comes with a complex system. End users should be able to pull and design reports to suit their needs.
- Remember that data dashboards are for signalling a problem and not diagnosing it – While a low fuel light that flashes in the cockpit certainly points to a problem, a pilot might not know if there’s been a leak, or if was simply not filled enough. Similarly with a business, the data will tell you what the problem is but will very rarely provide you with the answer or solution. It’s up to the business and its internal systems, processes and most importantly its people to determine what the underlining issue is and how to solve it.
Whether it be data mining or converting browsers to bookers, the 2014 edition of Travel Technology Europe offers a strong opportunity for customers, clients, corporates and agents to update their knowledge and network with peers.
Perhaps most critically, it also allows attendees to source the new technologies that will take them to the next level and provide consumers with a distinct point of difference.
Taking place on the 4th and 5th of February 2014 at Earl’s Court in London, Travel Technology Europe is an unmissable event for anyone working in the travel industry and wants to harness the power of data to transform your business I would encourage you to make it a priority to attend.