Travel companies are often held back by the systems they have used for years and fear the thought of change. Stifling innovation and preventing travel companies from taking advantage of new technology that can drive engagement, loyalty and ultimately profit, legacy technology is notoriously difficult to get rid of.
Yet it’s not impossible.
Ahead of his appearance at Travel Technology Europe next month, Simon Wood, associate director of technology of Holiday Extras, talks to us about how travel firms can overcome the fear of leaving legacy behind and progress to a bright shiny stack of new tech.
Simon, a recent survey, by Travel Technology Europe found that legacy systems are the number one barrier to digital transformation. Why do you think the results say this?
The findings are interesting and show that many organisations believe that legacy systems are a barrier to innovation.
In some way some of the other responses within the survey – including lack of budget, knowledge gaps and a lack of talent and skills within an organisation, are also linked to legacy systems.
If you have legacy technology in your organisation this can affect budgets, but can also limit your opportunities to attract the right talent. In essence; the issues surrounding legacy systems have a much wider impact than at first glance.
It goes to show that those organisations surveyed have real concerns that if they don’t innovate and transform they may find it challenging.
How is legacy technology defined within an organisation?
Legacy systems come in many shapes and sizes. We can sometimes badge our systems and technology as legacy without having a proper grasp over why it is legacy.
I can think of three key reasons why I would badge something legacy:
- It is expensive to run, or costs are growing out of control, it may be a challenge to host;
- This can be risk from technology choice – making it hard to find engineers to work on; risk from lack of support from vendor; or no longer receiving patches to security vulnerabilities;
- Lastly, it may be legacy if it is restricting the organisation’s opportunity to innovate.
“The travel industry is tough at the moment, as we have seen in the news, but if organisations cannot move fast and deliver customer value quickly, which requires modern flexible technology solutions, then they will struggle to meet customers’ needs.”
How can travel firms begin to move away from legacy systems?
The best way to move away from legacy is to do it in small parts or small stages.
I am personally not a fan of big projects or system deployments and instead prefer to deploy small solutions that, over-time, iterate towards the end goal.
This way you realise value earlier, through a series of ‘quick wins’, and can better assess what work is remaining.
There is also less risk if you move a small function of the business away from a legacy system and to new technology, compared to betting your whole business on a large technology deployment and hoping that it works first time without issues – which it rarely does.
What can you share from your own experiences at Holiday Extras?
In the past, we have used a technique often called traffic shadowing. This is where you build a new solution and then plumb it into your architecture so that you send production traffic to the new solution simultaneously to calling the existing solution.
You can use the response from the existing system to respond to the customer, but can also compare the results of the new system with the existing system to see if it produced the same response.
If there were differences you can tweak and improve the new system until you get confidence it will produce the same response.
Throughout this process you will have also been testing production loads against this system so you have confidence that it can handle your product traffic volumes before switching to it.
Without this technique it would have been harder for Holiday Extras to make some of the rapid system changes it has now made.
What would your three tips be for companies looking to address their legacy issues?
Firstly, identify what legacy solutions you have and rate the risk and cost of these systems to help you focus on where to start first.
Then, move to alternative solutions in small increments, no big large projects that last months at a time.
Finally, measure everything. Data is key. Set up dashboards and logs that allow you to see how your new services and systems are performing compared to the systems they replace.
Simon will be speaking at next month’s Travel Technology Europe, taking place at Olympia London during on February 26 and 27. He will be sharing more practical advice on moving away from legacy systems and where to start during his expert session ‘Killing off legacy tech the right way’ at 3pm on day one of the event in the Travel Technology Theatre.
Visitors to the show can also take part in a Tech Huddle, hosted by Mike Adam, Executive Chairman of Amigo Technology. His ‘Innovation for lazy people’ discussion will look at the many “quick wins” still available to travel enterprises and how continuous, startup-style experimentation can be possible and profitable even in legacy businesses. This session takes place at 12.15pm in Tech Huddle Zone B.
Tickets to the show give visitors free entry to both Travel Technology Europe and the Business Travel Show, taking place at London Olympia on the 26th and 27thFebruary 2020. Register online here.