Technology partners should be chosen as much on the basis of the strength of the partnerships they have with other suppliers as on the merits of their own products.
Mike Russell, Vertical Systems chief executive, told Travel Technology Europe delegates at a Travolution seminar last week, that travel firms do not have the margins to deal with integration issues.
He said integration of systems and processes will be a key future trend in travel with core suppliers of technology looking to work more closely with more niche players with their own specialities.
“What you will see in the next couple of years is close strategic partnerships between travel technology companies. You will see them working together much more effectively.
“You have to look not just at who they are but at who they are strategic partners with because that’s going to be a key part of the industry. If you use two technology partners that work together it’s unlikely you will have integration problems.”
Russell said this was probably more important now than ever as during the current difficult trading conditions firms will not be looking to bring in entire new systems but to bolt on new technology to existing platforms.
The tight margins in travel will mean travel companies will have to take advantage of this ability to integrate everything they do, including search and social media campaigns, telephone sales and analytics to make sure they are running as efficiently as possible.
“If you end up with lots of big fragmented systems you will end up with lots of different spreadsheets and you just do not have the margin to deal with that. Businesses have to identify any blockages, any opportunities, for improvements to services and IT.”
Russell advised firms to conduct a full audit of their current systems, sitting down with the sales staff that are actually using them to their full capacity and checking that the right information is being placed in front of them at the right time.
“Think about anywhere information is stored in your business. Try to think as broadly as you can about any piece of information and make sure it’s integrated. Look at where you are wasting time. People do not take time to sit with their sales and administration staff and actually watch the processes people are going through.
“We have had many customers for 30 years and in that time people change, processes change and what you tend to find is that the system and the people working with it drift apart and new processes slip in.
“You have to sit with your staff and if they say something is a waste of time it probably is. It’s very important to look at where mistakes are made and where waste is. This is fundamentally important for the successful travel business of the future.”
Travel retailers were also urged to forge a close partnership with their technology suppliers. “If they really live and breathe your business they will be able to identify the problems that you face.”
Steve Rushton, co-founder of travel technology firm Net Effect, said: “You have to know what you are trying to do – one size does not fit all.
“It has to be affordable to fit your business and the boss needs to understand it to see its value. Technology should be at the heart of every travel business to make that business work. If you just palm it off on to you tech people it won’t work.”
Rushton said the good news in 2012 was that systems will talk to one another allowing smaller travel firms to make key decisions about what they are trying to achieve and how.