Jun 242013
 

Evolution or revolution? Is “ground breaking” the answer?

Have you noticed how many press releases, particularly from travel technology companies, use the phrase “ground breaking”? 

It seems to me that hardly a month goes by without someone introducing their new technology labelled with this phrase. 

I’ll let you each decide on whether there really is anything “ground breaking” in what they are introducing, but this does raise an interesting question – namely “Is your business ready for some ground breaking? Is now the time for evolution or revolution? “

This is a question with which we are frequently faced when we are approached by established travel businesses. These companies are often still exploring “what is out there” and trying to determine if the business benefits of implementing a new system outweighs the potential business risks and disruption that they feel go with such a project. We have helped a number of companies through this thought process, so here are the 5 key questions, we recommend you consider:

Q1/ What are the business risks if we stay on our current technology?

For some companies this question becomes even more personal as it is about potentially replacing an in-house developed system with an externally developed one. The in-house system will probably have been developed and tuned over many years, and while possibly reaching the limit of its capabilities, it does what it does well. Would it be better to try and extend it one more time, or are you now trying to take it beyond its inherent capabilities? Will you be throwing ‘bad’ money after ‘good’?This is a good question, and not just because I have written it! It is important that, as a business, you understand the pros and cons of your current technology. What does the investment you have made enable you to do? Is there more life left in the ‘old dog’? Could you extract further value with some limited investment? Or are you now becoming critically business limited by your old technology? Are you competitors gaining a real advantage by being on better technology?

Q2/ Should we be looking for evolution or revolution?

Taking a look at ‘what is out there’ is a worthwhile exercise in and of itself. You may well be surprised at the capabilities now offered by new reservation systems that have been designed for this multi-channel, multi-market world in which we now operate. However, don’t be seduced by bells and whistles that won’t give your business real benefit. Look for the system that provides the capabilities your business needs, now and into the foreseeable future. Your technology choice should match closely with your business needs – see my recent blog on Why do some travel firms fail – and others succeed?

If your business needs a revolution then look for the technology that can help you achieve that. If your business really needs to evolve in key areas, look for the technology that will help you continue to be strong in your core business but also provides the right capabilities to help you evolve in the specific key areas you have identified.

Q3/ What are the business risks associated with implementing a new system?

Implementing a new reservation system will be a disruption to your business. Don’t let any tech supplier tell you otherwise! I have yet to meet a travel company that has spare people sitting around just waiting to be assigned to working on a system migration project! If you are going to replace your current reservation system, that project will require time from the people who really know your business and your business processes. These are often key resources with important operational roles.

  • How will your business cope with taking key resources aside for periods to work on implementing a new system?
  • Can you continue to operate efficiently and effectively during the implementation?
  • How will you resource and handle the migration from your current system to the new one?
  • If you are looking at moving from an in-house system to an externally provided one, how do you feel about the thought of handing over ‘control’ to a technology partner?
  • Do you consider this to be a business risk?

Q4/ How can we mitigate the risks of implementing a new system?

Ok, we recognise that there are risks, so what do you need to do? The most important thing you can do is to be working with a technology company who has ‘been there and done it’ and may well even have the battle scars to show for it! Yes, it is important that you choose the right replacement system but you also need to ensure that the company behind the system has the expertise and experience to help you with the implementation. The right company can add a huge amount of value to you and your team during the implementation.

You also need to assign your best project manager to the project and be able to call on those key resources as and when needed. Finally, don’t rush the project. I never cease to be amazed by companies who call us saying “we must have a system in two months from now”.  And they haven’t yet even chosen the system! With over 20 years of project management experience under my belt, I can tell you that the most successful projects are well planned with appropriate buffer and start out with achievable time frames. Listen to your tech partner. If you have chosen wisely they will be able to advise you on the appropriate time frame for your migration based off their experience of doing this with similar businesses.

Q5/ Do we ‘stick or twist’?

So, now here’s the rub. In the end, having answered all the questions, you finally have to make the decision. Do you stick with your current system and try and eke out a few more years or do you ‘gamble’. If you’ve carefully considered and answered the previous questions, you should be in a position to make an informed decision that is less about rolling the dice and more about making the right decision for your business working with the right technology partner.

Our animated video is a good summary of some of the points made in this blog – watch it here

Mark Bradbury
Joint CEO
RWA Ltd
 

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