Our first experience with self-service corporate travel SAAS kicked off in 2000. We encountered a regional airline needing to get all the bits of paper into a computer system to speed up what were otherwise well functioning business processes. Coming from a workflow management background, we started with the rotofile (Ticketing) and the whiteboard (Ops), stuffed them into an integrated online system and away we went.
Some airlines over the years tried to do this for themselves with bespoke systems, but ran into difficulties without the expertise or economy of scale to maintain their systems. Fingers got burnt getting too close to the fire and DIY fell out of favour as the benefits of the cloud became clear.
Over the years things went pretty well as a vendor and customers were able to take advantage of commodity solutions to improve processes, at reasonable cost and with managed risk. We implemented travel solutions for large companies and organizations around the world. Applying a tried & true workflow that caters to the needs of most stakeholders is a great way to end up with happy punters.
But rust never sleeps and as the years went along and businesses went entirely digital, new challenges arose.
Agile product development methodologies popped up for vendors trying to manage company debt. It didn’t always go well. Vendor product roadmaps tied to company debt risk being oriented to high-growth sales targets, leading some vendors to forget the needs of existing customers, putting pressure on commercial relationships.
Having sat on the vendor side of the fence for 25 years, it became time to take the exit and gain some new perspective. Over the subsequent few years on the other side of the fence, there was insight from working with vendors achieving remarkable things in a number of industries.
Teaming up again with a fresh set of eyes, we’ve started to wonder whether customers could take advantage of vendor strengths without customer requirements falling between the cracks, or being limited by the downsides of misaligned roadmaps?
Technology has also gone through a generational change:
– Maintenance costs and risks with hosting a purpose designed bespoke system are much lower e.g. cost and scalability with Azure server-less, unix hosting, and Blazor webassembly on devices
– Staff and passengers are now largely computer literate and have a huge appetite for the benefits of self-service
– Why wouldn’t you take advantage of commodity Machine Learning and Cognitive Services?
– BYOD combined with PWA makes it possible to cheaply scale solutions to lots of users, even when the users are offline and out of the office
– Middleware, APIs and integrations provide a “mix & match” alternative to “all your eggs in one basket”
– When a company has full access to its own data, the new easy to use reporting tools create all sorts of visualization opportunities e.g. no more flying blind, or late nights trying to scramble together stats for board meetings
As a business and as engineers, we pursue the pleasure of solving problems together with customers, and the subsequent referral sales. We’ve eschewed the cancer of high company debt leading to marketing over-promise and under-delivery. With an evolved business approach and new cloud capabilities, we are reviewing the viability of targeted bespoke systems for individual customer data and function requirements. Where it aids responsiveness and avoids unnecessary costs to duplicate and maintain data in multiple vendor systems, new technology shifts the balance of power back towards customers looking to innovate.