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Article by Andrew Sanders

Guest Engagement and the Customer's Digital Journey

DataArt 13 June 2017
What are the top five ingredients in the race for 'first to adoption' that both hoteliers and tech suppliers share? DataArt's unique domain experience of delivering successful solutions to vendors and operators positions it to offer an inside track on successfully implementing an integrated guest-engagement strategy.The rules of engagement with hotel guests are changing as their needs, motivations and budgets evolve. We have identified several vital ingredients in ensuring optimal guest engagement and all the positive things that flow from having fully engaged customers: consistency of approach, frictionless interaction, and providing tools to establish guests enjoy their 'experiences' before, during and after their hotel stay.DataArt's experience designing and building travel and hospitality software solutions uniquely positions it as a master builder in all aspects of the digital journey. This knowledge, which spans from online tour operators (OTAs), to hotel operators and technology suppliers to the hotel industry, allows DataArt to shine a light on the critical areas that operators and suppliers alike need to champion:1. Deliver a consistent, holistic approach that offers good valueTripAdvisor recently reported (Ref i) that 34% of travelers want their accommodation to offer mobile check-in. However, this is only part of the story. In cases where a hotel actually offers this capability, how will they communicate it to the guest? There is a continual obligation on the hotel to engage with the customer, not the other way around. Furthermore, do the existing systems and data even allow the hotel to make the guest aware of this service in the first place and support it in each transaction? OTAs and many indirect, and sometimes even direct, booking channels either don't provide the hotel with the guest's contact details, or preclude it from using it for reasons that may be perceived as marketing or promotion, therefore making it impossible to fully interact.It is essential for both supplier and hotel operator/management company/chain to spell out in detail the end-to-end guest experience and explore all pitfalls and opportunities from a system and data point of view. A third-party facilitator, who can act as a catalyst for the strategy and bring technical expertise within the context of the business needs, will help design a well-thought-out and holistic solution, and may, perhaps, deliver this integration itself.2. Guests want to enjoy their experience. Make sure your touch points are enjoyable, i.e. simple, intuitive and work as promised. Guests expect their 'stay experience' to go beyond the walls of the hotelWhen Airbnb announced its "Trips" platform in November 2016 (Ref ii), it meant they were embarking on becoming a full-fledged travel company that would allow its customers to become immersed not only in their accommodation, but in their destination.Guests want to enjoy their experience, and travel technology needs to be frictionless - that is, allow the guests to do whatever they need in an intuitive way. Our experience at DataArt demands that our customers, be they hotel operators or technology vendors, have a clear view of what makes their end users (guests) tick, what motivates them and how a solution can be enjoyed the most.Integration and highly-efficient, well-designed interfaces between systems are essential. For instance, a guest may book a room and then pre-order a spa service. If they subsequently change details of their room booking, they expect their spa reservation to follow suit. Our experience shows this is often not the case - an example of a non-frictionless experience that must be avoided.3. Have a clear vision of what you want your systems to do, and why it will make the guest experience betterClarity of vision and ownership of your systems and what you provide your customers creates a pure identity of what it is you offer (thus helping you communicate your message). It also limits tangential changes that fundamentally alter the scope of your product or service, helps maintains quality and consistency and enhances the engagement with the customer you can achieve by keeping their use of your systems straightforward.While an operator or vendor should have a clear view of what it is THEY want to provide, early and active involvement of users can also make the difference between success and failure. Our preferred approach, and that which we believe is more likely to succeed, is to utilize a user-driven design. Non-user driven products can fail for the smallest reasons that could have easily been prevented with the right amount of user involvement at the right moments. DataArt encourages championing the users and develops software around a framework of iterative cycles, often involving end users.4. Ensure your guest interaction is fully integrated. Disengaged guests are less likely to return: but only 20% of guests feel fully engagedAccording to Gallup (Refs iii and iv), hotel guests that are fully engaged spend 46% more per year than actively disengaged guests. Full engagement means that customers are emotionally attached and rationally loyal - they go out of their way to obtain their preferred product or service. Offering tightly integrated and fully interfaced solutions means guests can engage with a hotel at any point and can rely on consistent interaction, thereby maintaining their emotional involvement. Since engagement rests heavily with the emotional as well as rational connection between customer and provider, consistency is key.Outstanding systems design, analysis, prototyping, proof of concepts, development, maintainability, documentation and execution are all critically important to the successful implementation of a system, and again an area where expertise delivers results.5. First-to-market is not the objectiveIt's commonly believed that first-to-market is a measure of success. While that is important, DataArt believes a greater measure of success is first-to-adoption: that is, optimal active take-up by users of any new solution or product.DataArt has been helping travel and hospitality practitioners, as well as suppliers, gain first-to-market and first-to-adoption advantage for nearly 10 years. Its breadth of experience of developing diverse application software, middleware and integration tools in its chosen sectors are second to none, and have been harnessed by some of the leading global travel and hospitality brands. The consultancy has successfully completed over 1,600 projects over 20 years in operation.Ref i - http://ir.tripadvisor.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=919990Ref ii - http://www.businessinsider.com/airbnb-trips-launch-2016-11Ref iii - http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/192710/brands-aren-winning-millennial-consumers.aspx?g_source=HOSPITALITY&g_medium=topic&g_campaign=tilesRef iv - http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/172637/why-customer-engagement-matters.aspx

The Need for Speed: Runtriz leverages DataArt's expertise and ASSA ABLOY Hospitality technology to deliver "Front of the Linetm" program to hotels

DataArt 24 May 2017
DataArt (www.dataart.com) has announced that it was selected by Runtriz to help enhance its "Front of the Line" (www.FrontoftheLine.com) feature to reward guests with a VIP level experience. It is unique as it builds on Runtriz's installed base in over 100 countries to enable hotel guests to use their mobile device to not only check-in prior to their arrival, but additionally bypass the front desk at enabled hotels and head straight to their room, entering with Runtriz's mobile key."Runtriz chose DataArt to extend its platform to create a solution that seamlessly interacts with third party systems. Getting industry leaders involved was critical. DataArt brought not only development breadth but industry experience that enabled us to solve technical problems together for some of our high-profile customers. ASSA ABLOY Hospitality was the security and access technology company we wanted to engage with first due to our mutual high profile customers," said Alonso Vargas, Runtriz President and co-founder."DataArt worked with Runtriz and the ASSA ABLOY Hospitality SDK to deliver a practical solution, offering mobile keys within the Runtriz ecosystem," explained Alex Shchedrin, Vice President of Strategic Services at DataArt. "Our approach was to create a form of a CRM that acts as a glue when interacting with a variety of platforms."The ASSA ABLOY Hospitality Mobile Access solution greatly increases the guest experience, to allow guests to skip front desk lines and access their rooms via a secure, encrypted digital key on their smart phones. The company's goal in bringing mobile access to more properties worldwide is to work with companies who share the same passion and commitment to innovation.Runtriz is recognized as a pioneer in mobile guest facing solutions that enhance the guest experience including two-way chat, room upgrade promotions, offers, food and beverage/room service, proximity marketing, concierge in addition to expedited check-in and mobile keys. Runtriz wants to accelerate the cost savings benefit to hotels due to lower key costs while launching mobile key. Concurrently, guest satisfaction will rise as guest check-in times decline. Runtriz also focuses on solutions where it is able to achieve adoption faster than its competitors."Capitalizing on DataArt's experience has allowed us to deploy solutions rapidly with lower risk, enabling us to get to the "Front of the Line", while giving our hotel customers the ability to offer their guests the same," concluded Vargas.About DataArt:DataArt is a global technology consultancy that designs, develops and supports unique software solutions, helping clients take their businesses forward. Recognized for their deep domain expertise and superior technical talent, DataArt teams create new products and modernize complex legacy systems that affect technology transformation in select industries.DataArt has earned the trust of some of the world's leading brands and most discerning clients, including Nasdaq, S&P, United Technologies, oneworld Alliance, Ocado, artnet, Betfair, and skyscanner. Organized as a global network of technology services firms. DataArt brings together expertise of over 2,200 professionals in 20 locations in the US, Europe, and Latin America.www.dataart.com@dataartAbout ASSA ABLOY HospitalityThe global leader in hotel security technology, ASSA ABLOY Hospitality is part of the ASSA ABLOY Group, a publicly listed company. With products installed in properties all over the world, securing millions of doors globally, the company's comprehensive range of security and technology solutions is comprised of VingCard electronic locks, Elsafe in-room safes, integrated software platforms and advanced mobile access solutions. ASSA ABLOY Hospitality has worldwide service and support in more than 166 countries. For more information, please visit www.assaabloyhospitality.com.About Runtriz:Runtriz provides a suite of mobile software solutions for hotels, resorts and casinos. The Company launched the hotel industry's first iPhone app, and today many of the world's top hotels and casinos run their apps and mobile solutions on Runtriz platforms. The Company's hospitality platform enables brands and properties to quickly and inexpensively build a customized mobile app that provides guests access to all amenities and services at their fingertips via any device - smartphone, tablet or laptop - anytime, anywhere. Guests can expedite their check-in, order room service, make spa or golf appointments, book reservations, email and text with hotel staff and much more. In addition to its guest-facing hospitality solutions, Runtriz also offers several staff-facing mobile solutions that facilitate staff-to-staff communication as well as expedite and dispatch food and beverage orders poolside or at any venue on property. Clients using Runtriz platforms are experiencing higher guest service scores, greater revenues and significant efficiencies. For more information, visit www.runtriz.com.
Article by Greg Abbott

Travel Agent 2020

DataArt 19 December 2016
The concept of "travel agent 2020" is on everyone's mind today. It's tempting to be skeptical of all the predictions regarding the future of travel agents, but we can't deny that the digital revolution has already transformed the way we plan book and experience travel.Another force that is causing major changes in the industry is the Millennials, who have quickly emerged as the largest travel segment. According to a recent Skift report, by 2020 Millenials are expected to make 320 million international trips annually (a 47% increase from 2015), and outpace older generations. Today youth travelers turn to travel agents because of the presumed knowledge of destinations and local providers. Travelers want "local experiences" in their destinations combined with the comforts of home; for example, they want to book the airline/or book the same hotel chain they're used to at home. They want local food, drinks, and events to give them the feeling of being immersed in the local culture. The ability of travel agents to provide this unique, personalized experiences is a great motivator for travelers.When it comes to personalization, the buzz around chatbots continues to grow. It sounds great to have an AI system to plan and book your dream vacation. Digital Personal Travel Assistants have the potential to improve the travel experience since they will know preferences for airlines and hotels and help streamline the process of choosing rather than actually making the choice. The booking process has never been so simple: insert text, scan the options, approve. But are these chatbots smart enough to make a difference? Full AI ignores the whimsical nature (or indecisiveness) of the Millennial traveler. Travelers are increasingly looking for new experiences and stories that their friends haven't experienced. In this case, a knowledgeable travel agent is the solution for those who want to optimize their experience. This is, the direct counter-trend to fully independent travelers who risk booking on their own and risk quality and security in unknown destinations.Moreover, when it comes to security, it's easier to get a travel agent to plan all the intricacies of a trip than to do it independently. If something goes wrong on vacation, travelers want an expert who knows how to solve the problems, a human validator who can relieve all the frustration for the traveler.Also, today's vacation planning takes into account that travel to new location should be combined with an epic event at the destination: Where can I go on vacation next month?" turns into "Your favorite band is playing their final show of the tour in this exotic location and here are some hotel and ticket options" or "That's the week of the world cup final in Brazil, want me to see about ticket options?" Here travel agents can often get better deals than the DIY traveler might be able to find alone.All in all, despite the negative forecasts over the past decade, travel agents have proven to be more valuable than anyone ever expected. It is doubtful that travel agents will become obsolete, but it is obvious that their role will continue to change in the future, owing not only to the continued emergence of new technology and innovations within the travel and hospitality spaces but also because of increasing demands for personalized service.

DataArt exhibits latest travel innovations at The Phocuswright Conference, Los Angeles 14-17 November 2016

DataArt 1 November 2016
DataArt, the global technology consulting firm that creates end-to-end solutions, will be exhibiting its cutting-edge and business-proven travel technology innovations at the annual Phocuswright Conference being held in Los Angeles from November 14th thru the 17th.The travel innovations include an improved white label solution for Skyscanner for Business. This iteration includes an enhanced new format, more advanced customizable flight search tools for site owners and purpose-built features across the product. The improved features enable Skyscanner to be more accessible, easier to use and more exciting for their partners. Also on display will be three projects for Triometric. including a system which collects XML data and extracts information for analysis, and a user monitoring system, which in real-time helps analyze behavior and reduces service downtime.DataArt will also be demonstrating an API/integration system which was developed for a leading tour operator as well as the results of DataArt's consultancy services for a multiple partner airline alliance.Greg Abbot, SVP of Travel and Hospitality Practice at DataArt said:"DataArt will be presenting a number of case studies which show we are at the very forefront of technology innovation in the travel industry. We pride ourselves in delivering solutions that are being put to good use by our clients. These are not just concepts but technologies that are working right now for some of the biggest and most exciting companies in travel. Combining technological innovation and a clear focus on business use is at the heart of what DataArt does."EVENT DETAILS:Date: 14 - 17 November 2016Location: LA Live at The JW Marriott, Los AngelesRegister for this event.DATAART WILL PRESENT:SkyscannerA new version of the White Label product DataArt developed which provides advances in the user interface and introduces new purpose-built features.OneworldA new "single sign-on" system for Oneworld alliance.Through consultancy to implementation, DataArt delivered a simplified and significantly more secure system. The new system enables users to operate between Oneworld partner airlines' systems with ease, safe in the knowledge that they are recognized without their security being compromised.SummitQwestThe SummitLink(r) Red App -packaged Sabre Red App solution. The App allows agents to receive price quotes, book, and manage chauffeured ground transportation in real-time. DataArt designed the application architecture, developed the Red App, and integrated it with the existing SummitLink(r) web solution and managed the application documentation and certification process.Other InnovationsNew CMS for a major Chinese technology companyAPI/integrations for a tour operatorAbout DataArtDataArt is a technology consulting firm that creates end-to-end solutions, from concept and strategy, to design, implementation and support, helping global clients in the financial services, healthcare, hospitality, media and IoT sectors achieve important business outcomes. Rooted in deep domain knowledge and technology expertise, DataArt designs new products, modernizes enterprise systems and provides managed services delivered by outstanding development teams in the U.S., UK, Central and Eastern Europe, and Latin America. As a recognized leader in business and technology services, DataArt has earned the trust of some of the world's leading brands and most discerning clients, including McGraw-Hill Financial, Coller Capital, BankingUp, Ocado, artnet, Betfair, Skyscanner, Collette Vacations, Booker and Charles River Laboratories.About Phocuswright Inc.Phocuswright is the travel industry research authority on how travelers, suppliers and intermediaries connect. Independent, rigorous and unbiased, Phocuswright fosters smart strategic planning, tactical decision-making and organizational effectiveness. Phocuswright delivers qualitative and quantitative research on the evolving dynamics that influence travel, tourism and hospitality distribution. Our marketplace intelligence is the industry standard for segmentation, sizing, forecasting, trends, analysis and consumer travel planning behavior. Every day around the world, senior executives, marketers, strategists and research professionals from all segments of the industry value chain use Phocuswright research for competitive advantage.To complement its primary research in North and Latin America, Europe and Asia, Phocuswright produces several high-profile conferences in the United States, Europe and Asia Pacific, and partners with conferences in China, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. Industry leaders and company analysts bring this intelligence to life by debating issues, sharing ideas and defining the ever-evolving reality of travel commerce.The company is headquartered in the United States with Asia Pacific operations based in India and local analysts on five continents.Phocuswright is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Northstar Travel Group, LLC.
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3 Technologies to Watch from HITEC 2016

DataArt 12 July 2016
As the Senior Vice President for the Travel and Hospitality practice here at DataArt, it's important that I stay on top of the latest digital trends affecting the industry. So each year I look forward to attending the Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition and Conference (HITEC), the world's largest hospitality expo that brings together the brightest minds and hottest hospitality products and services. And this year, it seems I was not alone. HITEC 2016 saw record-breaking attendance, with 6,395 hospitality professionals from 65 countries descending on the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans from June 20-23, 2016.This record attendance doesn't surprise me. It seems that each year more and more new products and services are coming to market, promising to revolutionize the hospitality industry as we know it. Hospitality professionals are hungry for innovation; for that next big thing that's going to make their day-to-day lives a little easier. Walking the exhibit floor at HITEC, it was evident to me that what we've been searching for is well and truly here. From the Internet of Things (IoT) to robotics, mobility, and payment security, HITEC 2016 had it all.Here are three companies that piqued my interest, and which I believe are poised to impact the hospitality industry in the near future.BeewakeBeewake is a mobile app looking to end the stigma of booking hotels by the hour. It enables consumers to book daytime hotel space to function as a temporary office, meeting room or co-working environment. Given that most U.S. properties today are hovering around a 65% occupancy rate, Beewake represents a significant opportunity for hotels to explore alternative revenue streams.Consumers can sort by distance, price, or the built-in map to find a space that best suits their needs, and book by the day or hour. On the flip side, hotels can register on Beewake for free and receive a 15% commission on any bookings made through the app. Through Beewake's extranet, they can define their own space and inventory, set daily rates and time slots, and manage their bookings in real-time.While not the first to specialize in selling hotel space by the hour (HotelsByDay, DayUse, and ByHours do it as well), Beewake is one of the first to focus on the business market, capitalizing on one of the biggest trends shaping today's workforce: mobility. Coworking centers, temporary work hubs, and turnkey workspaces that don't require a multilayer commitment have become one of the hottest trends among tech startups, freelancers, creative types and entrepreneurs. These folks aren't working a traditional 9am-5pm work day; their business can take them anywhere, anytime. Companies that can offer flexible solutions to meet their needs are poised for tremendous success. I have high hopes for Beewake, not to mention the properties who use them!SaviokeSavioke (pronounced savvy-oak) is a robotics company based in San Jose, California. Founded in 2013, they create autonomous robot helpers for the services industry, including hotels, aged care facilities, hospitals, restaurants, and offices. Needless to say, their booth at HITEC was awesome! It was here that I met "Relay", their robot for hotels, designed to relay items between hotel operations and the in-room guest.Here's a typical scenario of how Relay would work in a hotel: Say, for example, while on a trip you forget your toothbrush. You call down to the Front Desk Manager, and they get a toothbrush for you. They place it inside Relay, type in your room number, and the robot will make its way to your room on its own. When it gets to your door, it calls your phone. Once you open the door, it opens its lid, and you can remove the toothbrush. Kind of cool, huh? Crowne Plaza, Grand Hotel, Holiday Express and Resident Inn all think so, with Relay already being put to work in some of their properties. Relay is also delivering coffee to guests from the lobby Starbucks at the Marriott Los Angeles LAX. To date, Relay has completed over 30,000 autonomous deliveries.Of course, this isn't the first time we've heard about robots being put to work in hotels. Earlier this year, the Hilton McLean introduced Connie, its first robot concierge designed to help hotel guests decide what to do in the local area, and how to find places on-property. It's clear that we've reached a point in time where we're ready for robots. As Savioke's CEO, Steve Cousins, explains, "Computers and sensors are now cheap enough that we can build robots to help people. [They] can be aware of the presence of humans near them and work safely in that environment." Just how soon robots will make their way into every hotel remains to be seen, but I for one would love my next room service order to be delivered by Relay! I wonder if you would have to tip...check out the Henn'na Hotel video here.CheckMateThough hard to compete with a robot, CheckMate is making serious strides of its own in the area of automation. Travel shoppers, in particular, Millennials, are hungry for greater personalization throughout the travel shopping journey. The issue for most hoteliers has been how to make personalization scalable; CheckMate is poised to answer that question.CheckMate is a personalized communication system that allows hotels to reach guests in any modern channel - SMS, email, or Facebook Messenger. It enables hotels to map the guest journey and engage the guest via automated messages at each moment. These can include welcome messages, in-stay service alerts, or pre-departure messages, and each can be customized to different guest segments; for example, first-time guests, repeat guests, loyalty program members, attendees of a group or wedding, etc. Segments make it easy for hotels to communicate the right information to the right guest at the right time, resulting in a better overall guest experience.Importantly, CheckMate also provides an easy way for guests to communicate back. Through a shared team inbox, employees can respond to customer emails and texts in real-time, or route them to an appropriate team member for action, as well as leave internal notes. The result is a more open, efficient communication experience that leaves guests feeling valued and helps correct any negative experiences quickly, without waiting for feedback surveys, or the dreaded negative online review.Checkmate integrates with StayNTouch and Frontdesk Anywhere using PMS sign-on credentials. This makes it incredibly easy for hotels to begin using Checkmate to communicate with their guests. It will even remember individual guest preferences, so you can continue to deliver better service and, in turn, create brand evangelists. And at the end of the day, isn't that what you want?It's exciting times ahead for the travel and hospitality industry, with technologies like these looking to evolve the travel experience in significant ways. Let me know what you think of the technologies mentioned here. Would you use them in your business? And if you attended HITEC 2016, I'd love to hear what tech stood out to you. Leave your comments below, or hit us up on LinkedIn or Twitter.

DataArt Joins the Travelport Developer Network

DataArt 10 June 2016
DataArt, a technology consulting firm that develops end-to-end solutions, and Travelport (NYSE:TVPT), a leading Travel Commerce Platform, today announced that DataArt has become the latest technology partner to join the Travelport Developer Network.With access to Travelport's newest generation of developer tools, content, resources and commercial support, including the Travelport Universal API (uAPI), DataArt will expand its roster of custom, end-to-end app and web services, which include solution design, development, certification and on-going support."We've been working alongside Travelport for many years and see that the new direction taken by Travelport Developer Network is strategically aligned with the services that DataArt provides to its clients," said Greg Abbott, SVP of Travel & Hospitality at DataArt."The addition of DataArt to the growing Travelport Developer Network allows customers to accelerate app development while taking advantage of the open platform technology, unrivalled travel content, and global reach offered by our Travel Commerce Platform," said Steve Croft, senior director of Agency Commerce Solutions - Americas for Travelport.The Developer Network is one piece of Travelport's growing focus on the digital economy. Last year, Travelport acquired leading mobile apps and solutions provider Mobile Travel Technologies (MTT). Members of the Developer Network, such as DataArt, potentially provide additional ways for Travelport to introduce innovative technologies to the travel industry through seamless integration with Travelport Smartpoint, its industry leading agency desktop technology.About DataArt (www.dataart.com)DataArt is the technology consulting firm that creates end-to-end solutions, from concept and strategy, to design, implementation and support, helping global clients in the financial services, healthcare, hospitality, media and IoT sectors achieve important business outcomes. Rooted in deep domain knowledge and technology expertise, DataArt designs new products, modernizes enterprise systems and provides managed services delivered by outstanding development teams in the U.S., UK, Central and Eastern Europe, and Latin America. As a recognized leader in business and technology services, DataArt has earned the trust of some of the world's leading brands and most discerning clients, including McGraw-Hill Financial, Coller Capital, BankingUp, Ocado, artnet, Betfair, SkyScanner, Collette Vacations, Booker and Charles River Laboratories. www.dataart.com @DataArtAbout Travelport (www.travelport.com)Travelport is a Travel Commerce Platform providing distribution, technology, payment, mobile and other solutions for the global travel and tourism industry. With a presence in approximately 180 countries, over 3,700 employees, and an additional 1,200 employees at IGT Solutions Private Ltd who provide us with application development services, our 2015 net revenue was over $2.2 billion.Travelport is comprised of:A Travel Commerce Platform through which it facilitates travel commerce by connecting the world's leading travel providers with online and offline travel buyers in a proprietary business-to-business (B2B) travel marketplace. Travelport has a leadership position in airline merchandising, hotel content and rate distribution, mobile travel commerce and a pioneering B2B payment solution that addresses the needs of travel intermediaries to efficiently and securely settle travel transactions.Technology Services through which it provides critical IT services to airlines, such as shopping, ticketing, departure control and other solutions, enabling them to focus on their core business competencies and reduce costs.Travelport is headquartered in Langley, U.K. The Company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and trades under the symbol "TVPT".
Article by Greg Abbott

Solution Design for the Travel Industry: Part 4 of 4

DataArt 6 May 2016
Effective Solution Design involves a systematic and holistic approach to all aspects of development, including human and technical engineering, to build a comprehensive product that allows for changes over time as the business landscape evolves. These concepts are essential components for success in the travel tech industry, as the examples illustrate in the final article in this Solution Design series.The travel industry is highly complex and continually evolving although some would argue too slowly. From the initial consultative phase through to software development and the ultimate deployment of any product, long-term success is achieved by ensuring flexibility in the solution to allow for future growth. The implementation of sound Solution Design concepts is absolutely essential when integrating a myriad of ideas into a cohesive end product.The recent success of Expedia illustrates the importance of Solution Design in the travel tech industry. The company made numerous acquisitions throughout its history, including Travelocity, Orbitz, Trivago, Wotif.com, HomeAway and others. Expedia faced a massive challenge to integrate these businesses together into a cohesive environment to successfully connect users into systems that run hotels and airlines. It would have been virtually impossible to accomplish this goal without utilizing comprehensive human and technical engineering approaches, making Solution Design an essential component of Expedia's path to success.Air Canada provides another excellent example of the importance of implementing effective Solution Design principles as a key aspect of establishing itself as a leader in the travel tech industry. Air Canada's booking engine was designed with the necessary flexibility to be altered over time as available options and consumer preferences changed. The airline's website now offers innovative unbundled pricing that allows customers to individually choose the features they desire, such as insurance, meals, pillows, and other options. They were one of the first airlines to implement merchandizing on their website. This was possible not only by having a flexible front-end design but also required the team's ability to build up the back-end to allow different transactions to go to the appropriate cost centers and service departments. Air Canada's practical Solution Design approach enables the company to continue evolving while ultimately increasing revenue and improving customer service.Conversely, when Solution Design principles are not implemented, the results can be disastrous. One remarkable example of this failure can be found in the Calleam Consulting case study of the Denver Airport Baggage System project from the 1990s. Although the plan was to develop the world's largest automated airport baggage handling system, the lack of Solution Design concepts destroyed the entire project.The city of Denver elected to build a new state-of-the-art airport to increase its capacity and cement its place as an air transportation hub. The airport was to be the largest in the United States, with a capacity to handle more than 50 million passengers per year. One of the critical components of the plan was the airport's baggage handling system. The development concept was to automate baggage handling to reduce aircraft turnaround time to as little as 30 minutes, thereby creating more efficient operations and giving the airport a highly competitive advantage.However, the lack of effective Solution Design principles crippled the plans. The development rapidly fell apart due to a massive underestimation of the project's complexity, resulting in snowballing problems and public humiliation. The airport's opening was delayed by 16 months, caused largely by difficulties with the baggage system. The city of Denver paid a massive $1.1 million per day throughout the delay to maintain the empty airport and cover interest charges on construction loans.To make matters worse, the system was merely a shadow of the original plan when the airport finally opened its doors. As opposed to automating all three concourses into one integrated system, the automation was used only in a single concourse by a single airline, and only for outbound flights. The remainder of the baggage handling was accomplished using simple conveyor belts and a manual tug and trolley system, which was hastily constructed when it became apparent that the conceived automated system would never come to fruition. United Airlines eventually abandoned the system altogether, as the $1 million per month maintenance costs exceeded the monthly cost of a manual tug and trolley system.The disastrous outcome of the Denver Airport Baggage System project illustrates a valuable example of the importance of ensuring comprehensive Solution Design principles in every phase of development. Solution Design aims to attack and mitigate risks by utilizing a systematic approach in helping the client determine the optimal solution and path for implementation. To ensure the success of a project from the initial analysis stage to the final deliverable product, it is essential to employ equal parts technical and human engineering.The vast majority of development projects do not transpire in a vacuum but instead occur within the existing technological landscape of an organization. Successful development in the travel tech industry requires a comprehensive understanding of both the business and user needs, as well as the technical needs and skill sets that exist within the company.The complexities of the travel industry require development projects to employ extensive Solution Design principles that involve all-encompassing analysis of both the technical and human aspects of the client's requirements to establish comprehensive integration and flexibility, leading to long-term growth and the ultimate success of the end product.
Article by Greg Abbott

The Art and Science of Solution Design Part 3 of 4: Human Engineering

DataArt 29 March 2016
Successful Solution Design requires the full analysis of all aspects of human engineering from the initial planning stage through the entire development process to ensure effective implementation and widespread adoption of the final product.While the technical engineering component of Solution Design is vital, software development is a human-centered process. Although a myriad of human factors has a major impact on the success of development ventures, many of these components are often overlooked, which can result in a breakdown of the entire initiative and the eventual abandonment of projects.Human engineering failures from the past provide some insight to the complexities that must be thoroughly addressed by a team to successfully execute a project. One disastrous and very public example occurred in 2012, when reports emerged that the U.S. Air Force had to abandon a major software development project called the Expeditionary Combat Support System (ECSS), after spending $1 billion but failing to create any significant military capability. A lack of thorough planning between out-of-sync stakeholders was cited as the primary issue, resulting in ballooning costs, misused resources, and the ultimate failure of the massive project.Conversely, development projects that involve the thorough analysis and implementation of effective human engineering processes will be poised for success. A 2013 U.S. Department of Defense Better Buying Power fact sheet illustrates that the Air Force identified and implemented cost-saving initiatives of 15 percent by addressing fundamental human engineering areas in the software development process related to the modernization of its fleet, equaling a $32 million reduction in its costs.The human component of Solution Design is complex. One of the keys to achieving successful human engineering is ensuring that the expectations of all stakeholders in the organization are not only understood, but are also in unison throughout the process to ensure ultimate adoption throughout the company. Certainly, while this can prove to be a difficult task, it is an essential aspect of all successful development projects.Determining the scope of a project can obviously have a massive effect on its eventual success or failure. To further complicate, not all initiatives will have a clear scope at the onset. Although the visionary stakeholders, such as the CEO and COO, may have lofty aspirations of what they want to develop, the company must organize internally to identify its ability to provide the resources and full funding that will be required in the long-term. Even in cases where a company has their own development resources available, a comprehensive analysis of the plans should be conducted. Can the project be completed within the budget that the company has in place? What capacity and resources are required? The design team should acquire the answers to these key questions in the initial stages to harmonize stakeholder interests and concepts, which will lead to the timely and complete creation of the deliverable product.Establishing a process where the primary stakeholders have participated in designing the solution is a critical component to ensuring that they will embrace and champion the final product. Truly, the process is as important as the outcome, allowing the solution to emerge through the genuine collaboration of all interested parties.The human engineering aspect of successful Solution Design requires the ability to be equally comfortable talking to all facets of an organization, including technical, management, visionary, and financial, to fully understand the comprehensive needs of the company as a development plan is determined.Software has a major impact on every level and function of an organization. Therefore, it is essential to allow key stakeholders to have their say in how the solution is developed. However, from a project management and design perspective, the challenge lies in actively taking input from many people, yet effectively cutting through the noise to ensure that the solution is adoptable and manageable in the long term. Certainly, many projects involve a dramatic series of concepts and goals from a wide range of stakeholders with varied interests from their business units. The design team must consider each of these inputs to ensure that everyone feels that they have a voice, while preventing the project from becoming so fractional that it cannot be completed within the specified budget and timeline.Although clients may believe that they know exactly what they want created, there are many circumstances where the suggested product is not actually the most effective solution to reach their goals. The key to successful human engineering is to thoroughly analyze and manage stakeholder expectations to align with objectives to best meet business constraints. Tying these elements together to result in the actual outcome that the client wants is the art of solution design.A solid human engineering process is a critical component of effective Solution Design to ensure that all aspects of the client's requirements are both understood and implemented, leading to exceptional value for the entire organization and long-term integration of the deliverable product.
Article by Greg Abbott

The Art and Science of Solution Design Part 2 of 4: Technical Engineering

DataArt 15 March 2016
One of the critical components of successful Solution Design is the thorough analysis and implementation of a highly effective technical engineering approach for each specific project that leads to the final product that is being developed.The lack of solid technical engineering processes can result in disastrous failures. An infamous example of this problem occurred in 2013, when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched the Healthcare.gov website. The intention of the portal was to enroll approximately 7 million users over a six-month period. However, issues with the technological solution and framework were so extreme that two months after its release, only 29,000 users had succeeded in utilizing the website amid reports of massive access failures, including incorrect information, missing data, and dead-end applications during the enrollment process.A great deal can be learned from development failures that have occurred in the past in order to avoid similar pitfalls. Designing solutions is a complex task that must be approached carefully from the initial stages through to the implementation of the final deliverable product. Although it may be impossible to release a completely perfect system, experienced development teams embrace the need for a flexible solution with a solid and comprehensive foundation that is able to withstand and overcome the potential problems that are inherent in technological interfaces.On the other side, The Texas Department of Information Resources launched the highly effective one-page Texas.gov website in 2015. The reimagined platform was carefully designed utilizing a plethora of analytics data to ensure that it was developed with a clear understanding of both user needs and technical requirements. The success of the final product illustrates the power of effective technical engineering, which determines the best combination of usability, requirements, and performance to maintain a solid and manageable solution that meets all aspects of a project's goals.Successful technical engineering requires the development team to get back to basics to determine the answers to key questions before product development commences. For one, what is the architecture that you will build the platform on? As mentioned in the previous Solution Design overview article, it's essential to remember that the large majority of development projects do not transpire in isolation, but instead take place within the existing technological landscape of an organization. It is therefore important to define a structured solution that meets all of the technical and operational requirements of the company, while ensuring that the final product can be seamlessly integrated into the current processes of the business.Technological development plans must be optimized for performance, manageability, and security, as each of these decisions will have a significant impact on the quality and overall success of the end solution. Poor architecture can create highly unfavorable results in the long-term, such as a solution that lacks stability, is difficult to deploy, or is unable to support either current or future requirements of the business.Another key component to ensuring effective technical engineering is the determination of the connection points that will be required in the end product. Does the company need multifaceted software that will provide the ability to utilize the solution in both business-to-business and business-to-consumer scenarios? Is an e-commerce component necessary in the current or future business model of the organization?Successful architecture identifies the requirements of the eventual solution, while providing the flexibility to be able to evolve over time as changes in hardware and software technology occur, as well as user requirements. The overall effect of design decisions must be carefully considered, including the inherent tradeoffs between quality attributes, such as performance and security, as related to usability and the requirements of the business. These components should not be created in a bubble with only technologists, rather in symbiosis with the product design team & business stakeholders.Once a finely tuned technical engineering plan is in place, the product development plan can be established, which will enable the comprehensive understanding of what will be required from resources. By establishing a solid initial foundation, the development team can move into the next phase of determining the human engineering components that will work in conjunction with these plans to reach the ultimate goal of creating the most effective end solution.

Can the Internet of Things make the travel and hotel industry 'smarter'?

DataArt By Greg Abbott
The rapidly growing number of devices that are connected to the Internet means that an ever-increasing part of a hotel's working environment can communicate valuable, actionable information back to the management. Making use of this information to improve service quality - and the guest experience - is a fantastic opportunity, writes Greg Abbott of DataArt.

DataArt Helps Streamline LeisureLink's Vacation Rental Distribution and Booking Technology

DataArt 13 November 2015
DataArt, an industry specific travel technology consulting firm that develops end-to-end solutions, announced today that it was selected by LeisureLink to enhance the development and delivery of its innovative full-service vacation rental solution.LeisureLink maximizes bookings and revenue for vacation rentals through delivering a wide array of distribution channels to its clients to enhance revenues, reduce costs and increase the visibility of their products. Though its smart, consolidated platform, LeisureLink connects properties to over 80 million monthly visitors. DataArt was brought on to develop best-in-class software to streamline connectivity of the vacation rental marketplace, allowing for seamless access to all top online agencies, such as Expedia, Booking.com, Airbnb, HomeAway and over 40 additional travel distribution channels. By doing so, these channels can expose this growing, vast vacation rental inventory to prospective travelers."We chose to partner with DataArt because of their familiarity with the travel technology space, their expertise in emerging technologies and unique approach to QA automation," said Keith Klundt, VP of Professional Services at LeisureLink. "This partnership has helped us accelerate and deliver best in class connectivity solutions between the LeisureLink system and Property Management Software Systems as well as various Travel Distribution companies."Greg Abbott, head of Travel and Hospitality at DataArt said, "The challenge around the integration of vacation rental management inventory to the leading distributors has significant hurdles. We have successfully created an environment for matching the different data sets and have been rewarded by witnessing the flourishing of this marketplace using new technology. We are extremely proud to have been selected by LeisureLink to assist them with the advancement of their company in this growing market."About LeisureLink Salt Lake City-based LeisureLink helps vacation property suppliers optimize the value of distribution by providing one platform with access to the majority of online travel agencies like Expedia, Booking.com, Airbnb, and Orbitz, all major global distribution system players, and the top travel tour operators. Through Leisurelink, suppliers can optimize rates, availability, specials, and even change content. LeisureLink also provides many value-added services, such as specialty distribution consulting, and accounting reconciliation. For more information, visit LeisureLink.com, One LINK to more bookings - online, offline anywhere.

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