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Article by Andrew Sanders

What to Look for When Budgeting for 2018

DataArt 17 October 2017
The hotel industry is now entering "budget season" and making budget decisions this year may be quite an interesting process. There has been a dynamic shift related to the hotel operations landscape. A new type of hotel competitor has been gaining ground quickly, and now the guest is more in control of their stay than ever before. Having a comprehensive plan will increase the chance to garner a competitive advantage in such a vibrant environment.Fueled by new innovations, the hospitality market is evolving exceptionally quickly. Recently Oracle conducted a research initiative titled, "HOTEL 2025: Emerging Technologies Destined to Reshape Our Business". Among 150 hoteliers and 702 guests surveyed, it was revealed that more and more guests want to engage with hotels that offer the latest innovative technologies. The likelihood of this number continuing to increase is incredibly high as technology filters into every aspect of our work and personal lives. The challenge lies with hoteliers and their respective vendors determining the right combination of solutions that deliver either cost reductions or revenue gains as well as defining where to invest their CAPEX or OPEX dollars. We also mustn't forget about the guest. There are a plethora of technologies that are guest-facing - designed to help hotels build a better relationship with guests. Unfortunately, the exact ROI on these particular types of offerings is often hard to find. However, don't let that stop you from investing and implementing these technologies. People are always asking, "What is the ROI on the new engagement platforms?" We must then also ask ourselves, "What is the ROI on trust? What is the ROI on loyalty?"Some of the technology trends that are re-invigorating our industry and that should be considered for your 2018 budget:Mobile - BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) where people bring their mobile devices to watch (stream or cast) their own video content on the hotel TV.Digital Keys - "Keyless entry" allows guests to bypass the front desk, sends a notification to staff before guests arrive, and gives guests the option to book a variety of hotel amenities directly from the app.Data Analytics & Artificial Intelligence - Provides more personalized offerings such as suggesting services based on previous purchases or submitted preferences.Voice Activated Devices - Used as a channel of communication with the hotel (e.g., ordering room service or reporting issues with the room).Wi-Fi - This seems like nothing new, but bad Wi-Fi can sink a hotel's reputation.There is one glaring issue that often seems to be missed. This issue focuses on relevant expertise. As these new technologies are being adopted and implemented, the chance that you have on-property expertise and resources may be limited. Also, if you would like to expand the current offering and integrate it with other platforms such as analytics - you may not be able to perform these development initiatives in-house. Hotel companies need to fully understand the future development roadmap of the products they purchase and ensure that they meet their current and future needs. These new solutions will be part of the hotel technology ecosystem in short order, so you also need to prioritize your technology spend based upon your market segment and upon your typical guest profile. Some of these investments can be viewed as immediate requirement versus future needs. Ultimately, it is up to you, your marketing team, and your IT team to put together the tech budget that help you achieve your unique goals. You should also provision for consultancy and development services as the complexities of our business grow. The quality and speed of technology adoption are critical conditions in our highly competitive environment.Technology providers and solution design consultants, like DataArt, help hotel companies and IT vendors to partition the challenges. Further, they engage with optimized resources to help mitigate the risk related to the adoption of innovative and relevant solutions or platforms. The goal... to help hotels choose and integrate the technologies that will clearly reflect their values and aspirations back to the guest.
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Blockchain: Prepare, disrupt or be disrupted. In any event, get started!

DataArt 27 September 2017
The lesson here is stark: traditional hotel operators need to be learning, educating their teams, working with vendors and forming plans to get ahead of something that could disrupt their business. It's time to prepare, disrupt or be disrupted!Many readers will have heard of blockchain, or most certainly the reason it came into being in the first instance: bitcoin. But as with any new technology, there's a great deal of misinformation circulating. Blockchain is here to stay, and will likely become a significant disruptor in travel and hospitality. But what is it, and what should you be doing about it?What is blockchain?Put simply, blockchain is a distributed digital ledger, meaning that data relating to transactions is stored using a particular methodology that guarantees a transaction cannot be amended. Therefore, and by definition, a trusted chronology of transactions is created. Further, these transactions are stored on multiple servers, and any member of a particular blockchain has visibility into the data stored. This is necessary to ensure integrity, but also means sensitive information, like personally identifiable information (PII) and payment details should still be stored in databases and systems outside a blockchain.Regardless of the variety of blockchain flavors, these primary characteristics are constant:The data is immutable, meaning that records can only be added and never deleted or changedIt is distributed among many computers that each store full or partial copies of the ledgerIt creates a guaranteed 'trusted' environment between two parties"Trusted environment between two parties" is akin to a middleman where 'trust' would otherwise have to be artificially manufactured somehow. It facilitates the direct transfer of value between two parties who don't have to trust each other. The unit of currency, or the 'value', can be any digital asset, e.g. property deed, money, loyalty points, identity, music, votes and much more. Since the process of creating trust in a traditional sense can take time, blockchain has the potential to settle that aspect of a transaction much more rapidly than at present. Therefore, any entity that currently exists as a middleman and trades transactions between two parties stands to be disrupted by blockchain. In the hospitality world, the transactions most widely thought to be impacted by blockchain include loyalty points, travel insurance, mobile key and any authentication of assets including payments/settlements, procurement and possibly booking transactions and history.As of August 2017, as many as 80% of banking institutions worldwide are already investing in blockchain technology. Some governments are mandating that imported goods must (within a few years) be processed on technology based on blockchain, and it is already having a big impact on supply chain logistics and traceability. This means that blockchain is here to stay, and is the reason that everyone involved in hospitality technology, from hotel chain CTOs to software developers and vendors, need to ensure they're both educated and have a plan in place on the subject.What you should be planning/doing if you're not already1. Educate yourself and your teams.Make sure you know what blockchain is, how it works, and what your peer group and people in other industries are doing. This information is widely available via Tnooz, Forbes, HospitalityNet and DataArt.2. Develop a short- and medium-term strategy (pilot and vision).Blockchain has some significant benefits but will demand some business process re-engineering and, with it, changes to your software systems and likely infrastructure. Quite how it will impact you is unknown, so for now it's worth exploring what the impact could be and what your vision is. Start building the skills needed to support a blockchain environment with some small pilot projects.3. Influence the industry on strategy and priorities.In the spirit of being the influencer rather than the influenced, those who have an interest should be active in HFTP's task force on blockchain when it convenes, and follow HTNG's work group on the topic.4. Find suitable talent internally.You may find that your company has people who know something about blockchain already. Understand what talent you have and can access internally and what else you need.5. Source expertise externally.Experts and consultants exist and can help not only with strategy, education and policies but also with hands-on development in a blockchain world. DataArt is one of the few with live experience of developing application software on blockchains and has practices with industry experts in several sectors, including travel and hospitality.While blockchain may take some years to mature into something that is a mandatory requirement in software solutions that interact with other partners in hospitality, there's no doubt that it will also take a long time for organizations to understand what they need to do, and build those skills and infrastructure that will be essential. Now is the time to make sure you're not disrupted!
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 Line" 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.
Article by Greg Abbott

The Importance of Business Travel Innovation

DataArt 19 October 2016
I recently had the pleasure of sitting on a panel with prestigious business travel leaders to discuss the major issues facing the sector. One of the overarching sentiments emerging from the event was the fact that we are entering a period of significant evolution for the business travel sector, with technology moving at an increasingly rapid pace. Although the business travel industry has previously lagged behind other travel sectors regarding traveler focused innovations, the largest Travel Management Companies seemed poised to "take back" ownership of their technical destiny. This is a significant step considering most of the technology in these companies is served by GDS' and products from pure tech companies like Concur, Deem, etc.The panel featured many industry experts, including Evan Konwiser, Vice President Digital Traveller, American Express Global Business Travel; Miriam Moscovici, Director, Emerging Technologies, BCD Travel; Mat Orrego, Co-Founder and CEO, Cornerstone Information Systems and Chip Coyle, Senior Vice President and CMO, Infor. The audience was comprised of delegates from a range of business travel providers and stakeholders, including Phocuswright, Dropbox, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, UBS, the Barbados Tourism Authority and Nasdaq.The Evolution of AI and BotsWhile the robotics or bots aren't new to the business travel industry, the concept of using artificial intelligence (AI) and bots automation is entering a higher level of sophistication than has existed in the past. The current surge in the development of bots is related to the growing popularity of message-based communication, such as Facebook Messenger. Today's AI is technology that attempts to emulate the manner in which a human brain works, and it has already become a standard component in our lives, with personal assistants such as Apple's Siri, Amazon's Echo, and Microsoft's Cortana built into mobile and home devices. The recent rise of AI in the business travel industry is due in large part to the advancing technology and growing consumer acceptance of automated services.There are several companies in the travel industry that are employing AI to augment services provided by human agents, such as Lola and Pana. One of the key drivers for using this technology is cost-savings, with AI attempting to answer customer queries first, thereby allowing companies to reserve their human assets for the highest value work. While many believe that AI is not yet at the point where it can entirely replace human interaction, other companies are already going completely virtual with their efforts. HelloGbye provides one of these services, which allows consumers to message travel plans via a chat interface and creates an itinerary for up to nine people in an initial search, with no human agents being used to fulfill requests.As AI continues to evolve, experts predict it will bring an increased level of personalization to the business travel industry while simultaneously reducing selling time and providing significant cost-savings.Alternative Lodging Challenges Business travel is directly connected to negotiated rates with airlines, hotels, and other travel products. However, the industry is now faced with the challenges of travelers staying at alternative places, such as Airbnb. Although alternative lodging options may not exist in the current ecosystem of many business travel providers, it's becoming increasingly important to understand how to include these products. To retain control, some travel companies are now integrating Airbnb's data into their own proprietary systems, thereby bringing alternative lodging bookings into view for managed business travel in order to adapt to the evolving landscape.Moving Beyond "Digital Duct Tape"Unfortunately, the business travel industry is still in a phase of using "digital duct tape". As Miriam Moscovici, Director of Emerging Technologies at BCD Travel, noted during the panel, companies are continuing to use the GDS PNR as a CRM, and taking an Airbnb address and pushing it into the GDS. In the past, many tech providers kept technology in place until it was broken, instead of embracing and developing new methods of delivery and process. Certainly, one of the challenges preventing innovation is the infrastructure and technology expenses, which may not always present significantly increased value to customers.At the same time, as the industry and consumer expectations evolve, it's essential for companies to make traveler-centric changes. Experts agree that travel companies used to be primarily concerned with keeping complaints to a minimum, while the industry is now rapidly shifting to focus much more on the customer. Although the client often used to be one CFO, the modern business traveler is now influencing the travel industry, making it increasingly important for companies to use machine learning, natural language processing (NLP) and AI to meet the evolving expectations of business travelers.Innovation Leads to SuccessOverall, the event solidified the belief that the business travel industry must focus on innovation to succeed. As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, our industry must embrace the changes by developing innovative utilizations of these advancements to lead the tech revolution into the future.What is going to be the next big thing in business travel tech? Let me know by reaching out to me on Twitter @jgabbott or LinkedIn.
Article by Greg Abbott

Leveraging the Most Useful Business Travel Apps

DataArt 20 September 2016
As an increasing number of business travel apps become available, given your organization allows you a choice, finding the most effective solutions can be a real chore. In an effort to help, we are sharing information about our opinion of the most useful and innovative apps that exist in today's app market across several categories:Travel Booking Management Businesses of all sizes can benefit from using travel booking management apps to improve accuracy, reduce duplication, and increase efficiency.Concur's mobile app is a valuable choice for a broad range of businesses, providing an efficient means to reduce the effort and time spent on managing travel details. In addition to offering the basic tools that all expense-tracking services provide, including custom reports and expense categories, this solution features photo receipts. Users can capture a receipt, invoice or business card using their device's camera and attach it to their expense record to store the information securely. The app also allows users to book their travel needs directly, including rental cars and hotel rooms. Concur's solution can be linked to other apps, such as financial and GPS tracking applications, providing a convenient method for storing all travel information in one location.KDS Neo is a popular app (and recently acquired by American Express), which uses a timeline approach for booking travel and submitting expenses. The innovative solution is designed to provide a fully priced itinerary based on three simple questions: Where does my journey start? Where does it end? What time do I need to be there? KDS Neo automatically creates an expenses report, while analyzing the preferences and previous behavior of each individual traveler to offer personalized itineraries.Trip TrackingThere are many trip tracking apps available, but some stand out from the others as exceptionally useful for the majority of business travelers.TripIt (owened by Concur) is described by many users as creating the feeling of having a highly efficient personal travel assistant by their side. The app allows users to forward all travel details to a TripIt email address, including flights, hotel reservations, car rentals, restaurant bookings, and more. These travel plans are subsequently converted to a succinct itinerary that is accessible on a mobile device, even when it's offline. The "Pro" upgrade provides a great deal of additional functionality, including real-time flight alerts, a place to store points from different rewards programs, and some special perks, such as access to the Hertz Gold counters and the ability to jump to the front of some security lines.TripCase is another very strong trip tracking app. The straightforward interface, and my personal preference, allows users to store all travel details, including flights, rentals, hotel reservations, and more, as well as sending alerts for flight information. The app also provides the ability to add all other plans associated with a trip to create a single, complete itinerary.App in the Air features a streamlined interface and all of the functionality that you expect to find in a robust trip tracking app. This solution stands apart from others due to its social component, allowing you to provide feedback on the flight experience, report delays, engage in airport specific chat with other users, and share your trips with friends via social networks.KAYAK offers a trip tracking component to its already popular travel search app, which allows users to search for, book, and view trip itineraries. For users who book travel arrangements on several different websites, this solution offers the added convenience of compiling the information into a single itinerary.Expenses Processing Processing travel expenses is typically a time-consuming task, which can be significantly alleviated by utilizing one of the top apps that are currently available.Chrome River has created a fantastic solution, providing streamlined functionality that takes a lot of the work out of the process. The app allows users to capture and approve expenses while traveling, as well as to view and approve third-party invoices. It provides the ability to edit and modify the features and reports in the tool, and will seamlessly audit all of the uploaded expenses to create a concise final report.Expensify is another excellent option for accurately recording and extracting expenses details. The app also provides the ability to use the GPS functionality in a mobile device to automatically track the miles traveled during a business trip, in addition to including a convenient currency converter and rate-exchange calculator to process international expenses efficiently.Concierge Booking As an option to some of the services of a traditional travel agent, several companies have created concierge-focused booking solutions, which employ "bot technology" mixed with traditional services to handle traveler requests.Pana is a useful concierge app that helps make travel booking easier by shopping for flights, making hotel reservations, and arranging transportation. The solution utilizes a combination of live travel experts and artificial intelligence "bot" technology to create a robust service that may be especially appealing to frequent travelers.Mani provides what the company calls "full-service travel concierge bots" to handle all aspects of customers' travel requests, including booking, rescheduling, and cancellation. The service also utilizes artificial intelligence technology to learn about its users' preferences to deliver personalized recommendations, taking details such as rewards points and hotel amenities into account.App development in the travel marches on, with new bot augmented solutions arriving at a fair pace. While there is always room for improvement, the apps described in this article are likely to reduce the tasks associated with light managed or unmanaged travel, allowing both businesses and individuals to leverage technology for a streamlined experience.What did we miss? What are your favorite practical biz travel apps? Let me know by reaching out to me on Twitter @jgabbott or LinkedIn.
Article by Greg Abbott

Business Travel Innovation: Where Is it?

DataArt 18 August 2016
those focused on procurement and driving compliance--were only nominally satisfied, registering a 59 on a scale of 100. Their counterparts in less managed travel programs were more satisfied. Today's business travelers desire seamless technology; booking flexibility; and mobile access to as much of their travel as possible. The problem for travel managers is that since technology hasn't kept pace with business traveler desires, travelers are "regularly jail-breaking their travel programs in search of better rates and/or more intuitive shopping and booking paths" (BTN, April 2016).As a result, the business travel sector has been losing share to leisure/unmanaged travel. A survey of corporate travelers found that while many of them were booking flights via agent/GDS, 48% would turn around and book their accommodations on an OTA, known as "leakage" (TravelPort). Further complicating things, many of the big brands are promoting deeper discounts for rewards members who book directly. Simultaneously, many TMCs are seeing corporate negotiated rates rise 2-3% in 2016 (BTN, May 2016). Largely these problems stem from lagging innovation in business travel.Strides have been made, no doubt, but business travel technology is far behind the leisure industry. Managed programs are in need of more than updated compliance policies to recapture corporate travelers, they are in need of the technology that allows them to offer travelers flexibility and mobility--and this is the baseline, this is playing catch up. Going above and beyond this is where innovation happens.That said some companies are pioneering the kind of change that will make business travel more satisfying and cost effective. Here's our take on where the innovation is--and where there could be more.Where the Business Travel Innovation Is NowCompanies that are innovating are seeing the company and the traveler have needs. These companies are creating models that merge and meet these needs. One of the few accomplishing this is Rocketrip. Their service incentivizes travelers to book wisely (i.e., to be cost conscious) by earning rewards. Their technology offers real-time budgets for business travelers to meet and encourages them to save while still providing booking flexibility.The business travel industry is so focused right now on playing catch up that much innovation is in very specific features rather than disruptive, game-changing technology. For instance, American Express Global Business Travel has launched a feature that creates a digital travel record (combining travel and credit card data) that allows a travel manager to visualize the location of their travelers. This is especially useful in the event of an emergency in which a company needs to reach their travelers. Another progressive feature from MTT focuses on mobile communication on the "Day of Travel," with real-time flight disruption details, check-in and gate status notifications, and other capabilities that ease stress and elevate communication on travel days.Where There's Opportunity for InnovationClearly, the industry is ripe for transformative technology that will not only change the way corporate travelers get from point A to point B but will also change the way they do business. A technology that integrates a business travel itinerary with the company CRM could mean that a sales person who is visiting a client in Cleveland receives a notification that, according to the CRM, he has hot leads in Pittsburgh and Buffalo. Then the system would ask if he would like to add one or both of these stops to his itinerary, saving on travel costs with one trip instead of two or three, and increasing the potential ROI of the trip.Open booking is slowly changing managed travel programs. Many travelers are already going rogue, so the opportunity is for companies that embrace it to get a better handle on costs. Technology that supports data integration from disparate systems, specifically integration that doesn't require the employee to forward confirmation emails, can and will usher in a new phase in business travel. Creating a robust, supportive, and mobile-friendly system for open booking is the natural next evolution.The ideal end is to build programs that work for companies and road warriors. Not only do innovative business travel technologies save companies money, but they also have the potential increase traveler satisfaction, which improves employee retention. tClara has found that 76% of business travelers want easier/faster expense reimbursement, 55% desire better trip planning, and 40% want better mobile apps for traveling. The company, which investigates trip friction for companies with travel programs, suggests modifying travel policies and addressing individual needs. Yes. However, supporting travelers also requires technology. Moreover, this technology should support traveler flexibility, autonomy, and mobility.
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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.
Article by Greg Abbott

The Art and Science of Solution Design

DataArt 25 February 2016
Part 1 - An OverviewSolution design is the reimagination of development services with a consultative and holistic approach that helps organizations create the most effective solution within their existing constraints to ensure the ultimate success of a project.Statistics clearly indicate that a startling percentage of IT projects are unsuccessful due to inadequate up-front planning and analysis and insufficient or ineffective involvement of key stakeholders. A 2010-2011 study by software consulting and development firm, Geneca, found that a stunning 75 percent of IT project participants lacked the confidence of success at the beginning of development based on concerns over "fuzzy business objectives, out-of-sync stakeholders, and excessive rework." The same issues were uncovered in a 2011 study by project management consulting company, PM Solutions, which indicated that 37 percent of IT projects fail.These complications are so problematic that a 2012 study by global management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, in conjunction with the University of Oxford, found that 17 percent of large scale IT projects can actually threaten the very existence of the company while 56 percent deliver less value than predicted.Solution design aims to attack and mitigate these risks by utilizing a systematic approach to helping the client determine the optimal solution and path for implementation. This process requires equal parts technical engineering and human engineering to ensure the success of a project from the initial analysis stage through to the final deliverable product.A thorough evaluation of a client's requirements is the essential starting place when working towards developing the most valuable technological solution. One of the keys to success in the initial phase of a project is consulting with all stakeholders about their needs to both comprehensively understand the range of requirements and help gain consensus for the solution across all parties. Although it may appear that various project members have the same ideas, discussing the details with each of them individually is an extremely effective method for securing adoption throughout the organization.There is typically a range of potential solutions that exist for every aspect of a project. By working closely with the key stakeholders, the designer can fully understand the goals to determine the best solution that fits within the client's priorities, budget, timeframe and technical constraints. In many circumstances, separate departments at an organization use technology in differing ways that they each believe to be most effective. A designer must be sensitive to the variety of opinions that are present to be successful. Stakeholders who feel that they have participated in designing the solution are far more likely to adopt and champion it. The process of engaging all of the clients is as important as the outcome, allowing the solution to emerge through the genuine collaboration of all interested parties.It's important to remember that the vast majority of development projects do not transpire in a vacuum, but instead occur within the existing technological landscape of a company. It is, therefore, essential to leverage the technology that is currently utilized within an organization while understanding the skill sets that they possess in order to support the end solution.Successful development requires a thorough understanding of both the business and user needs, as well as the technical needs. Clients will often approach a development team by stating that there is something specific that they want to have created. Although this may be the only way that a company knows how to articulate their needs, there are many circumstances where the suggested product is not the best solution to meet their requirements. Effective analysis involves looking beyond their concept to determine what they actually want to do or solve. The key to Solution Design is to delve deeply into those requirements and translate them back to a fundamental understanding of the actual problem that the client wants to solve.Another essential component for the optimization of a development project is to determine "buy versus build" in the initial analysis stage. As an example, a company may be seeking a guest engagement platform. Although their requirements may be highly accurate, market research should be conducted to determine whether or not there is already a technology supplier or plug-in that is appropriate to serve their needs. Even if a client wants to incorporate a product into their existing technology system, it may often prove to be both more efficient and cost-effective to partner with a third-party as opposed to building an entirely new solution.Although the ultimate goal is the development of a solution, successful solution design is a collaborative process that involves extensive analysis of both the technical and human aspects of the client's requirements to establish all-encompassing integration and success.
Article by Greg Abbott

What The Whole World Can Learn From Travel Technology

DataArt 14 January 2016
making communication in the travel industry extremely problematic.However, since the late 1950s when the first Global Distribution System came into play, the travel industry has made unparalleled progress toward developing standards that different sectors of the industry abide by, with demonstrable success. Over the years, booking a trip has gone from three hours to three minutes, according to the Travel Technology Association (TTA).The Open Travel Alliance and industry leaders led the revolution by recognizing the lack of standards and pursuing solutions, taking advantage of the technology wave of the 20th and 21st century. Open Travel provided the travel industry with a standard interoperability language for the distribution of electronic messages using Extensible Markup Language (XML) that is now widely adopted. This provides a comprehensive and universal "standard" for the transmission of data between travel partners and even their affiliates (Air, Car, Rail, Hotels, Tours and Activities, etc.).This standardization reform opened up lines of communication across the industry, ushering in a new era of travel technology. Suddenly, travellers could book reservations and tickets with a few clicks or taps on a screen. Travel became less hectic and demanding on customers.Now the challenge for the travel industry is keeping that momentum going forward in a hyperglobalized, on-demand world. It is the age of smart technology, one in which cars will soon begin driving themselves and clothes will monitor health. Customers are opting more than ever for convenience and transparency.So how did the travel industry ensure that it used technology to its advantage, rather than its detriment? In order for the industry to continue moving forward, it was imperative that the industry maintained its standards (updating them where appropriate), but used them in innovative ways to keep travel quick, accessible and open.To that effect, online travel agencies (OTAs) have effectively made use of existing technology and the advantages standards have afforded the travel industry. OTAs collect information from servicers across the industry and provide that information directly to consumers in one place, allowing travelers to compare accommodations and streamline purchases. According to a 2015 survey by the TTA, about 70% of Americans relied on OTAs to book travel accommodations because the platforms allowed for safe, fast and easy booking.The leaders of the global technology industry should take note. With all the advances in technology taking place, consumers may be overwhelmed by the options that are opened up to them. They can control garage doors, lights, and refrigerators all with a swipe on their smartphone -- but how many apps does it take to accomplish each of these tasks? Consumers don't necessarily want to check in to multiple apps to achieve common purposes, so just as the travel industry simplified with standards, so should the tech industry.At this year's CES (Consumer Electronics Show), attendees were inundated in new and innovative technologies; over 3,800 exhibitions were shown. However, with all of these emerging technologies, the tech industry should recall the simplification of the travel industry.The trend of simplification and communication between services does seem to be emerging in the tech industry, as seen at CES. "This week we saw that devices are no longer just connecting to the Internet, they are increasingly connected to each other," said chairman and CEO of Boingo Wireless David Hagan in a CES press release. The challenge for the tech industry will be to maintain this interconnectedness, perhaps through a cohesive set of standards as done by the travel industry.The travel industry is an excellent model of how standardization and simplification can completely alter the landscape of an industry. In a world that is growing more interconnected and having to meet faster demands via technologies that are emerging each day, it pays off to keep it simple.

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.

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