Matt Minetola, Travelport
Matt Minetola joined Travelport in 2014, bringing more than 30 years of
experience in hardware, software and banking industries, including 14 years at
HP. At Travelport, he has global responsibility for leading the company’s technology
organization and the technical delivery of its Travel Commerce Platform.
For our November theme, PhocusWire talks to technology heads on the challenges of their roles and the rapid pace of change in travel technology and distribution.
How did your prior jobs outside the travel sector help to
prepare you for this role?
I think it is extremely valuable for any technology leader in today’s world to
have experiences beyond the vertical industry that they currently are
supporting. Today’s technology leaders are not just focused on the technology
function alone, but how technology unlocks value for their business.
see how technology is applied in multiple ways, across multiple industries, it
enables you to think past the limitations that exist within the current
organization and industry.
For example, at Travelport, we’re in the midst of
our own “digital transformation” as we shift from a travel company to a
technology company that builds and delivers valuable solutions to the travel industry.
With cross-functional experience, you eventually realize that the technology
enablers, regardless of the market they are applied to, are many times the
For example, artificial intelligence has been making an impact on
industries like manufacturing, retail, and more - ultimately to allow companies
to operate more efficiently, intelligently and provide better products and
services to the customers they serve. It is a matter of being able to apply
those new capabilities in a way that many times are different than what has
already been deployed within that industry. It is that kind of innovation that
makes the biggest impacts.
Global CIO and EVP, Technology
Last month, Travelport announced it was the first global
distribution system to manage live bookings of flights using IATA’s New
Distribution Capability (NDC). What have you learned as you have brought NDC
live in the Travelport system?
I learned more than a few things, but the top ones that come to mind are as
follows. First, that the industry is eager for having a way to differentiate
their specific offers and are looking to technology to enable that capability.
Second, that this is a journey and not a product, a standard or even an out-of-the-box solution. Each organization in the global travel space has a unique way
in which they want to differentiate themselves and tackle a problem or improve
the experience overall. This holds true as they look to create not just brand
awareness, but true differentiation - as well as an ability to experiment
across markets, customer segments and, for our industry, offers.
becomes very obvious is that as a result of all of this differentiation and
point-to-point connections with customized offers, the scale and complexity
required will be significant. It will become even more critical for airlines
and agencies alike to have the ability to scale and manage these changes
efficiently. This is why you will continue to see more and more organizations
looking to partner with us, as our scale and cost capabilities are the best in
class, and all parties will heavily depend on this value going forward.
How do you balance wanting to move fast and wanting to get
Our approach, which is shared across the organization, ties to the theme of
“act for today but think and plan for tomorrow.” There are never going to be
enough resources to manage everything all at once, and with complete, 100%
accuracy; but if you’re going to invest the time and money to build a new
solution or really enhance and improve a key capability, then getting it right
has to be the priority.
It is about
ensuring you have two critical enablers: First, an end-to-end technology
road map that ensures you are delivering new products and capabilities that are
being developed with the right architecture while enabling the performance that
is needed for a scaled business like ours; and, faster delivery of these
capabilities to the platform must be a priority.
Second, understanding what is
most important to your customers and having an integrated business process that
ensures iterative and real-time delivery schedules, focusing on bringing the
most valuable solutions to the market first. This is why our organization has
been very dedicated to incorporating SAFe (or scaled agile) processes across
our entire business. With these two
enablers, we are able to ensure that we can move fast while being confident
that each iteration is focused on the right areas and will incrementally bring
us closer to where we want to go as an organization long term.
What emerging technologies do you think will have the
biggest impact on your business in the next decade?
I think they are the same ones that will impact businesses across all
industries over the next decade. We call these our critical enabling
technologies, that make up our digital spine.
- Cloud technologies will continue to unlock an organization's ability to collect
and deliver richer information to any consumer or any device anywhere on Earth.
We have just begun to understand what impact this has on our lives with the
emergence of IoT and virtual experience offerings to consumers.
- Machine‐learning/AI: While unlocking more and more information to be captured
and delivered through cloud technologies, it will be critical for organizations
to effectively manage and create real‐time value by transforming that data into
actionable information and insights.
- Mobile/smaller, more powerful personal devices: Remembering that there is a
device at the other end of the connection, organizations must ensure that these
devices are capable of either performing real-time activities or creating a
Specifically, for the travel industry, the ability to
provide real-time virtual experiences of any destination or travel choice will
become the norm. Couple this with improvements like more powerful devices in
airports and across the travel ecosystem that ensure security, ease of travel
and personalized service, and you can easily see that the ability to capture
large amounts of real-time data and transform it into a personalized experience
will be at the core of what both travelers and travel providers require. For
Travelport, specifically, this is just the next iteration of what we have been
doing for the industry for many decades.
The companies that are most successful are those whose business strategy is the technology strategy and where the business operations and technology organizations are aligned on one clear deliverable: customer experience!
Matt Minetola - Travelport
What is the biggest challenge for you as the head of
technology at an organization that is so reliant on data?
I am not sure that my organization is any different than other organizations regarding
the importance of understanding and managing data. For a technology leader in
any industry today, the goal is to harness and utilize data effectively to
deliver value and personalized experiences that are now expected.
As a result,
managing data becomes a critical component of what most organizations need to
be doing. The challenges are aligned to
the opportunities. The more data you capture, manage, create and deliver, the
more opportunities you have to engage with your customers and create a
What is interesting, is that the more people come to rely on
instant, accurate responses, the more critical “real time” data‐driven response
and availability becomes. I would highlight three areas to conquer:
- The skills historically used to drive performance for large-scale transaction
systems need to be applied to your data and information providing systems. At Travelport, we have begun to rotate
development skills that used to be focused primarily on our real-time
transaction systems to work hand in hand with the data and analytics teams to
ensure that the DNA required for a reliable and scalable app are being embedded
into our data and analytics engines.
- Understanding the important data. The capabilities to capture and manage data
continue to grow exponentially. However, with more data comes more cost to
process that data, and so an organization’s ability to understand which data is most relevant and which data is is less important becomes a critical part of
delivering cos- effective solutions for your organization.
- “Changing Search to Serve” ‐ this has been our mantra here at Travelport since
I arrived. The demand of users (both human and devices) will continue to grow
exponentially, and so in order for an organization to satisfy the real-time
demands for billions of transactions, it is paramount for an organization to
know what the search is asking ‐ long before it is asked ‐ and then, provide
the answer to the user as they are asking. This is where machine learning and
AI come into play for us and any other organizations that will have users
demanding real-time answers anywhere and anytime on the globe.
If you had to identify one sector of the travel industry
that has the most ground to make up when it comes to being “high tech,” which
one would it be?
I find this question interesting, as it frames the industry in sectors. Being
in the industry now for a short while, I understand that this is exactly how
the industry has evolved and grown over the years. Technology was applied by
segment to provide solutions to traveler demands and needs. However, I would
propose that with the explosion of cloud and AI, mobile and IoT as well as the
demand for more personalization have all created an expectation among customers
to have an “end-to-end travel experience.”
This concept is not a novel proposal; however, up until now, many
players in the industry have been looking to glue disparate solutions together
to try and solve this problem for their specific customers. What we at
Travelport see, is that an integrated solution that brings capabilities
together for the end traveler, regardless of their provider, airline, hotel or
car for that specific trip, is what will disrupt the market. This is the core of
our travel commerce platform, and that is why we are confident that our
technology investments to ultimately enable this end-to-end travel experience
will be the platform of choice.
What technical prowess do you think the main GDSs have over
others in the space?
That is an easy answer. It is our ability to integrate large volumes of
disparate constructs at scale, across the globe, at cost and speed, all while
providing a seamless experience. That is
what created the GDSs of yesteryear as airlines realized the cost and complexity
of integrating airline offers to be extremely overwhelming.
The only thing that
has changed is that we have added hospitality data, which is even more
disparate. We’ve added the desire to merge corporate and leisure travel into a
single experience, and then providing consumers the ability to directly search
and manage an end-to-end travel event.
Subscribe to our newsletter below
Add the new API economy into this
equation, by where suppliers will connect directly to distributors with
personalized and branded offers, and the need for an organization to integrate
this at scale, maintain cost and reliability all to provide a seamless offer.
It is these associated back office capabilities to service travel that will
drive the new GDSs of tomorrow.
If you could talk to travel tech vendors, what is one thing
you’d want to tell them?
Remember it is less about the actual technologies themselves; it is about the
experience that technology creates.
What single bit of advice would you give an experienced
technologist from another sector considering a move into travel?
For those of you who want to build high-volume, large data and global complex
solutions there is no better industry for you to join than travel. The $8
trillion market continues to grow, and the need for technology to enable a more
seamless travel experience is at an all‐time high.
At the same time, this industry will
challenge many of your fundamental technology approaches as you learn to deal
with disparate systems, data and technologies that all need to work in concert
in order to deliver a single user experience that is in demand.
What's your view on big consumer brands (Apple, Amazon,
Facebook) and their impact on travel going forward?
I think they will play an integral role in travel as well as other industries
that are consumer-driven. They have all created extremely strong brands and
capabilities that align to the needs of consumers whether that be shopping,
daily task management or social engagement.
These are all parts that deliver a
truly integrated travel experience and so I believe they (and others) who have
created value for consumers will have an opportunity to either drive or deliver
portions of the end-to-end travel experience.
Travelport has positioned itself as a B2B4C company that partners with
the likes of many of these big consumer brands to enable services for their
customers. Our capabilities and expertise in the travel industry go hand in
hand with companies like these whose capabilities and expertise are in
providing a valuable experience for their customers. This is no different than
an airline or hotelier or ground transportation company who also will deliver
valuable services to the consumer.
Will there ever really be a seamless traveler experience?
Absolutely. And why am I so confident? It is because the consumers will demand
it. As such they will continue to seek an improved experience at every step
until it becomes the seamless and valuable experience they prefer. This is what
digital transformation is all about. The ability to harness each and every
consumer need and combine those into a demand set that when satisfied, will
become the new norm. We have seen this evolution across all industries and
especially within the travel industry.
Do CIOs/CTOs in travel companies now have the standing they
should with the CEO? Do you see those partnerships working effectively
generally in the industry?
I am not sure how executives work together in other companies, but the answer
to having the standing they should needs to be yes for those companies and the
answer is yes at Travelport. Travel companies are technology companies in that
the services they provide are solely enabled by their ability to develop and
deploy technology capabilities, whether that is a service organization, a
supplier or an intermediary. This is not just in the travel industry, but in
all industries. The companies that are most successful are those whose business
strategy is the technology strategy and where the business operations and technology organizations are aligned on one clear deliverable: customer experience!
In the four years I have been in the industry I am seeing a significant shift in
the role that technology plays, not just at the leadership table, but also in
the boardroom. Organizations that embrace this mindset are the companies that
are winning, and they are the ones that we are working with to truly provide a
differentiated customer experience.