Develop new customer touchpoints, speculate on the future of distribution and manage expectations of people who all think their tech project is the most important - all in a day's work for a technology director.
Monarch Group technology director, Laurie Diffey could have gone off on any number of tangents when speaking at the Travel Technology Initiative conference in London yesterday. He didn't.
Diffey gave a lucid run down of the business objectives he has to juggle, where technology comes in and how to manage change.
- For instance, he talked about increasing the touch points before, during and after travel, 'closing the circle' and making sure consumers become loyal customers.
- He went on to increasing self-service and automation as well as cross-sell and up-sell opportunities and also touched on improving functionality and of course, cost reduction.
- Then, it got more interesting as he moved on to increased innovation and how, following customer research, Monarch has a reputation of being a dependable and reliable business but not particularly innovative.
So, all the items above are things the business has prioritised but how and where does the technology come in?
- Web-based bookings is one area for further development because although the company offers it, it would like to extend it to enable changes and amendments and online check-in, offer booking, boarding passes and ancillary sales on mobile.
But, he says, the challenge is working within the constraints of airport processes in Europe where technology is often outsourced leaving Monarch unable to move forward with some of its developments.
- brand rationalisation and making sure the company can reuse the technology across its Cosmos, Avro and Monarch Airlines brands
- brand recognition (search engine optimisation, pay-per-click and social media)
- outsourcing, Diffey says there is no right answer, it depends on the system
- client device management, making sure the company is delivering to the devices, smartphone/tablets that consumers are using
The company set up a change management office about 18 months ago which devises a single list of everything it is trying to do across the group. Each is then given a status - project, business as usual or feasibility.
"The business sees it takes longer to get through if it's a project so everything becomes business as usual and it's about managing that."
Also, on the to do list is speculation on distribution - might viewdata finally die, where are online travel agents, traditional agents and the likes of Google/ITA headed?
"We're looking at Google Flight Search. It has not set the world alight yet but it's difficult to think is not going to have some impact there. There's the expertise from ITA backed up by the technology presence and funding of Google so it's something to watch."
And, should Monarch Airlines go back in to the GDS? (withdrew April 2009, currently finalising strategy but viewed as potentially a good way to get the brand out there).
The next challenge is assessing the complexity of an initiative versus its cost and again he came back to the GDS issue here saying that going back into it was one decision but it creates a lot of complexity such as e-ticketing and payments.
And, that's to say little of issues around accommodation duplication, hosting and PCI compliance.
So where does that leave the IT department?
On a cycle that goes from business strategy to business requirements to managing change to new but constantly evolving technology which simplifies the business but not the tech team's lives and back to business strategy.
The final requirements on the job spec are to deliver more for less, make sure the needs of group, individual brands and the back office are balanced and manage disparate groups of people - those with an umbrella view and those with a detailed view.
Clearly, for this role, the faint-hearted need not apply.
NB: Hurdles image via Shutterstock