Agile, nimble and GDS - not words that traditionally you would find together but all of the distribution giants are working hard to change perceptions.
Enter Travelport with JUICE Labs- Joint User Interaction Concept Experiments - where customers (travel agents, airlines etc) get to see and provide feedback on prototypes, some of which may never see the light of day.
The labs debuted early this year but really began to grow wings in the summer when a session was held during the GBTAConvention in Boston.
Since then further labs have been held at customer events in Kuala Lumpur and Cape Town and a session is planned for the customer advisory board in North America in December.
Already a number of concepts - map search technology, ViewTrip mobile and Flightlines have gone through the process.
Tina Iglio, vice president marketing says:
"It's about getting as much feedback as we can so if concept is not as relevant, we won't take it into product development.
"These are not production ready, some may never be brought to launch. It's about how we more effectively utilise our investment and best bring developments to market."
The next step in the evolution of Juice Labs is to open the concept out to Travelport's online community for even greater feedback as the process so far has been face-to-face.
The Juice Labs team has grown out of people who worked on user experience for Universal Desktop and the API and says their skills have come in handy particularly with mobile developments.
Jason Nash, Travelport's product innovation boss, says:
"In many large organisations if you don't sit in the right bit it's hard to get your ideas heard, by making it virtual and face-to-face we can capture feedback across the audience we serve. The approach we're taking is trying to operate much more like a startup. Historically we have been seen as slow and unresponsive."
So what has gone through the labs?
- ViewTrip itinerary management tool - a lab was run around how to offer a better itinerary solution using a travel timeline. One concept proposed was for it to be like a travel dialogue and more akin to how today's travellers use smart devices. The lab was also set the task of how to improve interaction with GenY type customers.
- Flight lines - experimenting with different ways to display air segments rather than just text, such as more like an Outlook calendar with elements including relevant length and start and end times of the flight. The result was mixed with newer agents taking to it straight away while more established agents often finding it more confusing.
- Map search - specific project originally worked on to enable Emirates to display some of their different available segments on a map but now being looked at to see if map-based shopping can be made available for agents.
Not everything goes through the labs however, search consul, for example, an enhancement to the e-Pricing tool enabling customers to tweak the variables on the search algorithm themselves is going through Travelport's regular product development process.
Here's a clip (click the 'next' button below to get to the JUICE clip):