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Martin Cowen is a contributing editor to the Amadeus Blog. He is a freelance writer, editor and moderator with a global perspective on B2B travel technology and B2C trends. This is the second in a series of posts highlighting his takeaways from our T3CH event. He will also be discussing other travel tech related topics in the coming months.
One of the (many) themes of Amadeus’ recent T3CH event (Transforming Tomorrow’s Travel) was people, despite the talk of AI, hybrid cloud, stateful APIs and multi-factor verification.
In most cases, the end user of any tech is a human being. In a travel context, that human being could be a high street agent looking to book a loyal client’s 50th birthday weekend away. It could be an airline operations director looking at how to reduce fuel costs or improve on-time performance. It could be a hotel receptionist trying to find a room for a top tier loyalty scheme member who’s arrived early.
And quite often, that human being is using tech to serve another human being – namely a traveller. Amadeus CEO Luis Maroto has said more than once that technology is a means to an end, to serve and improve the experience for the traveller.
For example, when Amadeus decided to move its shopping application MasterPricer onto the Google Cloud there were technology considerations – sub-second response times, scalability, machine learning overlays, compatibility with our existing systems and more.
But travellers are also part of the cloud thinking. People visiting online and retail agents using MasterPricer get a better search, shop and buy experience because not only of the commitment to tech but also the awareness that the tech needs to serve the traveller.
Another component of the relationship between tech and travel are the developers, engineers, programmers and data scientists who build, maintain and troubleshoot the tech so that it best serves the traveller.
And then there is the HR department who need to make sure that the company can attract the talent needed. Plus of course the people running the business which uses the technology to serve the travellers.
While HR is a term from the analogue world which still persists, the digital world has prompted a rethink of the theory and practice of HR.
Adrian Cockcroft from Amazon Web Services closed the opening day of T3CH with a keynote around getting the most out of your IT team. Put simply, it is about “speeding up the way you operate”.
He mentioned Powerful, a book by Patty McCord, former chief talent office for Netflix, as a template for how to create a fit-for-purpose culture. “If you give this to your HR department, their head will explode,” he suggested.
Joking aside, tech can only succeed within a corporation if the culture allows it to. Expedia Group’s VP of technology Subbu Allamaraju said that leading a business transformation needed the culture to be transformed. “You need to organize for execution,” he said. “There is no guidebook. Existing structures and cultures are about running the status quo efficiently, not to drive change.”
Specifically, one aspect that he changed with Expedia Inc’s vast tech operation was around the costs of the cloud. “You need a point of view on being cloud native,” he said. “Make the costs transparent and visible. When teams look at the costs they optimise the architecture and make it efficient.”
Paul Strong from Google Cloud agreed that “thinking and doing things differently” was a prerequisite to getting the most out of what the cloud and tech can do for corporation and customers. “The tech is often the simplest part of the transformation,” he said.
Or, as Microsoft’s Rafael Achaerandio said: “Without the right culture, the clarity of leadership, you are done.”
And lest we forget, in our sector the ultimate beneficiary of a corporate culture that encourages innovation, ownership and agility in how enterprise tech is used, is the traveller. As technology gets better, so too should the travel experience.