Next generation software development: Rather than re-invent the wheel all the time, PASS Consulting has the Software Factory, a modular system which facilitates fast, cost-effective development of new applications.
Modules come “off the shelf” with associated rules engines to ensure individual configurability. PASS Consulting also uses the Software Factory with its latest product, the PASS Virtual Travel Organizer (VTO) 2G, the modular system for IT applications in the travel industry.
The automotive industry recognized years ago that the future belongs to the platform. What works need not be developed, built and tested twice. What works can be kept ready on the shelf as a finished component. Good products result from the intelligent combination of modules and the individual adaptation of the whole, not individual parts. This approach enables software applications to be produced faster, with greater ease and at lower cost.
PASS Consulting consistently applies the principles of a modular system with its proprietary Software Factory. The Software Factory is the central unit for producing applications. As the name suggests, the Software Factory is based on a streamlined software development process. Instead of developing products individually, the Software Factory individualizes product development. It makes use of finished modules from the wealth of in-house resources and at the same time applies the modern principle of automated programming. Software code is no longer written manually; it is produced automatically using intelligently developed rules. That is faster, cheaper and less prone to errors, with integrated testing mechanisms to ensure quality.
The central principle of the Software Factory is service-oriented architecture (SOA). Individual services, such as flight booking in the travel field, can be combined as the customer requires. Business rule engines supplement the services level and ensure individuality, enabling the customer-specific workflow to be modeled, which results in an individual imprinting of the product. A further advantage of the combination of SOA, model-driven architecture and business rules is that products remain flexible even when they are finished. They can be adapted to market circumstances at any time with little effort.
This enables simple integration of additional services when the market requires, for example. As Paul Stief, the PASS product manager for the Software Factory noted, “The framework principle ensures high flexibility which was impossible with the methods of software production used previously.” Companies no longer have to struggle with rigid software architectures, but instead are given adaptable tools which enable them to act quickly.
Eighty percent of each application consists of elements which recur and are not unique, Paul Stief estimated. The other 20 percent are specific to the application. Therefore it makes sense not to “re-invent” the 80 percent for each customer. Less demanding basic processes of application development are handled by automated software production at PASS, allowing specialists to focus on the truly challenging aspects of a software project.
Automated generation of standard processes also has the advantage that costs for producing the 80-percent basis can be distributed. This means that every PASS client benefits from each project we do. This process of multiple use at PASS involves reviewing each method, such as those developed in projects of the R&D department, to determine whether it might be of use in any other projects. If that is the case, it becomes part of the Software Factory. “This way components and knowledge are never lost,” explained Paul Stief. Because PASS Consulting is active in many sectors, synergies result, so that elements from bank applications might enhance travel products and vice versa. “A surprisingly large amount of what is used in the financial sector is also applicable in adapted form to travel processes,” noted Michael Strauss, CEO of PASS Consulting Corporation & Head of Business Unit Travel Worlwide.
Automated travel software development
For customers, the PASS building block principle has tangible benefits: Michael Strauss estimates just half a year, including focus group tests, for the production of a full-featured, turnkey travel booking application for travel management companies. Automated software development following the PASS principle lowers costs here dramatically. Michael Strauss estimates the total costs to be about one fifth of developing a product by conventional, old-fashioned means. The client also has the advantage of owning the source code for the application, allowing it to be used as desired. There are options for payment too: a single sum or in installments for several years. Transaction-dependent payment is also a possibility with PASS Consulting. Hosting of an application developed with the Software Factory can also be arranged individually at the client site, a service provider or at PASS.
The PASS Software Factory has already proven its worth in several projects in the field of banking. In 2006, a PASS proposal with the principle of model-driven architecture won a competitive bid from Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) in the US. PASS delivered the Memo Manager to ARC in just six months. The ARC Memo Manager is part of the clearing system between travel agencies and US airlines and thus an application with an extremely high need for reliability. PASS Consulting was able to deliver the turnkey ARC Memo Manager in only five months of project time. “ARC had very comprehensive functionality on its wish list and high expectations for quality,” said Stefan Luckhaus, the PASS project manager.
“At the same time, the system had to get to the market ASAP. By using our Software Factory, we could satisfy all the requirements without exception and even implement later modifications flexibly.” Afterward, PASS also made the Software Factory framework available to the client, so small changes could be handled by the ARC staff. Paul Stief explained: “It’s not our objective to use knowledge as a means of control, but rather to empower our customers to solve challenges themselves.”
Access to any modules in an existing arsenal
The Software Factory is the foundation of another PASS product: VTO 2G. The modular Virtual Travel Organizer 2G system is based on the service-oriented architecture. With VTO Second Generation, all the players in the travel industry (travel management companies, corporate clients, service providers, global distribution systems and providers from other sectors) can have applications developed specifically for them. VTO 2G enables access to any modules in an existing arsenal which includes standard functions such as booking flights, hotels and rental cars but also specials such as customer relations management functions, a profile database, direct connections to service providers and travel management functions. “Anyone can put together an application to meet individual requirements,” promised Michael Strauss.
Here too, the fundamental concept is that users have an easy-to-operate interface developed according to the latest standards for usability and – typical for PASS – be able to connect to the GDS of their choice. “We are able to implement customer wishes quickly but nonetheless individually,” said Michael Strauss. With the Software Factory and its building block principle, PASS provides “individuality off the shelf” with VTO 2G. The process engine models the individual rules and workflows for the customer, and each service in the VTO 2G library can also be used individually at the same time.
Furthermore PASS implemented the following features to VTO 2G:
Active Selling: This function shows additional content related information so the travel agent is able to escort his customer with planning the rest of the trip.
Active Consulting: Based on rules this function helps to support the agent in providing relevant facts on the planned trip (e.g. warnings issued by the state department).
Active Customer Care: This enables the integration of CRM-functions into the consulting and booking process.
Quick search: The use of traditional native GDS screen commands for requests will increase the performance of experienced agents. The response will be displayed in VTO’s well-established graphical format.
What can the use of VTO 2G be like specifically? Travel management companies can have a state-of-the-art booking front-end constructed for agents at the point of sale. Service providers of every kind can use VTO 2G for access to their content to meet today’s needs: users can be agencies or even companies to which the service provider wants to sell directly. Global distribution systems can also bring a modern booking platform in-house with VTO 2G, covering the need for multi-GDS usage at the same time.
This would provide a single interface independent of their own content which could satisfy customer requirements for additional GDS access. And last but not least, VTO 2G is an ideal framework for companies wanting to taking control of their travel management again, which are looking for an electronic tool to facilitate this. “The variability and flexibility of VTO 2G results in many possible applications.” Truly software development of the next generation.
Image by nmedia