GDS: Agent Desktops Seem To Be Inappropriate For Industry Conditions

Recently Sabre announced the launch of its agent tool that will as expected offer multi-GDS access. With Amadeus and Travelport all three GDSs offer connections to each other’s hosts now.

However, the given discontinuity of environment and volatility of the market caused by various mergers, political decisions and protectionism along with the economic downturns resulting in business travel budget cuts, make industry participants meeting new challenges.

Fast moving environments that elude any control, force suppliers to become more flexible to react on changing market conditions by providing an entire framework based on business objects that can be upgraded as needed. With this in mind, static desktop solutions as provided by Amadeus, Travelport and now Sabre seem to be developed with minor recognition of the mentioned industry developments.

GDSs Turn Out To Be A Closed System – Broken Though

These big three GDSs could literally be seen as a culture group whose members by definition have a strong connection to each other based on their similar habits, opinions and actions. This causes not only well-founded cohesion and solidarity but also mutual dependencies. As soon as these dependencies become too strong, the culture group turns into a closed system that limits flexibility and effectiveness of both the community and its members.

In closed systems new approaches to processes, systems, solutions and especially innovations hardly ever appear what leads to a decrease in self-aware reflection and considered response among one another. Existing processes become obsolete as they are missing continued improvement. Their lack of flexibility interfere responsiveness necessary in today’s fast moving environment. Travel industry shows considerable indications of closed systems and protectionism. The three GDSs try hard to stick to the status quo although they should follow the dogma: share and thereby rule! Industry experts say “The standard GDS model is broken” ( what forces the GDSs to unbundle their services.

4 Technology Requests

The resulting desired technology characteristics could be summarized by the following four main requirements.

Flexibility: An application has to be flexible and adjustable – without any developer’s additional input. This could be achieved by integrating a highly configurable rules engine and generic screens that can influence the already existing workflow. Thereby companies could be quick off the mark in case of shifts of the market, e.g. the recently introduced baggage fees that do not occur with every airline.

Usability: In terms of usability the system should be able to fulfill the following requirements:

  • Intuitive usage
  • Instant recognition (different content sources have to be provided with the same interface)
  • Automation of reoccurring functions
  • Intelligent individual user interface
  • Organizable Rules by means of tree structures
  • Different interfaces have to be served in a different way (mobile, desktop, IBE, Corporate IBE), but with the same business logic for similar functions

Maintainability: Technology should consist of reusable modules and adopt the approach of Service Oriented Application with each and every single element being addressable and internally as wells as externally connectable. At best, business analysts rather than developers should be responsible to define business processes and integrate them in the architecture. With developers only being in charge for building the fundaments the desired flexibility and maintainability might be achieved as intermediate steps could be eliminated and misunderstandings avoided.

Scalability: A huge amount of scalability is desirable since travel technology users are constantly faced to fast pace market environments. Flexibility and maintainability already cover a large part of these instabilities. However, it is likely that single modifications will have to be done on the fly.

Next generation products from companies like Farelogix and LUTE Technologies are already beginning to appear in the market place claiming to be capable to suit the already mentioned demands aroused by the threats described above.

Ownership Of Software vs. Technology Dependency

With these requirements for travel technology in mind, and new technologies being launched that provide the opportunity to substitute steps of the supply chain, TMCs have to try to keep pace with the changing trends instead of sticking to the status quo.

Travel industry not only suggests that distribution costs are way too high and in need to be cut but also that the existing supply chain is too long. On this note it’s interesting to see how airlines put effort in developing direct distribution. Furthermore, companies will aim to switch to in-house solutions regarding their travel management instead of services provided by travel agents or TMCs trying to become more independent.

Therefore, it’s hard to believe that TMCs following their leisure travel counterparts in putting all their eggs in the GDS basket who also compete with them on the sales front. Long term strategy might be clouded by shareholder value but endangers their raison d’être or might at least cause them losing significant amounts of market share.

Don’t sign your soul away

Recently Amadeus delayed the deployment of their Amadeus One product to 2011 since they realized that agents are much more efficient if they use keyboard shortcuts instead of the mouse.
Besides the fact that we have always focused on a dual strategy (keyboard & mousse), with our new architecture such change would in no event delay a roll-out by several month.Our technology for front end application is focused on the new WEB/Social Media/mobile era where you need to react to new movements in days rather than years – Flexibility is key: create new rules, modify the look & feel, capture new data, include internal as well as external services such as TripIt on the fly – you name it.

Our new PASS Agent Desktop, the successor of our Virtual Travel Organizer (VTO) which has been deployed on 20,000 agent desktops in 58 countries, is tailored to meet all requirements today and tomorrow. Sooner or later classical developments will reach their limits. You need to prepare your technology for services you might not even know they will exist. You cannot build a corporate online booking tool (Corporate –IBE), an Internet Booking Engine (IBE), an agent desktop and mobile application on 4 different platforms.

You can also not use an off-the-shelf product since you need to distinguish yourself from the competition. Thus you need to create your own individual platform based on standard components and reusable modules. The platform must serve any user interface which is important to you – be it an agent desktop, a mobile corporate exchange tool or a facebook application. We deliver individual solutions for the price of standard software which you can own and thus ensure your competitive advantage without signing your soul away.

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    Logan Paul

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