Choosing a Technology Partner – 25 Point Checklist
April 17, 2018 – How do you know that you’ve made the right technology decision? Whether you’re new to tramada® travel technology or, like most of our clients, you’ve been on our platform for several years – or perhaps you’re still in the process of selecting the solution you need – one thing is certain: in today’s complicated travel industry things are constantly changing. There are more pressures, regulations and decisions to be made than you can wave a magic wand at.
And guess what, the travel business landscape of tomorrow will likely be even more confusing!
Now more than ever it’s important to know you’ve selected the best strategy, solution and support for your travel business. So how do you know what the right technology decision looks like?
Increasingly, technology is your strategy
That’s because aside from the undoubted importance of personal contact with travelers, technology is rapidly becoming your business strategy. It streamlines efficiency, improves productivity, minimizes risk, provides a differentiation and can give insights that are critical to your ability to grow a successful business. All this has elevated technology in every type of travel organization: small independents that need to compete with the big guys, franchises and consortia representing a range of agencies, or mega agencies with a global presence.
One big fly in the travel technology ointment is that keeping pace with current and future technology demands is a constantly moving target, requiring businesses to engage experts in the field.
So, where do you start?
Answer: the cloud-based solution. From the perspectives of hardware and software cost, maintenance, ease-of-access and security, it’s definitely the way to go. That’s because it allows you to concentrate on your travel business and hand-off the challenges of technology to the experts.
The next hurdle is selecting the right technology solution from the right experts who are capable of giving you what you need today, and tomorrow.
However, shopping around for that capability – the combination of the best product, industry best practices, technical innovation, and proven support – can be a minefield, so here’s some help.
It’s all about capability
It’s important to only consider systems that have a proven track record and client references, so if you’re tempted to talk to new vendors who can’t give you believable testimonials, think twice. It’s one thing to be told by a vendor how great they are, but it’s quite another to hear it from a real-life customer who is happy to share their experiences and inform your decision-making.
It also bears repeating that while price is always a huge consideration, you are making a business investment that will power your business for the next five years or more.
Next, it’s all about the three Ps: product, product, product. Forget colorful brochures and fancy website images, and instead only settle for a live demo – preferably one showing features and functionality that are relevant to your business, and including plenty of time to ask questions and get answers to how the product meets your specific needs, such as:
- Is it compatible with any and all GDSs? And on that topic, does it have real-time credit control with them? Is it capable of giving you the details of all the segments you generate on each GDS?
- Is it able to get data from web-based sources to complement GDS sources?
- Is it compliant with PCI DSS, the critical security standard for handling branded credit cards from major card schemes?
- Does it have an auto-invoicing capability?
- Does it interface with your online portal, if you have or plan to build one?
- If you are an IATA agency, is it capable of auto ARC reconciliation with PDF file you can download from the ARC link for settlement of financial transactions between you and the airlines?
- Can it reconcile transactions with hotels, car rental companies or similar services?
- With agency debit memos (ADMs) taking a significant amount of revenues, does the system track these with a high degree of accuracy and report ability?
- Is it fully integrated with your online booking engines (OBEs)?
- Does it support multi-user, multi-location and multi-department capabilities?
- Does it integrate seamlessly with your financial systems in terms of account coding, number of levels and grouping/regrouping activities? Is there seamless integration with your financial system, allowing easy and accurate issuing of invoices, statements and customer self-service if you have a client portal?
- Does it provide reporting functionality that includes drill-down capability from Ticket/PNR level all the way up to the balance sheet?
- Is it flexible in terms of defining user roles and giving access rights to each – at both the menu level and at the action level (add, update, delete, print, reprint etc.)?
- Does it allow you to correct data entry errors as well as control what levels of users can do this?
- Does it give you full audit trail and version control capabilities with a lock/unlock facility at the user level, day/period level, document level etc.?
- Does it make year-end reconciliation and reporting easy and straight-forward?
- Also, on reporting, does it provide day-to-day reports such as sales report, productivity reports, customer reports, supplier reports, accounts payable and accounts receivable reports and airline reports?
- Is all this reporting capability dynamic up to the minute?
- Is it built with future with future enhancements in mind? Does it have a track record of successfully integrating with best-of-breed solutions from third parties?
- What database engine does it use? Here you need to balance the benefits of a proven propriety database with ongoing license fees.
- Does it offer both automatic and manual back-up capability?
- Can the system export data in the primary formats of CSV, Excel, XML and PDF?
- Is the system built around the way things get done in your business? That is, is it more process oriented and less people oriented?
- Does the system make mining and understanding data easy with BI dashboards and charts that are accessible on a range of devices?
- Does it have CRM capabilities?
All about support
Support – before, during and after implementation – this is the next most important box that a mid-office software solution must tick.
Here again, testimonials and references from existing clients can be paramount to ensure the vendor has the high level of infrastructure, expertise and experience to provide implementation and ongoing online support. Pay particular attention to the vendor’s history of tracking issues, which will invariably arise, so that when they do they are subject to comprehensive tracking procedures.
Another point about implementation: when moving from an existing system, make sure your new vendor has a proven history of migration success.
At the end of the day
Working with the right travel technology partner lets you focus on what makes your agency unique while knowing that your technical environment is secure, flexible, scalable and reliable. That’s what capability is all about.
In summary, research the vendor’s experience and track record in the travel industry, the solution’s innovation, reliability, security and support, and, last but far from least, the value for money it delivers to your organization’s bottom line.
And as you can see from this comprehensive guide, if you’ve selected tramada –or you are about to– you’ve already ticked the boxes with a flexible, stable solution that is future-proofed with the evolution of travel technology in mind!