How to Successfully Change to a New OBT

January 31, 2023

I’ve seen a lot in my 40 years in the travel industry, but the one thing that’s been consistent is change. From distribution channels to booking methods, the travel industry has never stood still.

Corporate travel management gets its start

My first travel job was working for a Denver agency that had just installed a Sabre reservation system. Until then most every booking was made by phone or fax, so this new technology significantly speeded up the process. 

Within a year I moved to a corporate-oriented agency and eventually coordinated a transition from Sabre to Apollo. We were in Denver, and United revenues were key to the agency’s financial success, prompting the move to United’s Apollo GDS. It was a new era of corporate travel management.

In the late 1990s I was recruited to work for one of the first online booking tools (OBTs), Internet Travel Network (ITN), which was soon re-branded as GetThere. Not long after that, GetThere was acquired by Sabre. Other self-booking, OBT options soon entered the market, most notably Concur.

In those days, no one knew whether these new travel management tools would be fleeting or transformational. We found ourselves evangelizing a blossoming industry, but clients were asking, “Why would I make my own travel reservations when my assistant has always done that for me?” At its core, our focus was change management — we needed to help people understand the benefits of this new way of doing things.

Today, travelers expect to use intuitive business travel software themselves. The newest challenge is in finding a trip management software that is powerful enough for even complex business travel programs and also intuitive for travelers to use as now-ubiquitous consumer travel platforms.

A new approach in business travel

The whole notion of change management has, well, changed over the years. It used to connote forcing users to do something they wouldn’t otherwise want to do. Now, change is inevitable, and its management is more about guiding the flow than forcing new ways.

Prior to the pandemic, companies were looking for ways to impose company-centric solutions on their employees. Today, employees are driving decisions in significant ways. For example, in the face of clunky travel solutions, companies are looking to delight their travelers and arrangers.

And those users are much more open to change than they used to be, provided it meets the WIFM principle: What’s in it for me? Travelers are more sophisticated than they’ve ever been and most navigate consumer tools with ease. They expect corporate travel management solutions to be just as easy to use. 

Companies continue to look for managed business travel programs that meet their duty of care and supplier program requirements, but they’ve realized that trip booking command and control does not work as well as empowering their employees to make the best travel choices. The good news is that it’s no longer either/or.

At Deem, we put the traveler at the center of our designs. Our award-winning mobile app has seen significantly increased activity in the last few years. Users are delighted, getting all the information they need to make the most informed decisions, including safety and sustainability information, in a single place. And travel managers benefit from increased program compliance.

Technology is only part of the solution

How a new solution is deployed is key to any successful business travel program. At Deem, we take a holistic approach to site implementation and activation for our customers. This includes:

  1. A seamless communication process that spans the duration of our partnership and positions us to exceed customer (and traveler) expectations
  2. Repeatable processes that drive rapid activation of the Deem platform and define a clear understanding of requirements, deliverables, and agreed-upon success metrics
  3. A team-based approach that matches experience and skill sets with a broad range of customers based on industry, complexity, and geography

Our five-stage process is flexible enough to accommodate complex configuration requirements and structured enough to accommodate aggressive timelines. The steps are straightforward and cover every aspect of the transition.

Activation Phase Key Tasks: Evaluation, Enablement, Change Management, Adoption, Expansion
Activation Phase Key Tasks

Notice that change management and adoption represent two of the five phases of our project plan.

Business travel program adoption & compliance

Our unique approach to change management is based on empowering travelers rather than imposing a command and control model. It’s tailored to each customer’s culture and scope, and leverages best practices from a wide range of industries.

Training videos and online guides can be posted on a company’s intranet, through a desktop hyperlink, or embedded in the Help area of our mobile app.

Deem’s dynamic site structure supports any number of user groups, from novice travelers to road warriors, from executives to their assistants. Each group can support its own set of business rules, including dynamic site messaging, providing tailored messaging, and targeted training, for any user type.

Deem’s adoption strategies monitor initial end-user reaction to activation emails and their first use of the new system. Deem’s flexible site administration module allows quick adjustments to address user requirements. This optimizes rapid activation of complex use cases.

Change doesn’t have to be painful

If you partner with the right organization, you can gain the benefits of leading-edge travel technology that travelers actually enjoy using, while supporting your company objectives of reducing costs and maximizing supplier partnerships. Central to your success is leveraging the right team that is capable of properly configuring your online booking tool to support your travel program and also tailoring communications and training across the full spectrum of travelers. You need a partner that understands the challenges of change management and helps you navigate them.

At Deem, we don’t just make software — we’re a consultative travel technology company that helps solve problems for both travel and business. Having worked for multiple travel companies throughout my career, I truly believe Deem provides the best teams to take your travel program to the next level.

You can see Deem’s online booking tool, Etta, by contacting us for a demo.

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Tim Ring
Director of Solutions Consulting

Tim is a travel veteran who’s worked in travel operations, implementations, account management, and solutions consulting at a list of big travel companies you know, including American Express Travel (now GBT), GetThere and Concur. He returned to Deem in May 2019 to build out our Solutions Consulting team. Tim now lives in New Orleans where he enjoys amazing local music and food. Tim loves to travel and has visited all 50 states and over 30 countries.

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