How to Successfully Change to a New OBT

August 4, 2020

One advantage of having spent many years in the travel technology industry is the benefit of perspective.

In the early 1980s I went to travel school, and at that time travel automation was an optional elective. In preparation for becoming travel agents, we learned how to read an Official Airline Guide (OAG) and published tariffs, phone each airline separately to confirm flights (and there were dozens back then,) and hand-write airline tickets, swiping each with a machine that functioned like a credit card imprinter with red carbon between each coupon.

How times have changed.

Travel agency evolution – a brief history

The first travel agency I worked for had just installed GDS system Sabre, which I was keen to master. Within a year I moved to a corporate-oriented agency and eventually became responsible for coordinating a transition from Sabre to Apollo. As my career progressed, I saw even more change for the industry: Travel agencies became automated and account management services evolved to optimize customers’ travel programs through consultative services and management reporting.

In the 1990s, a small group of very bright people in Silicon Valley looked at internet technology and thought the time was right to introduce the concept of self-service for travel bookings. This team created one of the first booking tools, Internet Travel Network (ITN), which competed almost exclusively with Sabre’s Business Travel Solutions product. ITN was re-branded as GetThere, and soon after that, Sabre acquired it.

I joined GetThere in 1999, not knowing if this new technology would be fleeting or transformational. We found ourselves evangelizing a blossoming industry, but at its core, our focus was change management. At the time, clients were asking, “Why would I make my own travel reservations when my assistant has always done that for me?” We needed to help people understand the benefits of this new way of doing things.

Eventually, the economic and personal benefits became clear, and most companies found a partner to help them move from assisted to self-service travel booking. It was an onerous change for some companies, not unlike making a move from your first apartment to your first home. Moving can be so stressful!

Fifteen years after leaving GetThere, now working as a Solutions Consultant at Deem, I’ve found that those same companies that were early adopters of self-booking technology have remained with their original booking tools. Now, everyone knows technology changes rapidly. Travel technology solutions have broadened over all this time. What technology hasn’t done is transform the human response to change. So, my sense is that even now, companies struggle to embrace and manage change.

Travel technology’s modern problem – and solution

These days, most travelers have used an online booking software solution for either business or personal travel. There is now a demand for more user-focused corporate tools to keep travelers within a managed program, to meet duty of care responsibilities, and manage overall costs. Travelers are more and more vocal about their displeasure with legacy booking tools. But is the effort of converting to a newer, more modern OBT worth it?

We understand the concern. Selecting the latest technology that travelers want to use is one thing but having the confidence of a successful deployment is something else. For booking tools with implementation plans that include a strong change management component, the answer to that question is a resounding yes.

At Deem, we make sure our software takes advantage of the newest technology and innovations. We also take a holistic approach to site implementation and activation for our customers. This includes:

A seamless communication process that spans the duration of our partnership and positions us to exceed your expectations

Repeatable processes that drive rapid activation of the Deem platform and define a clear understanding of requirements, deliverables, and agreed-upon success metrics

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, as outlined in the graphic below.
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, as outlined in the graphic below.

Notice that Change Management and Adoption represent two of the five phases of our project plan.

The Change Management phase tailors training and communication plans to each customer’s culture and scope. We leverage best practices from a wide range of industries, while tailoring these approaches to each customer. Our change management tools include instructional videos, online guided help, and group-specific dynamic site messaging that can be directed to any number of user groups, from novice travelers to road warriors, from executives to their assistants.

Adoption strategies monitor initial end-user reaction to activation emails and their first use of the new system. Deem’s site structure supports unique group settings that define content, site messaging, custom fields, payment types, and policy for each user group. 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 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 not only properly configuring your online booking tool to support your travel program, but one that can also tailor 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 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.


Author

Tim Ring
Senior Solutions Consultant

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 earlier this year 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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