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Feb'23 image
7 min read

Almost every organisation in the travel sector has now accepted that digital transformation is essential to stay competitive in an increasingly digital world. Yet, many continue to struggle with introducing and infusing this change throughout their company.  

During our Tcube event on Building a cohesive digital transformation strategy, we found that: 

 50% of participants were currently undergoing a digital transformation but are still facing some challenges or areas they want to improve. 
Meanwhile, 1 out of 5 could confidently say their transformation journey has been successful so far.

According to a study by PulsePoint Group, 84% of digital transformations fail. In a Forbes interview with partner Michael Gale, he revealed that shifting mentalities was a major challenge:

“I think a large part of that 84 percent fail because they're not prepared to change behaviour. They think they can just have strategy and technology, but it doesn't get them there fast enough or in a good enough way.”

What makes digital transformation such a challenge is that it’s not just about adopting new technology, processes, or tools, it’s about reshaping the mindset of your people. This can be especially difficult for legacy organisations with deeply ingrained practices.

Integrating change management, or the process of introducing business change within the social structure of your organisation, into your digital transformation journey can make the difference between success and failure. 

We have all heard the common statistic that a whopping 70% of change management initiatives fail. But what are the differences between successful and unsuccessful change management strategies? What are some of the key elements successful ones share?

We spoke with 4 travel sector professionals who shared their top tips on developing a successful change management strategy:

As we well know, digital transformation isn’t a fixed destination, but a continuous journey. There are always new tools, platforms, frameworks, and technologies evolving that can be leveraged to speed up our processes, provide deeper insights, and lessen the workload for employees and staff.

However, for all the benefits that adopting new tech can bring, the actual adoption process does take time and effort. This can, at times, cause the business to push the new tech agenda back to “a time when it’s more convenient.” The problem is that, in a business, there is never a ‘convenient time’ so to speak. But, falling behind on digital transformation in favour of business as usual tasks, will mean losing an edge against competitors who choose to innovate first. 

One of the most common questions we get from industry partners who want to adopt new technologies is how to integrate new tech vendors or new platforms with their existing systems. 

We spoke with experts in our network to get some of their advice and tips on the best way to solve integration challenges, whether you’re adopting external tech or developing a new internal platform. 

Identify your system of record

Edwin Lau, CEO of LEDR Technologies, knows the challenges companies face when trying to operate with several different platforms. As he explained:

“Most of the time, information and knowledge are scattered everywhere in an organisation. The average hotel has about 30-40 systems they work with (PMS, POS, Reservations, Guest satisfaction, CRM, HotSOS, Finance systems, etc).”

Just getting a holistic picture of a guest/customer typically requires you to assemble data from multiple systems — making it much more difficult to analyse and extract insights. LEDR helps solve this problem by creating real-time digital representations or twins. This means companies can analyse and gain insights into their data, without needing to move, replicate, or centralise it. 

This makes it much easier to create full customer profiles that allow you to, for example, figure out what kind of offers they might be interested in in the future or the best paths to building a loyal customer base.

Having worked with so many different industries and businesses within the tourism sector, we asked Lau for some best practice tips to ease the integration process and how to prepare your environment for integration. 

“No system has EVER been designed for interoperability to any other system. The aspiration to define any ‘common data infrastructure or format’ (which is what everyone tries to do) is also not likely to work. The reason for that is: technology will always advance to be more efficient and there will always be new information we want to capture. So it is virtually impossible for anyone to predict what those formats and conventions should be.

Most systems say: ‘I need information to come in a certain way, and I can only output in a certain way.’ Then it leaves it to the other system to figure out how to deal with that ‘format.’ That is why the interoperability of systems continues to be a very big challenge for almost every customer.”

Here are Lau’s tips:

  • Step 1: Start investigating to discover your true “system of record” 

The best way to prepare your environment is to understand: what core pieces of information do I need? Where do they exist currently? And how do I get access to it? Many customers are overwhelmed with their information space because they have adopted so many systems. Then, suddenly, you have no idea where your ‘system of record is.’

Often, it is scattered everywhere. Most would rather try to start with some “processed version.” But, unless you can reconstruct it from the source to the processed version, there will be little you can do with it because it becomes too brittle and will break very easily, which is what we see everywhere. 

  • Step 2: Articulate what you want to do in non-technical terms. 

What are the biggest challenges facing the business? Starting there is always best. The technology should fit the business problem, not the other way around. Just because you have a system in place doesn’t mean it is creating value. That is often one of the hardest things for clients, realising more isn’t always better. While ‘data is the new oil,’ not all data is worth anything.

APIs are key to scaling up and future proofing

Resorts World Sentosa has an ecosystem of five major attractions including Universal Studios Singapore, S.E.A. Aquarium, Adventure Cove Waterpark, Dolphin Island, and Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience. Having such a large number of attractions under one roof was challenging as they needed to process each travel agents’ bookings manually and faced fulfilment issues, such as, the inability to issue loose tickets in real time and on demand (resulting in bulk ticket ordering), open-dated tickets, and needing to keep prices fixed, regardless of demand. In addition, they had no visibility of who their customers were and where they came from. 

To solve these issues, they decided to build one B2B platform - a Partners Management System (PAMS)  where local and overseas Travel Agent (TA) partners can self-serve and manage any reservation, booking, issuance, and payment matters regarding RWS Attractions on a 24/7 basis. Application programming interfaces (APIs) allow two or more software components to ‘communicate with each other’ or send information back and forth. They were a key part of building a system that could be used for self-service. Now online travel agents can integrate with the PAMs system and retrieve products, checking availability, booking, payment, and query order. APIs are really the key to building a system that’s scalable and easy to integrate with other systems moving forward.

“We were able to reduce manual work performed at our Reservations Centre for purchases of bulk orders. In the past, we used to have two employees performing this function. After we deployed PAMS, the manual work for bulk orders has been replaced by travel agents self servicing through PAMS. The two employees in this role are now able to focus on other reservations-related tasks. 

In addition, the travel agents are no longer required to manually send in emails for advance bulk purchases, but can make purchases of any quantity at their convenience,” said a representative from Resorts World Sentosa.

The organisation also shared a few key learnings from this experience that the team hopes others take on board: 

  • Set clear objectives, requirements, and develop a clear customer journey
  • Architect and design the infrastructure and application with scalability to make it future proof
  • Hear out feedback/suggestions from online travel agents to understand how they are selling your products 
Search for vendors that offer middleware and a robust onboarding

Japanese tech company Kotozna made waves across the tourism sector with its multilingual in-room digital concierge that allows hotel guests to view hotel services, local tourism information, and communicate with staff all in their own language (the system supports 109 languages in total). 

After the success of its first product, the company sought to reach a much larger goal. Kotozna wants to create a more connected tourism experience to benefit local businesses. It plans to do this by introducing a digital keycard that guests can use, not only to access one’s room, but also to make cashless payments and use eCoupons.

The problem is that tourists don’t always have access to local cashless payment solutions such as LINE Pay in Japan or Alipay in China. With Kotozna’s keycard solution, everything can be charged to a guests’ hotel room including payments at local restaurants, attractions, and even taxi rides. 

Previously, not many of their customers needed to integrate their PMS with Kotozna’s technology. However, for cashless payments and eCoupons it will be a necessity. This introduced a new challenge as CEO Genri Goto explained.

“In Japan, there are a lot of silo PMS, so right now we’re developing a middleware to connect them more easily with our service.” 

Middleware provides a common interface for integration, reducing development time. In Kotozna’s case in particular, it will reduce more than 90% of the development time as they won’t have to develop with each individual PMS one by one. If you’re on the market for a new tool and concerned about how long integration might take, look for companies that offer a middleware based approach.

Systems integration is really just the first step. Remember that people are the most important part of the tech adoption process. Even if your new tech is integrated with your current system and running, if staff aren’t trained to use it, you won’t be able to enjoy the benefits. Given the nature of Kotozna’s solution (being used regularly by guests and staff alike), the company offers a comprehensive onboarding process that helps gain buy-in amongst different stakeholders.

If your business is facing challenges in its digital transformation, check out Tcube’s handy resources page with articles, workshops and webinars by thought leaders within the travel tech industry. You can also get in touch with our team for more information on partnership opportunities and pilot programs with our network of innovative, new startups.