Frédéric Stark, CTO of KDS
Since the advent of the internet in the 1990s, the pace of technological innovation has accelerated, enabling businesses to create, disrupt and maximise their output. While small businesses are nimble in nature and have the ability to change direction easily, larger organisations are increasingly driving change with new ideas and collaborating with disruptors to improve processes. A recent KPMG survey found that 61% of CEOs plan to partner with start-ups in order to gain insight and learn new techniques that they could adopt.
The business travel industry is facing pressure to adapt and adopt new technology, led by a need to improve and simplify the user experience. Consumer online booking sites have changed business traveller expectations and companies are now looking to innovate and incorporate technology that will not only help to meet the expectations of today’s traveller, but also prepare them for the future.
Regardless of size, as an industry, we need to be able to try new things and at times, to test ideas and accept that they might fail, until we finally succeed. Bots, Blockchain, IOT, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are some of the technologies that that could transform the business travel industry, not only meeting expectations, but perhaps even surpassing them. While expectations are high, the goal should be to offer a simpler, more productive experience for the end user.
Preparing for future innovation
Often it can seem daunting to embrace change, and the full impact of new technology may not be immediately clear, but businesses should be prepared to innovate.
When the iPhone launched in 2007, it was considered to be just a fun new way to make calls, take photos and browse the internet. No one could have anticipated how reliant on it we would become; 10 years later and users can now download millions of applications daily to facilitate practically every aspect of their lives.
Automatic cars may experience a similar cycle – will they become one of the biggest technological break-throughs in transportation? In my opinion – absolutely. It is highly likely that they will revolutionise not only how we travel, but will also have unexpected long-term effects on the environment and our entire way of life. We cannot yet fully anticipate the impact that they will have on future generations. Perhaps like the iPhone, it will be impossible to imagine a world without them.
As an industry, we need to be thinking what the next ‘iPhone’ of business travel technology could be and apply that mentality to all aspects, from the end user experience through to back-office processes.
Adopting a fail fast approach
Business travel has significantly moved on since the adoption of the internet, SaaS services and mobile devices. Travellers are now able to book a trip in one click and at the same time, automatically generate their expense reports. However, business travel processes are more complex and the route to creating a simple and personalised experience is an ongoing process that requires developers to constantly evaluate new and existing technologies.
To achieve this, failure or fail fast – a crucial aspect of agile development methodology – is a central part of the learning process and perfecting digital solutions. Fail fast is not about developing the coolest new gadget, instead it is an approach where a company will develop a product while conducting many small experiments, with the knowledge that some will work, and some will fail. The ultimate goal is to learn from the failures and eventually find an idea that works well and brings real business value to the end user. The philosophy is, if you’re not failing, you’re not trying.
For example, Blockchain and IOT are well-known technologies, but the challenge today is discovering how they can be used in the most productive way to benefit the user experience. The complex nature of the business travel industry must introduce new ideas that work for clients, as well as with suppliers. Trialling ideas internally and prototyping what could work before rolling out widely is the way forward.
Introducing successful technology
AI is one form of technology that has taken the world by storm and has unlimited potential in the business travel industry. We’re currently at a point of widespread adoption and the opportunities are snowballing.
To optimise AI though, there needs to be a data-driven process behind it. The more varied and precise the data provided is, the easier it is to create “intelligent” algorithms which can predict and push relevant and personalised information to travellers, while respecting company travel policy.
We are introducing AI into our solutions to ensure that the user experience is constantly improved. For example, one area that we’re exploring is how to transform the long strings of text and codes that describe hotel services into clear information for users. Hotels send details on amenities such as free Wi-Fi, breakfast service, or special rates to booking services in a way that is indecipherable to someone not in the industry. By using Natural Language Processing (NLP), an AI technology, we can automatically translate cryptic, coded supplier information into clear, accessible listings of amenities for users. Travellers then have a full set of details to compare options, and hotels can expand the range of business travel offerings knowing that they can easily be presented to customers in an online booking environment.
It is clear that AI has been and will continue to be disruptive within business. It has drastically changed our world and soon it will assist the business traveller at every step of their journey. It’s only a matter of time before this becomes yesterday’s technology and another innovation captures the industry’s attention.
As a CTO, I am constantly tuned into the buzz around new technologies and I work to adapt and adopt them where I see appropriate in order to transform our company and benefit our customers. The best way to predict the future is to invent it.
This article was published in Phocuswire. You can read it here.