The Travel Corporation has chosen Informatica Cloud to migrate its on-premise systems and data into Salesforce.com, and for its master data management (MDM) programme.
Global director of 360 engagement Jon Pickles says Informatica Cloud MDM fitted the bill because it was not developer-led and suited the complexity of the travel company’s multi-brand business.
“We are not a development house. Our IT developers are fully maxed-out doing the operational systems," he says. "I wanted to move away from a programmer-led process to a more agile, data-led process, where the toolset allows you to map your data and make changes quickly.”
The Travel Corporation comprises a raft of travel and tourism operators, such as Contiki Holidays and Trafalgar Tours. It operates in 60 countries, serving more than two million travellers.
It introduced a data governance initiative in 2008, four years after embarking on a data-cleansing exercise in preparation for deploying its customer relationship management (CRM) system.
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But when Pickles joined the company in January 2014, with a deep background on the software side of the travel industry as director of information management, he discovered a CRM platform that was no longer working for the company. Within six months he found a better system.
The system in place was an on-premise Microsoft CRM, with an MDM system “loosely based on SAP” and a “data quality hub” developed in-house running in conjunction.
“It was a heavily bastardised solution, which was very hard to change," says Pickles. "I needed to find something that would support a global business, be multi-brand and could be easily changed so we could be more agile.”
Salesforce integration key
Pickles says he was initially driven to Informatica for MDM because of its support for Salesforce, which was the cloud CRM system he had chosen.
“Microsoft’s on-premise CRM is too development-led for our purposes," he says. “We have quite a complex business – 30 brands over 60 countries and in the order of two million travellers worldwide.
I needed to find something that would support a global business, be multi-brand and could be easily changed so we could be more agile
Jon Pickles, The Travel Corporation
"We have data coming in from the websites for those brands and each website has been developed differently. We have four different reservation systems and a huge volume of data in a variety of formats. If you put all that together, you can have customers who maybe book with one brand and then another. To get a 360-degree view of the customer, I need something meaty.
“When I looked at MDM products, they were mostly on-premise. From Gartner reports I started seeing Informatica’s Cloud MDM, and saw it integrated well with Salesforce.”
To carry out a proof of concept, Pickles and his team had a “small window of opportunity” governed by the fact the firm has its global sales conferences in August, when most of its customers are on holiday. He did his research in April, signed in June and needed something fit for purpose by August 2014.
Pickles looked at three technologies closely and says Informatica was the only one that would work with The Travel Corporation quickly enough on a proof of concept, which they did with Cloud Perspective, an Informatica partner.
“The others have connectors for Salesforce. The differentiator was that the others required a heavy development team implementation," he says.
With a programme manager, Cloud Perspective and himself as designer, Pickles completed a “pretty intensive pilot” in May, before signing in June 2014. The system was rolled out to 300 sales managers at three conferences two months after that.
Becoming more agile with a new architecture
Pickles' overall vision was for the firm to be more agile, and he says the new architecture enables his small team achieve that.
The ability to recover if you make a mistake is also important, says Pickles. “Informatica Cloud MDM masters data, but also stores source data as well. So if you have to unwind anything and re-apply it, it is very quick to do that. I would say recovery is a huge benefit here,” he adds.
Building software is a difficult thing, and the travel industry is very complex
Jon Pickles, The Travel Corporation
Next is to move beyond sales to the “guest relations” callcentre staff.
The new system should, says Pickles, promote business growth by tracking customers across the firm’s brands more effectively.
“Our company is made up of businesses that have been either acquired or built up by The Travel Corporation," he says. "The time to get a company onboard is often constrained by the ability to pull in their data. So this new system helps with that process”.
The three main brands – Contiki, Trafalgar, and Insight – are on the platform, and others are following.
“Building software is a difficult thing, and the travel industry is very complex," Pickles says. "We are a tour operator, we are not a development house. Buy not build has been my mantra for this.”