Platform Updates for Q3 2017

Now that we’ve finished the third quarter, we wanted to share some exciting platform updates that we released this quarter and provide some insight into upcoming releases.

Many of you are familiar with our different products, but what you may not realize is that our products are specific combinations of features and functions built on three technology platforms designed to integrate seamlessly with each other. These features and functions focus on data acquisition services, data normalization, data warehousing, business intelligence and analytics.

If you would like to learn more about the enhancements or platforms highlighted below, please contact your Account Manager or Customer Support.

iBank® Platform

The iBank team continued their hard work to update and release iBank reports in the updated code base. We have now rolled out 37% of total reports – while improving report quality and server efficiency. The reports released represent our most commonly accessed reports as well as some of our most complex. We are continuing to release the most complex reports in our next few release cycles. It has now been 10 months since we released the new iBank infrastructure, and we have found that we are not only able to fix defects in a shorter time (90% less time) but also that we can respond to custom requests faster than ever.

Our focus in iBank remains on the monthly financial reports and travel data reports that operations teams and team managers depend on for the daily management of business operations at a TMC or corporation. The need for standard reporting that automatically broadcasts to employees remains critical for most of our client – and we have also seen a need for greater on demand analysis and data visualization.

We built a deeper integration with our TravelOptix® Platform, enabling the back-office data to be accessed through the new TravelOptix Spend Analysis App™. Learn more about that App in the TravelOptix update.

We also continued to make additional progress on our investment Project Basin. Our first phase of development is focused on creating a new data cleanser – an entirely new approach to data cleansing. Our focused team of platform experts and engineers has been crafting use cases and developing data requirements as we look towards the release of the new capabilities later this year.

iQCX® Platform

This quarter we developed updates for iQCX Ticketing around services fees and EMDs, and our teams are focused on testing the capabilities with a select group of customers. These new capabilities enable the automatic ticketing for bookings that include additional services fees and EMDs. We continue to work closely with our GDS partners, especially Amadeus, as we consume their new Web Services.

After deploying the new Composer version to all of our ResRule writers at the end of Q2, we continued to release enhancements throughout Q3. Of particular importance, we updated the rules around Sample PNR timeouts for our ResRule writers who are working hard to create and update rules for their businesses. We are also seeing the improvements in security, stability, and performance that we expected.

We added Sample PNR search to the PNR search functionality. We also added a new tab for “Ancillary Services,” enabling search queries around PNRs with ancillary services. We enhanced our air segment searches and added search capabilities around segment type for car and hotel.

Overall, we released 42 enhancements to the iQCX platform this quarter. For more information on these enhancements, please contact Customer Support.

TravelOptix Platform

The TravelOptix team has been busy delivering Apps to our customers. The available Apps are Spend Analysis App™, Seatchecker App™, and TicketTRAK App™. The Spend Analysis App is the cornerstone App available on the TravelOptix platform, and leverages back office data from iBank. The Spend Analysis App has been refined throughout Q3 and now offers more than 300 dimensions, 150 measures, and 75 visualizations across 19 sheets. Learn more here and watch the video.

In Q3, the team has developed a new standard App for TravelOptix. The TravelOptix Reservation Analysis App™ is the sister App to the Spend Analysis App. It provides similar insight and understanding, but leverages reservation data instead. This allows customers to get an entirely different set of insights on their pre-trip data and compare it in real-time to their back-office data. This App will launch in Q4, but we are interested in making it available to any clients who want to be early adopters.

We also started work on a new App in support of our Schedule Change Manager™ product. The TravelOptix Schedule Change Manager App™ will provide insight and analysis on schedule change data from Schedule Change Manager. To learn more about Schedule Change Manager, contact your Account Manager.

As the TravelOptix platform grew in Q3, the engineering team spent more time building custom Apps for customer’s unique business needs. Our professional services team and platforms experts have delivered more than 25 custom Apps and implementations in Q3. With each engagement, we work with the customer to address their specific use cases, craft visualizations meant for their individualized needs, and provide training across the organization.

We also worked to refine our App deployment process that your Apps and any updates to them can be updated as efficiently and seamlessly as possible.

4site® Platform

The 4site Platform released enhancements to its notification systems and traveler mapping capabilities. Individual users can now select the types of notifications they would like to receive based on the customers and travelers they support.

We built this customization option because we understand that some agents may want to focus on areas in distress, as we just experienced with Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria, and the earthquake in Mexico. But we also recognize that some agents are dealing with a select group of VIP travelers and working to ensure every step along the way is completely seamless.

In addition to the custom notifications, we’ve enhanced our traveler mapping to group travelers by location, from continent down to the city level. Users can seamlessly zoom in and out, switch continents, and access traveler data from a single window.

The 4site team is focused delivering the platform to new customers. We are adding more than 15,000 bookings to 4site every month, and alerting clients and their travelers on a quarter million flight disruptions events every month.


Chatbots in Travel & What They Mean

They aren’t new, but they are making a splash right now. Chatbots—or, when in Rome, travel bots—are messaging apps infused with artificial intelligence so that travelers can ask questions or book travel and get instantaneous solutions. They are not some sci-fi dream come true, as the frequent references to artificial intelligence would suggest. What they ARE is data. Travel bots are driven by all sorts of data, and what they can provide is really about how much and what kind of information is integrated into the system.

Our CEO Mat Orrego shares his thoughts on travel bots and insights from Marc Casto, CEO, Casto Travel. Read more.


Data Visualization Best Practices for Travel Organizations

Plenty of people believe that data visualization is simply making numbers look nice, but data visualization serves several important purposes—and it can be supremely helpful once you’ve grasped its place in the big picture of your business.

One reason data visualization works so well for humans is that we process visual information much more quickly and efficiently through the brain’s visual cortex. It doesn’t require much effort. With numbers, on the other hand, we must use the cerebral cortex, which takes longer and uses more energy. Simply put, it’s just easier for the human mind to make sense of complex information when it is presented visually.

But there’s more. Not all data is what it appears to be. Take Anscombe’s Quartet, for example. Anscombe’s Quarter demonstrates that four different sets of numbers may seem to be very similar, but when presented visually, it becomes clear they are entirely different.

The difference perfectly demonstrates why data visualization works so much better for humans when it comes to understanding complex information. So how can travel companies use data visualization to get better insights and become more innovative? We start with four best practices.


1). Measure your perceptions

Ask the right questions, THEN find the right measures. Our perceptions are frequently off base with reality. For instance, there is a widespread perception in the Western world that Europe is rife with terrorist attacks; however, a look at a world map shows that Europe has relatively few attacks in comparison with many other locations.

Checking in on your perceptions of trends and ROI is essential to making shifts in your approach that actually matter. Create questions around perceptions and then explore the reality. For instance, you might ask:

  • What is our advance purchase by department?
  • What is the top true origin and destination?
  • What is our top property in our top destination?
  • Have airfare averages increased to the top destination? Is this because of advance purchase trends (something that can be controlled) or external circumstances?

For the purposes of our exploration here, the organization in question believes their air spend is too high, and that they are being too frivolous in booking trips.


2). Question Your KPIs

KPIs are not created equally throughout all data sets.  For instance, using averages alone can create problems that really can only be seen through data visualization. Let’s say you’re looking at airfare spend. (We’ll use an outlandish outlier to prove the point here, but you almost certainly have some of these seemingly outlandish numbers hidden around in your data, skewing the results.) You have the following data set:

{254, 300, 325, 380, 465, 480, 540, 100,000}

The average of airfares is: $12,843

The median, however, is: $423


Visualizing both the average and the median would be important. Why? Because a visual of the average show you very clearly that there is an outlier you should account for that would, in fact, lead you to believe the air spend it too high. When you see the outlier, it raises fresh questions about the data?

With the median, on the other hand, you get a real sense of what’s happening with airfare costs, especially if the outlier is accurate. For instance, one or two super costly airfares threw off the budget.


3). Keep it easy
With access to a great deal of data, we tend to complicate things. Keep your data visualization simple by choosing three or four essential trends to review within a category, thereby ensuring you can really see the trends. Again, notice the difference between your ability to make sense of data when it is presented as numbers vs. images.

In this example, we have chosen to look at air spend, the volume of air tickets, and the average of airfare over the same periods of time across three different airlines. The main takeaway: Spending on airfare is down over a two year time period, but it has more to do with a drop in the volume of tickets purchased than it does with airfare. This directly challenges the original perception that the organization is being frivolous with flights. It also raises more valuable questions for an organization. Why has the volume dropped? What is the effect of this drop in volume on the organization (i.e., Is the sales team making fewer visits to clients and, if so, what is the effect on sales volume and revenue)?


4). Provide the answer

Ultimately, the question at hand here is “How much is my air spend?” With the visual representation, you can see clearly what a 22.7% decline in air spend looks like, and it is far more substantial than the number would suggest. Not only is spend not off the charts, it is consistently better than it’s been in the past two years.

Data visualization really is, at its core, about perception versus reality and our enhanced ability to make sense reality when we’re able to process information more effortlessly. Organizations are able to integrate various other data sources together to explore innovative, previously untapped, areas of productivity. For instance, what is each sales person’s ROI on trips? What would a shift in hotel policy look like for revenue and/or team satisfaction? Does having more amenities included in the hotel rate have an impact on overall trip spend (i.e., breakfast, golf, etc.)? The opportunities for exploring are seemingly endless, which is why it is essential to start simple, pay attention to KPIs, and present it simply when representing the data.