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In order to transform from a traditional global distribution system operator to a next-generation travel commerce platform, Travelport needed help from several of what CIO Matt Minetola called "technology enablers."
Those technology enablers have helped the company become a leader in mobile commerce and B2B payment solutions, with a peak of 18,000 mobile messages sent per second and approximately $83 billion of travel spending processed in 2017 -- similar to eBay in scale.
In part one of this interview, Minetola detailed Travelport's ongoing digital transformation journey and the cultural and recruiting challenges the company has encountered along the way. Here, in part two, he talks about the "technology enablers" that make up the $2.4 billion company's "digital spine" and the benefits of its hybrid cloud approach.
Editor's note: This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.
Talk about the 'technology enablers,' as you call them, that have been critical to Travelport's digital transformation plan success?
1. Machine learning
Matt Minetola: It's firstly around building a capability and an expertise around machine learning. If you think about the digital part of digital transformation, it is really around your ability to react and manage and deliver targeted solutions. Early on, we built out a machine learning capability that does that and we believe that is a core enabler that will drive our ability to be successful across any of the places we touch.
2. Mobile technology
Minetola: Another piece that we believe is important is around experience. Some people call that mobile. We purchased early -- about three years ago -- a mobile front-end capability/company, and that [purchase] was really around ensuring that we understood the experience that customers really wanted and to be best in class to know how consumers consume data. You look at what companies like [General Electric] are buying, and they're buying all these companies to take on data because it's the age of the internet of things and they're trying to figure out how to how to manage that. We want to make sure that we have the expertise to be able to understand that consumption and be able to take on that data and the experience that customers needed, and so, we made sure we've doubled down on our mobile and experience capabilities.
Minetola: If you think about the travel [industry] space, it's all about delivering high-volume, targeted experiences. So, the only way you're going to do that is through the cloud. We're a global organization; we need to be able to create that consistent experience anywhere that you want and wherever you think you want to go. Knowing and having expertise to manage cloud capabilities and technologies and deploy them was the third thing that we've built capabilities on and is within the digital spine [at Travelport.]
Matt MinetolaCIO, Travelport
Minetola: The fourth core component we know that is critical is APIs. I need to be able to put things into the cloud; clearly, we need to be able to create the experience and, clearly, we need to be able to disseminate the data that is most relevant, but the way that everything is going to get done is through those APIs. So, we've really doubled down our investments around having a capability that will enable our customers to take on our data regardless of their own application preferences. Whether they want a heavy app or whether they want a simple app, our ability to deliver that content to them is all through the APIs.
5. Large-scale data processing
Minetola: A fifth one, which was probably one of our first implementations because it came out of what our legacy and our heritage was, is around speed, scale and performance. We know that we've got to be the best in class when it comes to the ability to process large-scale capabilities.
Those are the five core foundational components and we call them our technology enablers. We believe that if you've got those capabilities and that expertise, you'll be able to assemble whatever a customer needs. We know that every one of our customers needs those five capabilities.
Do you have any examples of how those technology enablers have had an impact on your business?
Minetola: By using machine learning, by having the capabilities and the knowledge around scale, speed and performance, and by deploying the cloud, we're able to now do exponentially more 'shops' or transactions. And these transactions are much richer and are being done in more or less a second, compared to several seconds previously. So, that allows our partners -- the people who use us -- to then be able to have that extra time to add on their secret sauce, their value-add or whatever they want to differentiate themselves and drive that further experience.
I know that Travelport utilizes a hybrid cloud approach. Why? What are the benefits of this approach?
Minetola: We're a technology company and we want to be able to provide our capabilities and services anywhere and anytime to wherever it is [needed]. So, our ability to run our services and our capabilities on anyone's cloud and be able to port them and move them around as our customers need and want them is really paramount to us. It's paramount to anybody in this digital world.
In our world, it's about enabling our customers and giving them an advantage. That's what's going to make us win in the marketplace. So, I can walk into any company and any customer travel company and partner with them no matter what it is that they're doing, whoever's cloud they're in, whatever their technology capability is. However they need me to plug and play, I now have that capability because I've built out those components.
[A customer] may be a regional player today and may not have had the expertise to go global; we can be the conduit that they use as technology enabler, as well as our capability to take that out across the globe and run anywhere. The ability to glue data together at size, scale and speed, and then move it wherever, on whoever's cloud, is going to be critical for us to be able to win in tomorrow's game.