This analysis appeared May 17, 2013 in Cornerstone Information System’s “Insight & Opinion” section.
However risky, making technology predictions is a popular and occasionally enlightening pastime. I’ve found it helpful to have a “watch list” of projects and products that might be influential or require some business strategy adjustment.
Here is my current travel industry-related list, in no particular priority. I’ve indicated why I believe each is important and what the effects might be. Some obvious choices such as IATA’s NDC initiative are omitted as they are the subject of future posts.
The Signal and the Noise
The title of a 2012 book by Nate Silver on statistical predictions and why they fail, this term refers to the fundamental engineering and scientific concept that, in order to perform any sort of reasonable analysis, it is necessary to distinguish between what is to be measured (the signal) and background noise.
In travel technology, it is frequently helpful to make similar differentiations to distinguish between what is truly important and what simply sounds important. There are innumerable noise-makers throughout the industry telling their own versions of what deserves our attention.
Three important tests you might use to validate such assertions are:
- Why is this really important to more than a few people?
- What is the time frame over which it might become important?
- What special conditions might have to exist to make it important?
- Computing Platforms and MobilityWhile it’s true that consumer attitudes toward smart phones, tablets, laptops, and desktops are evolving, no one knows specifically how. People replace laptops with tablets partly because they enjoy their added mobility, but also because it isn’t a great sacrifice as most didn’t do much with their laptops anyway.
It doesn’t mean that laptops and desktops are going away (there are things you simply can’t do on a tablet) but the consumer mix will certainly change.
Experts have been predicting that mobile computing will revolutionize travel purchasing for so long that it eventually might happen–once the public can get past the fact that most mobile travel applications don’t do much.
The U.S. Federal Government’s new on-line travel procurement system, ETS2 is perhaps the least understood, most under-reported, and most confusing travel technology project to have taken place for decades. It directly effects thousands of people but is concentrated on those involved with government travel. Indirectly its influence on procurement practice and to some extent on technology design will be widespread and enduring.
The travel trade press (on-line and print) earns an “F” for almost ignoring ETS2 over the past four years and for producing not a single insightful analysis of why the project evolved the way it did and what it means for the industry.
3. On-line Travel Agencies and Supplier Direct Sales
Recently, by some measures, on-line sales to travel suppliers surpassed sales through online agencies. This is significant because the desire of travel vendors to deal directly with “their customers” is deeply felt and has been pursued by many suppliers for longer than The Internet has existed–it won’t be abating anytime soon.
In a free market, people find ways to get at what they want. It would seem that more want what they perceive vendors can give them directly on-line than they can get on-line through intermediaries.
4. Social Media
Sometimes people get the idea that whenever the Thor’s Hammer of Social Media is produced they must automatically lend their full attention and, should they choose to participate in the business schemes described, they are entitled to sit in some electronic Valhalla feasting on e-dollars with the gods.
The reference to Norse mythology is not as far-fetched as it sounds: most Social Media projects are on similarly imaginative ground.
Social Media are significant but, as with other electronic tools, you have to have real service-oriented products and something compelling to say.
Beware those who tell you otherwise and look for projects that will enhance real business goals and deliver truly superior customer service.
Pay attention to what Microsoft is doing, as it tries to keep pace with the direction its planners perceive the industry to be heading.
Presently, this involves significantly changed consumer software licensing and delivery, changes to user interfaces and product design that most people didn’t ask for, and assumptions that you and I want the same “experience” on a tablet that we do on a desktop or a phone–I don’t; perhaps you do.
The company’s size and scope mean that we can’t avoid its good and bad decisions, many of which can have expensive consequences.