There was a time, though it may be difficult to imagine now, before the advent of the mega mart when shopping for groceries, home goods, hardware, and other domestic necessities was an all-day affair. Multiple stops at different specialty stores would be required, which would be costly, time-consuming, and you’d often end up overlooking or even opting out of some items on your list because of inconvenience or time constraints associated with visiting so many different retailers.
But with the modern mega mart - you know which big name chain to which I’m referring - it’s easier than ever to obtain all the items on your shopping list by simply going to one place.
Groceries? New bath towels? Wood glue? DVDs? Clothing? All these items can be found under one roof, saving the customer time, money, and hassle. No longer do you have to drive all over town to complete your errands or sacrifice necessary items because of inconvenience, time-efficiency, or cost.
While the mega mart has revolutionized the way many of us shop, the same goes for ERP systems within the travel industry. Even as recently as ten years ago, OTAs, TMCs, tour operators, and other travel industry players were utilizing various technological platforms to administer their operational and planning functions - everything from accounting, procurement, data management, reporting, and human resource management. Essentially, travel companies were going to many different retailers in order to complete their errands or obtain all the items on their shopping list.
With much of the emphasis on customer-facing or engagement technologies like social media platforms and responsive websites, travel companies lost sight of the operational side of things and were relying on manual methods of managing these disparate software solutions that included master spreadsheets and other inefficient ways of storing and communicating data, which often resulted in cross-functional silos across at various touch points across a company’s value chain. In addition, travel companies also lacked reliable, real-time reporting and analytic capabilities necessary to foster growth-oriented strategies and leverage value propositions within their organizations - product pricing and availability, for example, would often have to be cross-checked with the supplier, which was time-consuming, inefficient to scale, and often prone to human-error.
Enter travel ERP systems, which are specifically designed to optimize the fluidity of product and operational data between workflows, locations, and platforms, which is increasingly important today’s competitive, global marketplace. Travel ERP systems function as a suite of software solutions under one unified umbrella that breaks down communication and data silos and fosters greater communication and collaboration across a travel company’s value network. This enhanced integration of planning and operations systems also offers travel company’s increased agility and transparency in their products, services, and overall functionality, which can be leveraged to execute cost-effective and scalable decision-making and strategy.
The good news for the travel industry at-large is that an increasing number of of travel agencies, tour operators, and TMCs are deploying travel ERP systems as they fight to gain and maintain a foothold in today’s expanding market. But for those travel companies who still question whether travel ERP systems are worth implementing, here are just a couple of value propositions and opportunities for streamlined processes travel ERP systems provide:
Optimization of workflows - Travel ERP systems enable travel companies to conduct businesses in a more fluid, transparent manner that fosters creativity, communication, and collaboration. Automated workflows, such as the invoicing and payment management, eliminate the need for manual reconciliation, a process that is ineffective from a time and personal standpoint. Optimizing workflows like this not only give travel companies greater control and insight into their operational practices, but they also create more accurate data management.
Reporting capabilities - Most of today’s leading travel ERP systems incorporate powerful reporting and data analysis and sharing tools that allow planners and managers to review data and outcomes in real-time and make adjustments or modifications to existing strategy or planning based on desired results. In addition, travel ERP systems allow companies to create sophisticated, accurate forecasting and modeling in order to combat potential bottlenecks or disruptions in the flow of travel products and to execute decisions best aligned with increasing productivity, revenue, and growth.
Some may argue that implementing travel ERP systems is a costly, intensive enterprise that companies should not undertake lightly. While it was true that early ERP systems were something of a gamble in their earliest incarnations, today’s travel ERP systems are fully-integrated, easy to implement, and more cost-effective than managing several disparate software solutions for a company’s operational functionality.
Thinking back to our mega mart analogy, travel companies that can find everything they need at one store - in one optimized ERP software suite rather than several disconnected software platforms - are going to be well-positioned to leverage cost-saving and growth-oriented opportunities in an industry that where agility and end-to-end visibility is increasing becoming the name of the game.