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A Foolproof Recipe for a Disastrous Travel ERP Selection

As noted in an earlier post, there are compelling reasons for travel companies to invest in enterprise resource planning systems. These range from a desire to cut operational costs through automation; be able to exchange data with travel partners morcontrol_tool.jpge quickly and easily; increase revenues with better visibility into sales activities; and improve customer experiences with more sales and transaction automation. However, achieving these benefits is only possible if a wise choice is made. Since good advice is often overlooked or quickly forgotten, this post aims to make a more lasting impact by focusing on steps guaranteed to produce what no one wants: a disastrous selection.

Use a Small Selection Group 

While it’s possible to include all stakeholders in the evaluation decision, a large group could be cumbersome to manage and might increase the decision-making timeline. A small group would move quickly -  particularly since opinions would soon be familiar and decisions could be made with a minimum of discussion.  Also, if the group used personal, anecdotal information, formal data requests that tend to draw attention could be avoided.  Granted, pulling more data and stakeholders into the process might produce greater insights into current business and software conditions – but could also generate endless discussions and delays. Who wants that?

Make Arbitrary IT & Business Assumptions

Travel ERP vendors not only want to sell software licenses, they also want to maximize the billing hours of their technical specialists. Companies who make poor selections may underestimate the potential financial impact of such billing and not realize the important role played by the IT department and business units in keeping it to a minimum. For example, if the IT department’s travel technology skill sets (and availability) don’t match the product’s technical requirements, project participation by vendor specialists becomes a necessity and not a luxury.

The other major cause of vendor specialist billing is product customization. Significant cost overruns tied to such billing is often traced back to a selection process that arbitrarily assumed the business units would be very active in standardizing existing processing. To the extent business units don’t have qualified and available resources, such standardization work cannot be done – and expensive specialist work will be incurred.

  Ill-defined Scope and Unrealistic Expectations

A poor initial decision to use anecdotal information sets the stage for another fatal selection error – proceeding with only a vague idea of how to scope the project for budget and timelines. In particular, not knowing what, if any, travel software customizations will be needed can lead to scope creep of epic proportions. Without the anchor of well-defined scope, expectations for achievable goals and project success will quickly become speculative and ultimately unrealistic.

Use Flawed Selection Criteria

Deficient travel industry product evaluations often follow this sequence of weighted criteria:

  • Cost
  • Implementation Ease
  • User Experience
  • Alignment of System Functionality & Business Requirements

On the other hand, selections which avoid disaster typically follow this path:

  • Vendor’s Referenceable Past Performance
  • Alignment of System Functionality & Business Requirements
  • Implementation Ease
  • Support available from Vendor or 3rd Parties
  • Cost
  • User Experience

Ignore Change Management

Per McKinsey research, a significant cause of large software project failure is poor change management. A lack of focus in keeping stakeholder groups aligned with changes to their working environments was found to be a key contributor. A flawed selection process will neglect to factor change management into the review and analysis of vendor performances in prior system deployments. The profile of selection failure often includes picking travel technology vendors with weak track records of assisting customers in communicating the benefits and policies tied to beneficial change.

Create User Resistance

Few things compound the impact of a poor decision like user resistance. Alienated users are generally very slow to accept new technology and much harder to train. By making sure users are uninvolved in the evaluation and selection process, the decision-making group can generally be assured of failure for any selected vendor and technology.

Keep Sr. Management out of the Loop

Keeping senior management in the dark – even for a major decision like choosing a travel software system is often easier than one would think. This lack of awareness is generally tied to role and responsibilities: senior managers are tasked with running the company: making; implementing; and adjusting strategic decisions. If a project is considered to be tactical in nature, a conscious effort may be necessary to keep top executives informed. While this lack of oversight may give the selection group greater freedom, it also increases the probability senior management will view the initiative as an IT, rather than business project.  This could make it easier for them to pull the plug if the project runs into trouble. 

In fact, a poor enterprise resource planning decision has never been deliberately made – just as no one would consciously choose to mirror the bad behaviors outlined in this blog. But numerous bad selections have been made and will continue to be made - and all of those poor selections feature one or more of these elements. The antidote to grievous mistakes is good data and sound processes: ironically, the same benefits brought to organizations by deploying an ERP system.

One of the reasons selection mistakes are made is that travel ERP benefits are very compelling and the competitive advantages they delivery are very real. This can lead to a false sense of urgency, in which the lack of such benefits and advantages appear more threatening than the consequences of a disastrous selection.

The best insurance against such erroneous motivations and subsequent poor choices is information: evaluate the services of ERP 3rd party consultancies to understand their value and potential usefulness; spend time talking to a wide range of vendor references to for exposure to lessons learned and relevant experiences. These simple, but highly effective, steps will make it much less likely any travel software selection will ever resemble the bad examples in this post.

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Topics: Travel Industry travel technology travel erp travel software