Pathfinders: Agile technology at a global scale
When was the last time you made a suggestion to a software provider that actually got included on an upcoming roadmap, never mind the feature being built and released?
Despite massive reductions in the cost and speed required to build, test and deploy software in the past ten years, many companies still struggle to support their customers with the fast and timely release of new products and features to drive value.
The critical requirements of getting quality products to market at speed include building strong customer feedback loops, connecting product teams with stakeholders, and maintaining a modern underlying technology architecture – but that’s not all.
In episode 2 of Pathfinders, our technology leadership series, we uncover what agile development means and how it helps Corporate Travel Management (CTM) build the features and products our customers want, when they want, while still staying aligned on core areas of focus across our global business.
Software development in the modern age of business travel technology
Before we dive into the thoughts and advice from our team on building travel software with an agile approach, let’s quickly break down some of the well-known methodologies used to build software, regardless of the field:
Waterfall behaves like it sounds, with products and features cascading down in a straight linear path, making it powerfully focused but tough to redirect. Scoping and feature planning is predefined before any development begins, meaning this fixed approach can lead to long development cycles and minimal chance to incorporate customer feedback until it’s too late.
FDD takes the broad scoping of Waterfall and breaks it out into separate features, with the first 3 of 5 phases devoted to deciding on the overall model or product scope, the list of features required and then a development plan. Phases 4 and 5 split out the designing and building of individual features, allowing teams to act independently and launch specific features faster.
Driven by continuous testing and actively sourcing feedback from stakeholders and users, agile is focused on short 1-3 weeks sprints throughout the ideation, prototype, build, test and iterate phases. Agile helps teams home in on the ideal solution to a customer need or pain point by including them in the development process and adjusting course based on insights learned from testing and feedback.
Short for “Development Operations”, the emphasis is on building systems to support continuous deployment of new features and changes. DevOps is highly geared towards maximising efficiency and identifying programmable processes.
DevOps is the newest of the four highlighted methodologies but overlaps with agile. CTM technology utilises agile methodology with a blend of DevOps engineering for maximum efficiency.
How Lightning strikes in CTM’s regional technology centres
CTM’s global technology and product leadership team share their thoughts on how implementing agile methodology across a blended global and regional technology strategy delivers value for businesses and their travellers.
How does CTM’s approach to technology roadmaps differ from other business travel management companies (TMCs) or other businesses of similar scale?
CTM’s Global CTO, Mike Kubasik, explains the value of a multi-layered roadmap when developing at global scale; “CTM’s technology vision combines the best of both worlds: a globally designed technology strategy and development roadmap, supported by tailored regional solutions and agile development methodology to meet the needs and nuances of every region we operate in. This multi-layered approach ensures our customers of every size, industry and geographic location enjoy access to the most relevant and intuitive travel tools at maximum speed.”
Brian Sheerin, CTM’s CTO EMEA, is unequivocal about the benefits to CTM’s customers; “We combine an agile methodology with a real desire to deliver to market with maximum speed and efficiency, meaning we get comprehensive solutions to our clients when they need them to deliver maximum gains. This was particularly evident during the pandemic; whilst others debated what was needed, we were already delivering it and then adding further functionality in subsequent releases.”
CTM’s Chief Product Officer AU/NZ, Timmo Rol, makes the case that proprietary ownership of business travel technology makes a big difference to the roadmap; “Our roadmap spans across multiple products, allowing us to find innovative solutions across the entire travel workflow. From pre-travel research in CTM’s COVID Hub and pre-trip approval tools, to innovative forecasting to ensure the best fares, fast and efficient (and policy compliant) bookings via the Lightning online booking tool and mobile app, to post-trip reporting, sustainability and wellness insights – we design and integrate our technology holistically across the entire trip management process.”
What part does customer and user feedback have in the CTM development process?
“In the development process at CTM, feature requests are fed directly from the customer to the regional technology team so that we can react much more quickly, and our solutions are more ‘to the point’ thanks to early customer influence on our roadmap and development” says Kenneth Wong, CTM’s CTO Asia.
The proof of CTM’s success with agile comes straight from our clients;
“Once again, I am impressed with CTM’s response to the pandemic crisis and how quickly CTM [was] to advance your technology to enable your clients to navigate through different situations so efficiently.”
– Category Manager, CTM Client
How does being agile across 4 regional tech hubs differ from other companies with one tech team?
CTM’s Chief Product Officer for North America, Lehi Mills, feels the blend of global strategy and regional deployment combined with our agile approach gave CTM the edge over teams adding features in phases during 2020; “Our 4 tech hubs allowed us to deliver new global tech solutions, such as our COVID Hub and Universal Product Attributes in Lightning, while concurrently designing and developing regional tech solutions that delivered on specific regional travel challenges during the pandemic. This meant that we were able to quickly put COVID restriction guidance and airline safety measures into the hands of both travel managers and travellers within a matter of weeks, rather than months.”
How has CTM’s product development process adapted over the past 18 months?
“Through the acquisition of Tramada, we now have the ability to resolve business problems across the full supply chain and are not restricted by third party technology anywhere. This has already provided synergies in features and we continue to focus on efficiency, productivity and functionality enhancements across products”, says Rol.
In the US, Mills is excited by improved processes that are driving greater productivity gains for the tech teams; “CTM has always followed an agile methodology. The biggest change over the last 18 months has been how we utilise DevOps engineers to do code releases and support the engineering team more efficiently. This separation of responsibilities between engineers and DevOps helps maintain our various compliances and helps enforce security, data privacy, and risk mitigation, helping our product delivery teams move faster and get value to the customer rapidly.”
If you’d like to see for yourself what the fruits of agile labour can be for a modern business travel programme, get in touch today for a demo of CTM’s proprietary booking tool for business travellers.