Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself, your role and experience in TUI and previously?
I’ve been at TUI for just over 18 months as the UK&I Head of Architecture. Over that time we’ve delivered a huge amount of change for the organisation. My journey to TUI has not been a simple one, although in recent years, transport has been the common theme - several years at Network Rail and then a period at P&O Ferries, followed dalliances in the pharmaceutical, financial services and telecoms industries. TUI is a diverse and complex business - in the UK alone, operating contracting, marketing and sales platforms at scale as well as running cruise ships and an airline. Being in the holiday industry is often fun, frequently frustrating and occasionally incredibly challenging. The thing that makes TUI a great place to work is the absolute commitment of our people to doing their utmost to ensure our customers have great choices for the holiday they want - and then delivering.
TUI was the overall winner of the Real IT Awards (RITA) 2017. Can you give our readers more details about the TUI Discovery Entry into Service project?
A small project team had the challenge of bringing into service a new cruise ship to TUI. They were expected to deliver a secure and future-proof IT infrastructure that would enable innovation, improve customer satisfaction and grow revenue. TUI Discovery, launched successfully to its customers in June 2016, delivering on all of the above and winning the Cruise Critics Best New Cruise Ship Award.
The team achieved this on budget, on time and above scope - with the added complication that the implementation phase of the project was time-boxed by the ship’s dry dock window - at which point every other ’trade' would be on board stripping, building, painting and finishing all aspects of the ships facilities. The team built partnerships and relationships with suppliers that will benefit TUI far beyond the launch of TUI Discovery.
Why was it an exciting project from an IT perspective?
TUI Discovery was a completely new product concept for us. To provide a state-of-the-art customer experience, we had to rebuild the IT environment from the wires up. From the outset, the project had a set of strategic goals that were challenging at the design, build and implementation stages. These goals for TUI Discovery were clear from the outset:
• The ship had to enter service with sustainable, operational IT solutions in time for the first customer cruise in June 2016
• The ship had to be provisioned with a robust, stable, secure and future-proof IT infrastructure and systems platform, enabling future digital innovations to drive new initiatives that are shaping the cruise industry
• The ship had to be provisioned with the most viable digital technology, enabling the business to achieve the objectives set in the 5-year business strategy plan which included Revenue growth and improved Customer experience
The project team were empowered to face into and solve the challenges they faced - and this led to a real sense of pride, camaraderie and determination to deliver the most amazing experience possible in the time available.
What were the main challenges faced in the duration of the project?
There were a number of challenges - one of the most significant being the access to the ship prior to refit, to plan the installation of the new wifi infrastructure that was key to enabling customer access to the new digital capabilities throughout the ship. On-ship surveys took place and then all planning work had to be done off-site, materials shipped to the yard and then the race to install during the 9-week refit window started. Detailed planning and contingency scenarios with Agile decision-making during implementation meant that the installation of 26km of network cable, 526 wifi access points, the on-ship data centre and satellite comms links, amongst all of the other IT actives, could be completed, commissioned and then tested under the new on board systems in time. All of this was done on a very tight budget, which could only be achieved through very close partnerships with our key suppliers - ResCompany, Digitech, Tac, Fortinet, Airloc8 and Waveguide.
What are some of the measurable benefits seen so far for TUI?
A number of benefits have been measured so far, including improved customer experiences leading to increased revenues on board, an increase in follow-on bookings made on the ship and operationally reduced complexity and increased compliance monitoring of safety procedures.
What interesting projects are taking place this year? Any potential submissions for the 2018 RITA?
There is always a lot going on in TUI. The company is relentless in pursuing new and improved destinations and experiences for customers. This year, we are expanding our dynamic (build-it-yourself) packages to cities accessing new hotels and flying schedules and we are enabling customers to book multi-stage holidays, moving between several resorts or hotels over the course of their vacation. On an operational side, we are expecting delivery of a new plane type from Boeing - a huge take-on task for maintenance, engineering and our planning people to maximise the benefits from the 737max. And we just launched Discovery 2 - based on the Discovery template - and improved - look out for an entry next year on our new Navigate app!
TUI has been a member of the Forum for 1 year. How have you found it so far?
We joined the Forum for a number of reasons and are already seeing the benefit of being more actively engaged with the wider IT community. Several members of the department have attended events and learned from - and contributed to the roundtable discussions. We have started to understand that some of the things we are doing here are leading the way - and that has a really positive impact on morale. Additionally, it is reassuring to realise that many of the challenges we face are not unique - and that there is the possibility to solve some of them through wider collaboration.
I have been an advocate for the Forum for many years and was Network Rail’s Principal whilst there. The most reassuring aspect is that the Forum remains true to its roots in being run by the members, for the members - and this is reflected in the value that we as TUI are beginning to see from our membership. This year is going to be more difficult in the travel industry and as belts have been tightened and budgets reviewed, I am happy to report that membership of the Forum was not questioned.
And finally, we had the most amazing evening at the Real IT Awards - so much more than we expected. It may be a cliché - but the value of winning awards when competing with such established, respected and forward-thinking companies is all the greater. I am sure we will be back next year.