Agile Project Management in the Travel Industry

Abhas Desai, Co-Founder & CTO, TaxidioA prolific leader, Abhas carries over nine years of experience in IT Industry. His expertise lies in IT Management, IT Solutions, IT Strategy, Java, J2EE and many other areas.

Requirements in the travel industry are constantly changing. With automation being the way forward, the travel industry is beginning to automate their day-to-day business activities. Agile software methods have recently emerged as a novel way to help travel companies keep-up with the upcoming needs as compared with traditional methodologies. Agile development focuses on fast, light, and effective ways to support a customer oriented business without being chaotic or rigorous. Traditional waterfall models of development have been used over a long period of time to automate the travel industry.

In the travel industry, volatile market conditions, ever-increasing customer demand and the drive towards achieving the best possible business model in the market lead to frequent changes in development. These are not fail-proof, since any modification in the requirements would require some backtracking and redoing that which has already been done. This is an iterative process, hence resulting in a constant cycle of redevelopment.

Agile development aims at the flexible, fast, and effective improvement that supports the customer’s everchanging demands and avoiding rigorous contracts that limit the scope of the projects. The need for this change in the travel industry with regards to project management and software development arose from:

•Increasing market competition.
•Limitations with regards to flexibility, growth and sustainability of old booking/ticketing systems.

There is a need for a centralized system which would integrate backend, frontend, and admin panels. By collecting negative feedback from end users and the use of Agile driven project development, a number of steps can be taken in order to effectively develop, use and maintain software systems that are versatile.

The Agile Manifesto
The Agile manifesto shows great potential when it is implemented in the travel industry. Individuals and
interactions over processes and tools value the Agile manifesto. It means that all stakeholders are involved in the project; from the client perspective, the development team perspective and the business perspective. In the current travel industry, many formal and stiff processes are followed, which often bring about an incomplete travel software, thereby indicating a lack of vision from both the business and developer’s side. Needless to say, it is the end user who is left dissatisfied with what could have been a better software tool.

Working Software over Comprehensive Documentation
The obstacles that documentation adds to ideas and genuine research projects are removed by following this value. The true measure of a project is its usability, which in turn depends upon the functioning of the software. When travel agencies and companies are bound by documentation that has probably been created a couple of years ago on an average, the space for new ideas, market changes, and demands are negligible. By the time the documented software rolls-out, it is obsolete and replaced by better versions. Thus, Agile methodology helps to overcome this obstacle by delivering working software in a timely manner and then adapting to any changes that come forth.

Customer Collaboration over Contract Negotiation
More often than not, ideas remain mere ideas due to a piece of paper called a contract. While contracts are a must before undertaking any big project, the amount of importance given to it should be limited. This is where Agile methodology comes-in and prioritizes customer collaboration at every level, thereby staying in touch with the need of the hour by the market and the customer.

Responding to Change over Following a Plan
Stiff plans often cause issues in the long term. Even a small change in the list of requirements, authorized by the management, can cause the best of plans to fall apart.

The idea of this value is to be as flexible and adaptable to change by reducing the input into a strict plan and increasing the amount of attention given to incremental changes that may arise during development.

There are however certain implications that need to be considered when going for an Agile approach. They are:
• Project size
• Customer availability
• Level of integration with external systems
• Customer tolerance towards scope and cost changes
• Time to market

Challenges to Adopting Agile Development Methodology
• Working remotely & poor communication is hindrances to a good Agile application.
• Self-organizing teams that are independent of supervision but motivated, can accomplish tasks.
•Mindsets are important, as people working on the project sometimes do not understand their responsibilities and the thought process for a successful Agile project.
•The inability of the team to implement Agile practices is a big hindrance. The team may not understand the principles of feedback or collaboration, which could result in them being non-Agile.
•Organization’s culture plays a very important role in the success of an Agile project. Ideally, a workplace should be a free working environment that encourages open communication in order for Agile practices to succeed.