Management.travelthis week spoke with TRX Inc. president and CEO Trip Davis about the company's new Traveltrax data gathering, analysis and reporting system. Davis called it "the culmination of the TRX Datatrax product and the Hi-Markdata reporting products"and said six clients next week would begin testing. An excerpt of the discussion follows.
How would you describe what the new product will bring?
Based on Web 2.0 technology, it's very dashboard-oriented and brings a lot of visualization and ease of use to the user's screen--supported by, on a value-added level, the TRX Travel Analytics capabilities and offerings. What we're trying to get at is data consolidation and reporting, as well as the other areas of information that corporate travel managers need to keep a handle on, such as traveler tracking, security, profile management, policy management and policy publishing--all things that should be handled electronically through a portal. We will also be selling different versions to agencies, suppliers, card associations and issuing banks. Our goal with the corporate accounts is to provide a much more scalable offering. Historically, Hi-Mark and TRX have been focused on that enterprise-level client. We have heard a real need for a lower price point for many more corporations. Our goal is to get tens of thousands of companies using Traveltrax as their way to manage travel spending, to enter and update budgets, manage contracts--all the aspects going into travel reporting and information management. The best analogy I can give is Quicken or QuickBooks. When you sign up with Quicken, you can see all the different utilities, billing companies, vendors, banks and credit card companies that they have already set up in there, and all you need to do is put in your account number or routing number. They already have the feed, and we're taking the same approach by setting up the data feeds with suppliers, agencies, card providers and expense reporting companies. As a company, you can consolidate data from all these different sources and we have done all the dirty work behind the scenes.
How much is new programming code?
This is a classic combination of pure innovation in new code as well as taking advantage of assets we already had or acquired. We have had a team of developers since Q3 focused on dashboard interface functionality and getting at what's the best way to deliver the reporting and data visualization in the market. There has been a pretty big development in that business intelligence category on how data is getting visualized and how you can use data on the screen to change parameters. What we have created is a dashboard environment using Adobe's Flex technology [addressing] the entire experience of how it feels and how you can toggle a number or move a graph and navigate a complicated set of reports--but make it easy.
Can you elaborate on the release schedule?
We are communicating with each client, and mapping them to the Traveltrax solutions. The beta test with six corporate clients goes live Feb. 20, and version 1.0 will be in the market one month later. Version 2.0 should be in the market in June. The other versions [for agencies, airlines, etc.] will be on similar timelines, depending on unique feature sets we may make available to each segment.
Do corporations have trouble with existing tools?
There are two big challenges in corporate travel data reporting. One is getting clean, accurate and comprehensive data. Even if you have one agency, it's amazingly challenging to get clean data, making it a fairly manual process to clean up the data and generate a report. Part of the value proposition is to solve that by having the data feeds, and one of the real attractive aspects of the Hi-Mark software that we will be using is the thin piece of software installed in the agency back office that automatically generates the data extract. That's the software Hi-Mark historically called DataMan. The second big challenge has been making sense of the data and running reports. That has almost entirely been Excel-based and manual. Massive changes in database technology, integration and modeling technology and data presentation technology help bring it all together in a point-and-click environment, although the end product may still be an Excel worksheet or a PowerPoint slide.
Is the airline version designed to allow them to monitor performance of deals?
Yes, the whole point for the airlines is to track the agency economics as well as the corporate economics. There's an opportunity to look at the consolidation of data from all these different sources, and enable the airline sales management to have a better handle on it. Today we have British Airways as a client.