TUI Group: Transformation Journey

TUI Group: Transformation Journey


Pieter Jordaan

Group Chief Technology Officer - Technology Transformation, TUI Group



Thank you, Andrew and Caitlin. So last year at this conference, one of my favorite talks was from Peter Jordan group CTO of two week group, the world's largest integrated travel company. So before the global pandemic, it was generating nearly 20 billion euros in revenue annually. Sir, Winston Churchill is credited for saying never waste a good crisis. And there are few industries that have experienced an existential crisis due to the global pandemic than the travel and hospitality industries. So the toy group used a pandemic when the entire industry was grinding to a halt to unify and re-platform to the cloud, the majority of their critical business applications. It is one of the most astounding technology talks I have ever seen. And last year I had suggested that this case study would be studied for years to come. So I was so grateful that Peter was willing to come back and give us an update on how they fared, whether the big bets they may have paid off and the lessons they've learned. Here's Peter,


Thanks Jean for that great introduction. And I'm, I'm really thrilled to be back here, um, at the death of summit for enterprise summit to share our story like we shared last year, our transformation journey really started before COVID, um, you know, we followed the traditional path of, you know, trying to start to migrate great small workloads through the cloud and the traditional agile, um, journey in local organizations then moving to global, you know, and, and as we started to recognize the need for us to start to focus on, on a project based organization, COVID hit and that's when you know, all our revenue ground to hold, you know, we thought maybe three months, six months, um, opportunity for us to, you know, refocus. But that, of course we all know turned into a two year or two and a half year, um, opportunity. And, and to be honest, I think that window for me was the opportunity for us to really accelerate on the global transformation.


I explained how we made that decision, um, to use the window, to consolidate organization, to move to a product based organization, um, away from projects to move to one platform, start the journey of building a single digital platform for all our, um, holiday products and also digitalizing our business processes. And I'll talk a little bit later about what that success looked like in our, in destination experience. I think just to recap our, our transformation goals is very much the same as everyone else's so, uh, nothing special about our transformation goals, but I think what happened was our goals and the opportunity and COVID collided, you know, so we had, um, aspirations for global product organization power by a single digital platform. And as I talked to the industry, most people have that goal. Um, and most, most businesses, especially big enterprises have dispersed federated. It that needs to be consolidated and business capabilities that they want to exist once, um, and want to go to the cloud and DevOps and want to understand flow, um, of capabilities and value for the customers.


So very much similar, but I think just to, to bring it a little bit alive, what we set ourselves to achieve, what's the milestones we wanted to achieve in co what did we achieve? It, wasn't a small thing. We, like I said, in the previous slide, we are 15 countries. We're consolidating all of those into a single platform, single business product based organization. So practically what I meant, we, we rewrote our whole platform for our aviation industry. We have 165 airplanes in, in all sorts of different countries. Uh, we took one of our most critical businesses, which is our aviation business in the Western region. And we completely rewrote their inventory platform, the routing of the planes, the pricing of the seats, the sales platform, uh, how you select your seating, how you major seating, uh, how you, you get your ticket, how performance happens.


And then of course, how you operate your planes and how you, you know, tell your crew, uh, which airplane they need to be on. That whole platform is what we rebuilt in record time during COVID. At the same time, we were also working on our next next platform, uh, which is our package platform. Um, so we are already on the second flight season on, on our flight platform. Uh, in other words, uh, we already beyond embedding it. Um, we launched a second season and now package is about to go to life, which means, you know, your accommodation and flight combined. And one thing I didn't talk about a lot last time was the digitalization processes. So our in destination, our travel experiences. So in other words, how you, how you, you get real time updates for your, for your airplane and what bus you need to get on and what happens when you're in resort and, and all the complicated stuff that needs to happen when you start to have to comply to COVID rules.


All of that was also digitalized. And I think that was probably one of our, our biggest achievements because we had a law of temporary staff and permanent staff in destination services, uh, um, making sure that when people land, they, they they're being greeted by a toe person and being shown where the buses are. And now that whole process is digitalized. And, uh, the whole experience is, is so much smoother. And all of us have probably tried to travel during COVID and you know, how difficult that is. Um, so information is very powerful for our customers and just being able to push information, uh, flight cancellation, flight delays, um, uh, baggage updates, all of those things happening now, real time. And, and that is a large part of your experience of the, of your, um, holiday and that's really where things make or break, um, your experience and that, that was also completely digitalized in his life.


So later on, I'll, I'll share a little bit of what, um, people's experiences with a new digital, um, travel experience. So, um, I shared about the success factors, the patterns we used, um, I think as to retouch on that leadership, that you, you have to change to deep technical leadership, that cloud is oxygen. Um, you know, the shift from product and cloud, really that product enable agile and cloud enabled DevOps. And, and we talked about the change in your view of risk, and I think that is really important managing, um, risk or in your BAU business. You probably manage risk all the time. And what COVID helped us do is look at risk from a different perspective. And later on, I'll share a little bit about how that stand out, um, doubt. Um, and during COVID, of course, when you're not flying, you don't send people on, on, um, uh, airplanes.


It's easy to say, okay, I'm gonna rebuild my aviation platform when you start to fly and you still need to work on your aviation platform. That's a different story. So now of course we have, um, business came back, customers are flying, we own the new platform and that, uh, conflict between revenue that we need to recapture after COVID and driving for a better platform is really important. And that's where flow comes in. This is where you really need to understand, um, and maturing in your product organization. But I think that took us a good two years to manage ourselves, uh, into a place where we understood our risk and understood our flow. Um, but we tried to maintain that day one mentality. So I'll talk about that a little bit and visibility, uh, flow and business value ended up being probably one of the most critical things for our business to make decisions.


So as we started to fly again, the question was, do I focus on X? Do I focus on Y uh, why it's gonna impact my customer experience the most, what is gonna bring the best revenue? And of course, actually launch a new platform, not everything is there on day one. So that business value decision making and having people and leaders that understood how to make those decisions was really one of our accelerators. So, um, you know, some of our rules I talked about, I won't go over it again, but you can, you can go read about it. But I think we, we definitely, um, stuck to these rules that we set ourselves and it stood us in good state, uh, especially breaking up things into smaller pieces. So, um, I talked about some of those in the textbook rules that we broke, you know, that we didn't really start small.


We didn't have that luxury to start small. We had to go big. Uh, we had to do that in that one year or two year windows that we perceived as is in front of us. So we couldn't do a lift and shift. We couldn't do small proof of concepts. We had to go after the beast and we built that whole platform, the whole flight platform, the whole package platform, rebuild that and made it live and get people to fly. Uh, so if anyone's been on holiday in the last year, you flew on the new to re platform. So, so gene asked me, you know, are you about to get fired or you Euro? And I think I titled this crash or burn or zero to year. Um, and I like studying, uh, extreme sports athletes, mental capacity and how they view risk, because really, I think in many cases, what we're trying to do is, is changed the view.


We changed the way we view risk or manage risk. And that is that's dichotomy really, in a sense. And, um, for those of you who know Alex, Arnold, this a movie about him or Netflix called free solo. And he was one of the first people that climbed Al capita's sheer rock place of 884 meters. And he, he free solid means with our ropes. Um, so which means, um, you know, if he falls, he will die and it's definitely not his climb. Uh, in the past, it took people three days to climb it. He's doing it in, you know, two hours in a bit. Um, so what he said was, you know, in this discipline of re silo, he says, if you fall and die, you are branded immediate. People say, why do you take the risk? But if you succeed, you're given a Euro as welcome, you know, but in reality, you are the same person.


So what that means is that, you know, our, our perception of risk, many times we view it from our view of what success is, right. And, um, but really what it is about is the journey and, and what these athletes who is breaking these records and, um, and doing these disciplines, they just have a different view of what success and risk is. And, and in their pursuit of maybe an initial goal, what they are doing is they're setting a new bar, a new standard of what is possible. Um, you know, the, the second person there in ne day BJA, you he's the prime example. He was, he received an NBE, um, during COVID actually just before COVID, he, he climbed the 14 highest peaks in the human layers. Um, and when he set out on this project, people say, don't wanna have anything to do with you.


You're crazy. You're going to die. Um, because the previous record holder, um, took 14 years to climb one of these peaks, and you're talking about Everest and Lotsy, and on the Puna and the Puna, 50% of the people that attempt this mountain dies. So it's, it's, it's such a far out goal that he said that no one wanted to be associated with him. No one even wanted to give him money, um, in, with the rest. And this may, may result in the failure, but nevertheless, what he ended up doing was he, he broke that record. No, with, with a few years, he broke it with, with six months and six days, you set six new world records in that space of six months. And just to give some context, you know, most people take three months to climb Everest. Uh, you set the base camp, you climb a little bit to the top and you spend their time and then you acclimatize and then you climb a little bit higher and you acclimatize, but he just didn't have that luxury.


He climbed from the bottom all the way to the top in one day, came down, um, didn't sleep and then climbed two other mountains in the space of 48 hours. So where most people spent three months to climb one mountain, he spent 48 hours climb free. Um, you know, and similar when you look at some of the achievements of mark Andre, um, you know, you can, you can view that in a all point, this movie, these guys didn't set a new milestone, what they are doing as they're breaking barriers, and they're setting a new mindset that makes it possible for the next person to achieve something different. And I think why, what the big takeaway, when you try to evaluate, you know, that you crash, that you burn, I think is knowing that you achieve that single milestone of making your flight platform live or digital life show in destination.


It is that your journey set new barriers, you know, make new mindset. And I think too, we definitely, if I look back our journey is the determining factor. The reality, um, for us now is the, is a new normal for us to, to work globally remotely in six week increments and deliver value in a business driven organization, uh, in a product driven organization, tracking flow metrics two and a half years, it was, was a PowerPoint idea. And now it is reality. So the, the view of risk really determines from the point of where you look at it. If, if you ask Alex, you say, why, why are you taking the risk? Why are you climbing this mountain? I'm perfectly safe where I'm at and there's in your enterprise. People that, that look at the world that way and say, my system is perfectly fine. Why do I need to change?


But then there's the, the other part, the leaders that look at the opportunity and the possibility and the barrier that needs to be overcome the MI mental mindset that needs to be changed and has to pursue the, the, the higher goals. And that journey is, is setting new mindsets. And it's also creating, I think, new opportunities and possibilities and inspiration for other people. And I hope that our story, um, what we shared last year and shared today is a lot of inspiration for you. So of course, in our business, you have people that say the system, isn't what it used to be, but you also have people that say, yeah, we definitely know where we used to be, um, as an organization. So, you know, so coming to that lessons, we learned on our journey, right? It's definitely a journey, um, where we made a big star during COVID.


Um, and, and my, my first comment is really that everything is risky. So it's where you have an organization that view risk and managed risk. This is the most important thing to realize that doing nothing is the riskiest approach, evaluating risk. Um, sometimes it's a way for us to appease ourselves that we are doing something. Um, I talked about last in my last talk that really the brave thing is to, is to make a decision fast and start moving. Um, and I think that's the second point. It's not to be afraid to think big, say big visions, break it down. The small goals, and our vision is so big. It doesn't fit into a COVID window and it's not supposed to, but it is making that critical mass, um, flywheel change in the organization that enable us to, to now work in a new normal, and to continue to transform our business and platforms and organization and digitalize and bolt on the successes.


So, um, and we, we view it like this. I, I keep telling the architects and the technology, your, your design is wrong. How can you make it less wrong as in different way to view it as saying, okay, what's the perfect design in order for me to move forward. And I think there's a very two different views of the world. The one is realizing that you will make mistakes and you probably are already making mistakes, but the worst mistake is to stay where you are. So we are trying to make the one way door decisions early, try to avoid one way the seasons. Why, because we know we are wrong and we probably need to change stuff. And then we change stuff over time. Yes, of course we did. Um, do we need to make changes in the future? Yes, but that's the opportunity. I think that's the evolution of a real digital transformation.


So, um, and I, I want to focus maybe on the, on the fourth point where people say, why is the magic? Why is it exactly that, you know, it's a cloud, it's a DevOps. Why is it that really transform your company? And I would say that the real magic is in small motivated focus teams. And it really hit home for me when, uh, you know, after a whole year of very hard work and dedication, you know, teams started to ship the product. Um, there is so much passion about their product in different individual services. And, you know, the collaboration, these, these teams were forced into, um, remote working, um, first situation, all our offices is closed. Um, had to figure out how to collaborate, had to figure out how to share, had to figure out how much time is spent on, um, you know, stand ups versus teamwork.


Um, and really hard dynamics has to be figured out. But the dedication I think, came to me, uh, in a very personal, emotional way when, um, you know, the, we have some fair amount of employees in the Ukraine working on, on some of our platform development and, you know, we, as two E tried to help as much as possible. Um, and you know, of course we, we extended opportunity for them to, you know, take care of whatever personal situations they need to, to do. Didn't really require we were planning for downtime capacity and yeah, you know, but the, the spite of the, the, the leverage we give these guys to say, you know, please take care of your personal situation. They keep showing up. And, you know, even though they are in cities that is being, you know, bombed, these guys will lock in and they will come to stand up.


Um, not because, uh, you know, they feel pressured to do it, but because they have such dedication and passion and, uh, camaraderie, and this is the real magic, right? Um, the, the, the people that find and love, uh, I find a love for their product. Um, I find a, a place to, to really hook onto that vision that you've sent. Um, and that's what we need to foster in our organizations. That's the real, um, treasure, the money, isn't the real scarce commodity. This is the scarce commodity, the people and the, the skilled, organized, small focus teams that, that really make things happen and, and bring their magic to the table. So, um, you know, this is kind of a personal story from our organization. I'm sure a lot of other organizations experience similar things, but, um, this is for me, what makes a transformation journey possible?


And this is, uh, such a key thing that we should always remember to keep eyes and on the people that that's helping us transform. You know, this is one Testament that came over my desk yesterday. Um, and it actually came from someone working for Google. And that's why I think it's, I, yes, passionate as, as I am about the platform, it means something to me because it talks about the real customer experience. You, you rebuilding a reservation system or an inventory system for, for an airplane or, you know, crew management system. It's hard to see it by, you know, big part of our transformation once about making the experience for the customer better. Right? So, so this guy just said, I just want to let you know that true to my word. I used to be, to book my Easter family vacation and then Canary islands, it's a beautiful place, but I was seriously impressed with the real time travel updates we got during the whole journey through the two E app and portal, right from the start at home to landing at the airport baggage pickup up instructions to exit bus numbers, et cetera, that are during the return, as well as a technology professional.


I really enjoyed it because I could clearly see how this good smart use of technology was making life easier. Especially with kids around, not having to look for info was, is a boon since really could just do the whole team. So I, I want to also, you know, explain this to the team that worked so hard that worked during COVID that worked for limited staff that worked on the tremendous pressure. And, and we did put a lot of pressure on our staff and it takes a toll, but the, the fruit of our labors, um, enable us to be in a position of the COVID, where we could have a vision and operate in a way that is, um, completely different than where we were as a business pre COVID. So I want to, you know, really encourage everyone that, um, the opportunities, um, for the future is, is, is really bright.


If we can just envi it and we can start to learn to see risk in a different way. So, um, and, and that's why I want to use this, this quote from NIMS when he started, everyone said, he's crazy, right? But he ended up mountain off the mountain, off the mountain, just knocking off his 14 goals. In six months, he ended up doing what other people took 14 years to do. And he, he started off with no money. He literally, um, remortgage his home and, and then barely got him up the first mountain. So, you know, he says everything in life is possible on only with determined approach and a positive mindset. And of course there is everything else follows. But what he's trying to say is the determined approach and positive mindset is to start. And when we have that, our view of world, a view of risk, you know, climbing mountain now seems to be an opportunity rather than, you know, something that we will never try to attend because we are right.


So where are we today? We, of course, still building, um, our package platform is, is going into user testing. We have our new user, uh, sorry, recommendation, dynamic recommendation platform is rolling out. Um, so I'm really excited about what the team has achieved. We are still hiring DevOps cloud, especially SecOps engineers. And I would be interested again, like I extended last time to talk to other enterprise leaders who is on the same journey and, you know, learn from each other, a large part of your success really depends on, I think, understanding now many of the problems we're solving it's we are not alone. We are not the first people to solve it. So I'm the first one to give credit to other people, because really, I think my skill is to, to inspire and, and know that someone else has probably solved this problem. What is hasn't happened is applying that solution to your current organization. So I wanna thank M and everyone else for this opportunity. And, um, I'm very open for, for questions. You can contact me on LinkedIn as my company email address as well. So if you got any questions, I'm always happy to try and help, and yeah. Maybe guide you through some of the mountains that we had to climb by ourselves. So thank you very much for this opportunity, Jean.