It has been a very productive few months for 2 Aardvarks Ltd, which was incorporated at the end of May this year, with client contracts starting at the beginning of August.
Load Off Your Back – you can now book online!
Load Off Your Back is an independent walking holiday product. Your luggage is transferred from hotel to hotel as you walk along a long distance path such as the Hadrian’s Wall Path. The Load Off Your Back company was acquired by Ramblers Worldwide Holidays (RWH) a few years ago and has been operated using spreadsheets, Word documents etc. As the booking volume has grown, this way of working has become unsustainable.
2 Aardvarks was asked to integrate Load Off Your Back into the main RWH back office systems and processes. This is not a straightforward task, as RWH operated fixed-departure, group holidays and Load Off Your Back is more of a bespoke FIT product.
The first phase of the project was completed in early December, with the product set up on the Travelink back office system (www.comtec-group.com), and configuration of the bespoke online booking engine from Tiger Bay (www.tigerbay.co.uk). Finally, this was connected to the existing Load Off Your Back website (www.loadoffyourback.co.uk), to allow a fully transactional online booking service.
I managed the project, worked with users to map out existing business processes, analysed and designed how LOYB could be integrated with Travelink and other RWH processes, trained users and wrote the technical briefs for the 3rd party developments. I was also hands-on with writing SQL, XML, XSL, HTML and Laserfiche (www.laserfiche.com) workflows to support the changes.
Abercrombie & Kent – pilot of FIT packaging system
Abercrombie & Kent are an international luxury travel business with over 50 offices worldwide. They were founders in the Travel Studio back office system for tour operators (www.opendestinations.com), but currently each office uses this in isolation, with no company-wide sales platform.
I have been working alongside other consultants and A&K’s own IT staff as part of an agile team delivering a new browser-based interface that brings together the product from the different A&K companies and handles pricing and production of client proposal documents.
The team successfully piloted a proof-of-concept version of the system with user groups in Chicago and Hong Kong in early December. My initial involvement in the project was as Lead Analyst, running workshops to discover user requirements and current business processes and translating these into technical requirements for A&Ks own development teams and external development suppliers FreshCells (www.freshcells.de) and Peakwork (www.peakwork.co.uk). More recently, I have been playing the role of Product Owner to bring the software to a deployable state.
Certificate in User Experience
In November, 2 Aardvarks went back to school and attended the Nielsen Norman Group ‘Usability Week’ (www.nngroup.com/training). This was an intensive course in user experience and usability, covering interaction design, user testing, user-centered design and usability in an agile context. I subsequently took a series of exams to achieve the ux certification.
And in 2015…
2015 is looking like a great year for 2 Aardvarks. In the early part of the year the remaining Load Off Your Back business processes will go into production as the first clients start their holidays in April. At A&K I will be managing the product road map and requirements backlog to ensure that at least the minimum viable product is ready for the first of 17 offices to go live with the new system at the end of Q2. There are also some other opportunities coming up in January.
Please get in touch if you would like some 2 Aardvarks help with your travel industry project!