Amadeus: Check-in and beyond, corporate travel program solutions – Florian Tinnus
As one of the largest providers of IT solutions for the travel industry, Amadeus is at the forefront of automating internal booking processes for corporate clients the world over. Finance Director Europe talks to Florian Tinnus, head of corporate IT solutions, about how the company is paving the way for tailor-made expense management solutions for its global customer base.
"We're present in 195 countries," says Florian Tinnus, head of corporate IT at Amadeus. He lets the claim sit in the air for a moment. Few organisations possess that level of global reach. The United Nations only has 193 member states. "In addition to that, we have over 70 Amadeus commercial organisations, represented in those countries locally. That means you can knock on the door and have a company representative helping you on site immediately."
Originally founded in 1987 as a pooled global distribution system, Amadeus has since grown into one of the world's largest providers of IT travel solutions. Its travel booking software is now embedded in the computer systems of multinationals across a dozen verticals, ranging from the automotive industry and pharmaceuticals, to airlines and hotels. Above all, this has been made possible through Amadeus's aggressive approach towards investing in new solutions for its customers. From 2004 to 2014, the firm poured €3.5 billion into research and development, leading to its recognition as the leader in such investment across the European travel and leisure sector by the EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard in 2014.
In this respect, Tinnus had ample preparation for his current role as Amadeus's head of corporate IT solutions. "I've been lucky in my career," he says. "My previous roles covered responsibilities across IT and travel in companies that have included Daimler, Lufthansa and IBM. What I'm doing at Amadeus now, along with my colleagues, is combining these experiences with a passion for the corporate travel segment. And I would say we're privileged in our capacity to provide travel software solutions for companies of all segments and sizes."
Accomplishing this involves a process that always starts and ends with customer consultation. "Sometimes it takes a risk and an early invest, but we're of the opinion that some of the best innovations we've come up with here happen when we've worked closely with our clients on a whole set of issues," says Tinnus.
"Sometimes that feels strange to say; after all, we're a very technology-oriented company with 5,000 software engineers. Why would we work so closely with our customers if we're already aware of the technical solutions to the problem? However, sometimes it's the best thing to cooperate and be successful, or fall on the nose together."
The first point of contact for many of the projects Tinnus and his colleagues work on are the CFOs of their corporate clients. They fully understand that managing travel costs is one of their key responsibilities. Nevertheless, many of the CFOs that Tinnus initially encounter are frustrated with how those costs are managed on a basic level. "Usually, their internal travel booking systems just aren't automated, insofar as they are confined to just a series of spreadsheets," he says. "However, they also know that very few contractors can give them a transparent overview of their travel costs at the push of a button. That's the sort of information I think aCFO overseeing such a large part of the budget would like to know."
However, before Tinnus and his colleagues can even offer to integrate their travel and expense services into a client's existing IT infrastructure, they need to know two things. "Firstly, we have to understand what drives their main decisions on travel expenditure. Then we have to engage them in a straightforward way on how using our booking platform improves their internal approval processes," he explains.
That conversation will involve an overview of the client's preferred modalities of travel, including what routes are most commonly used, which airlines or other transport companies are typically relied upon and overall customer satisfaction with their existing experience. This is followed by a thorough analysis of the capabilities of their in-house computer systems.
"Once that is concluded, we are in a position to offer an integrated travel and expense solution. This solution includes booking, on-trip services such as mobile and expense management," says Tinnus. "Amadeus also merges with their ERP infrastructure. That allows the client to feed new data on travel arrangements into their human resources and finance systems, as well as reporting and data management." All of this information is accessible at all times, and as such can easily be altered according to the needs of the client. Additionally, Amadeus offers an ongoing maintenance service to make sure that the software remains in good working order throughout its use.
Supporting it all is the Amadeus Data Centre in Erding, Germany. Fully owned and operated by the company, it is able to store 32PB of storage and in so doing process up to 32,000 transactions a second. "We believe maintaining this sort of capacity grants us the security and the confidence to host IT solutions on the scale that we do," says Tinnus.
"Our software-as-a-service offering is easy to implement yet fully customisable, combining the flexibility of the cloud with the security of a fully owned data centre."
Amadeus has employed this approach to signal effect in the automotive industry. This year, the company's collaboration with one car manufacturer has resulted in the creation of a new shared service tool. "Our client said, 'We have travel and expenses in our shared service and we want to overhaul that system,'" says Tinnus. "Specifically, they asked us to help create a concept that enhanced their visibility on spending. We developed the project together with their shared service specialists and with their finance department to deliver the level of control and transparency they wanted."
Amadeus has also recently had the chance to collaborate with Microsoft. Two years ago, the software giant approached the firm with a unique offer: to build, from scratch, a sophisticated travel booking program that could be integrated within the Outlook calendar. The embedded booking tool that resulted is currently undergoing beta trials with a select number of customers. Amadeus hopes to begin the full roll-out in early 2016.
"Honestly, if you think about it, looking at your calendar is the first thing we all do when we book a holiday," Tinnus says. "Admittedly, there was some risk in the enterprise for us, as our booking tool was no longer visible. Nevertheless, it was a great experience. We recently launched the application at a conference in the US, and obtained a very positive reception from the media and our customer base alike."
It is this level of centricity that corporate clients will seek in the future. The rapid development of information technology over recent years has led to a commensurate diversification in the ways it is possible to travel to almost any given destination. According to Tinnus, the need for a software platform able to tie all of these threads together is becoming increasingly obvious. "It is now necessary to take into account fleet management, car sharing and new additions to the marketplace like Uber to properly plan a journey," he says. "We believe, at Amadeus, in the need to centralise this process, to use the technology we have available to drive the automation of their processes and push for a better user experience."