By: Hansa Iyengar, Analyst, IT Services
Transformation is quickly becoming the watchword for enterprises gearing up to meet the demands of the digital economy. It is no longer enough to simply have an online presence or a mobile app; true transformation is about enabling the business to better engage its customers and using these interactions to guide strategic thinking. However, transformation is not easy, and working with the right outsourcing partner can help to mitigate some of the risks involved.
Carey International, a leading provider of chauffeured vehicle and ground transportation management services headquartered in Washington, DC, chose NIIT Technologies to be its partner in its transformation. NIIT Technologies went beyond the contractual terms to enable Carey to transform into an agile enterprise that has all the necessary tools in place for future growth.
1) The successful transformation of Carey’s business model is testament to NIIT Technologies’ expertise in the travel, transportation, and logistics space.
2) The case study highlights the importance of a planned, top-down approach to transformation and a proactive, partnership-based approach to problem-solving.
3) Some of the critical success factors of the contract were the identification and definition of what constitutes transformation at the beginning of the process, the involvement of the
business throughout, and the attention paid to enhancing the skills of the retained organization.
The Carey–NIIT Technologies engagement can be seen as part of an ongoing trend whereby enterprises prefer vendors that can offer vertical specialization, flexibility, and responsiveness in order to deliver more customer-facing, high-profile work within time and budgetary constraints. It shows how the emphasis has shifted to a more product-oriented approach to application development that focuses on the rapid, iterative development of the IP assets that underpin a digital enterprise. The engagement is also testament to the evolution of the business’s attitude toward (and involvement in) the IT roadmap, as well as the fact that vendor investments in building super-specializations have begun to pay off.
Carey provides a useful reference point for organizations that are considering working with a partner as they transition into being future-ready. It is probably fair to describe Carey’s existing technology investments as basic and its IT organization as immature and lacking exposure to the cutting-edge technology in its segment, as most of its core systems are homegrown and were last updated nearly a decade ago. However, Carey’s executive team showed maturity in its commitment to driving the transformation of both its systems and its IT organization, which was the driving force behind the initiative. Carey also insisted on working with a partner that showed depth of expertise in the travel segment and was amenable to working within extremely tight time frames under a fixed price arrangement.
Carey executives expressed their appreciation for NIIT Technologies’ proactive approach – from its pre-assessment of existing systems and IT organization to its flexibility and willingness to take over a project that, as such a massive undertaking with such tight deadlines, had scared many other vendors away. With its significant experience in the segment, NIIT Technologies was able to anticipate Carey’s requirements, and it even made several suggestions and amendments that have formed the basis of the next phase in Carey’s journey to becoming a truly digital and agile enterprise. Carey also made a
few suggestions that have helped the vendor to fine-tune its portfolio of transformational offerings – which is proof of an active and engaged partnership rather than a simple client-vendor story.
By going above and beyond the contractual terms with Carey, NIIT Technologies has a created a strong client reference for its transformation offerings, and it continues to be Carey’s partner of choice in its future initiatives. Client-centricity is difficult to convey in marketing messages alone; the feedback from Carey’s executives is a much a stronger validation that the right attitude and approach can help midsize vendors like NIIT Technologies to make further inroads in the potentially lucrative digital transformation space.
Recommendations for Enterprises
This case illustrates several aspects that make for a successful transformation narrative, specifically the importance of working with a vendor with the correct vertical and technical know-how to deliver what is required within established time frames and to quality standards. When embarking on a transformative engagement, enterprises need to remember the following:
1) Most importantly, any business transformation endeavor is not the sole responsibility of the IT organization. True transformation starts and ends in the executive suite, and the business side needs to be involved throughout the process.
2) The time and money invested in understanding what your customers want is not wasted. It can improve the efficiency of the development lifecycle and provide fodder for foundational marketing campaigns.
3) It pays to involve key customers upfront (especially for long-term projects), and have gate checks where you update them on your progress.
4) Be prepared for growing pains and initial setbacks, as it takes time for people and processes to adjust to the new status quo.
5) Prepare for a stabilization period for things to catch up, as it may take a quarter or two for the results to show.
6) Push your main vendor to focus on delivering greater value to the business by staying attuned to the entire transformation roadmap rather than simply focusing on finishing the project.
Implementation and Results
The core of the initiative revolved around upgrading Carey’s homegrown enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to meet leading industry standards, and delivering the front-end applications and back-end integration required to transform Carey’s brick-and-mortar business model into a digital one.
The implementation involved six different work streams:
1) Developing a B2B website – Carey Connect – that could be used by travel managers and
ensuring it integrated with the clients’ websites, such as American Express Global Business
2) Developing new responsive websites for Carey’s two brands – Carey and Embarque – with self-service features for travelers.
3) Building mobile apps for iOS and Android platforms for each of the two brands.
4) Rewriting mobile apps to remove dependency on Antenna Software – a third-party provider of mobile solutions. This helped to optimize the two-way system that is used by the central dispatch office to locate the vehicle closest to the customer and coordinate with drivers. The upgrade also included building a mobile app and enabling all chauffeurs with mobile devices to eliminate the need for calling into the dispatch office, thereby making the new system easier to use and more efficient.
5) Integrating the mobile apps and the back-end system to provide push notifications, for
example for chauffeur location and contact information for customers, and letting the travel arrangers know that the client has been picked up or has reached the destination.
6) Integrating Carey’s systems with the Sabre Red travel booking system that is used widely in the industry (Sabre Red commands a third of the global distribution market for online travel reservations). This was the first instance of a chauffeur-driven service being integrated so that a travel agent using the Sabre solution can book a chauffeured vehicle alongside their flight and hotel reservations.
Carey had a market survey underway simultaneously to gain insights on the features needed across its systems, and these were used to guide the requirements and scope of the applications being developed. This added another layer of complexity to the engagement. The overall effort involved was approximately 600 work months, and the resources were distributed 15% onsite and 85% offshore. Although it was a fixed price engagement, the terms were kept flexible, with the commercial agreement allowing for a 15% increase or decrease in scope and an associated change in price in the same range.
Both Carey and NIIT Technologies understood the criticality of the transformation initiative, and they used distributed agile as the core delivery methodology. However, given the time frames – the entire transformation had to be completed in under 12 months – it was “agile on steroids,” as the CEO of Carey stated in his interview with Ovum.
Reflecting on the entire transformation process, Carey executives were appreciative of NIIT Technologies’ willingness to conduct a pre-assessment of their existing systems before proposing a solution, and they also noted that NIIT Technologies was the only vendor willing to engage with them on such tight time frames and requirements.
NIIT Technologies also worked closely with the client on the entire change management exercise, including delivering training on agile methodologies and offering consulting on the proper agile tools and processes to use. In the process, Carey was able to transform itself into a more nimble organization, and it also restructured its IT into two – run IT and build IT – where traditional IT teams are “run IT” and the more market-driven “build IT” part is controlled by the line of business and ensures that agile is scaled within the enterprise.