Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sabre Travel Network announces new GUI workflow solution. Is that a green screen death rattle? Or just a chuckle?

Sabre Travel Network announced a global pilot of a new work flow solution for the agency community. The new product will include a new GUI (graphical user interface,) work flow management across multiple GDS, a customer profile, etc.

We haven’t seen it (though we'd love a demo at the right time) but we're going to give it long odds until the proof is in front of us. GUI agent desktops usually fail in the agency community on two counts. First, the experienced agents (especially corporate agents, who get those stressful calls from travelers on the road after their flight has been canceled) can actually go much faster on the green screen than they can with mouse clicking and typing. So the pretty GUI actually slows them down to the point where they get frustrated and leave it. New agents like the GUI because it gets them up to speed faster, but after a while they want to be with the ‘cool kids’ and they slowly migrate away to the green screen.

The second challenge is integrating supply into a common UI and booking record. The GDS have been trying to push everything they can into a PNR for obvious reasons, but some content just won’t go into an active segment, and passive segments present synchronization challenges. So there are too many trade-offs to be made from an agent perspective. They still have fragmented booking records and spend extra time trying to make sure everything is up to date when itinerary changes occur.

So if you think the new product is going to be a hit, how do you measure adoption? Not by looking at the number of installations of the new product. That doesn't really tell you much, though it's easy to measure. You have to count the number of messages that flow through the core via the GUI applications vs. those that go through the green screen products. Surprise! The GUIs probably count for a lot less than you'd think.

It would be possible to design a system that would overcome these issues, but it’s not easy to do. If the GDS are 'listening to their customers’ on this issue then they’ll likely fail. It's one of those situations where "It's what I asked for but it's not what I need." Interviews can't easily communicate the reasons for the relationship between the agent and the green screen. It's best to just observe them and see what they do, interpret the rationale and then plan the product accordingly. If you've ever spent a few (or many) afternoons watching how they work and asking a few follow up questions, you'll have a solid appreciation for how skilled agents work with the green screen and why it serves them so well. You'll also have a new appreciation for how good some of these agents really are.

Carry on, Sabre. We hope you’ve cracked the code.

Guest Posted by George Roukas


  1. these pilot projects usually always work, hopefully everything goes well!