Discover how a solo data professional successfully developed a scalable application, leveraging a database that efficiently retrieves and processes daily data updates from an SFTP folder.
Can an application be developed without a data/engineering team?
Uniglobe Travel Designers, a full-service Travel Management Company, specializes in both corporate and leisure travel, optimizing business travel programs to simplify and streamline travel operations and processes for their clients. Recently, they discovered that maintaining efficiency has become a more significant challenge as their business grows.
When Uniglobe approached Acho, they were relying on multiple Excel files to manage tasks such as prepaying hotels before travelers' check-in. The downsides of this approach were evident: it lacked data transparency across the team and hindered effective communication with the management. After exploring our Live Demo (https://acho.io/live-demo) page, they had one final concern: could they successfully implement the solution without a dedicated data or engineering team?
Indeed, the answer is yes. There's no need to dedicate an entire team to build out a custom business application using Acho App Builder. In fact, most demos on our Live Demo page (https://acho.io/live-demo) were built by just one person. Thanks to the fully productized data infrastructure, low-code development engine, and software toolkits. A single individual with a good understanding of the data and their business domain can efficiently create a mission-critical business application on Acho. As a result, Mike, the Corporate Technology Specialist at Uniglobe, was able to create the application all by himself.
Data-related challenges for online travel agencies (OTAs)
Online travel agencies face several data-related challenges as they strive to maximize their audience reach while delivering exceptional experiences to each of their customers. Here are some of the most notable data challenges facing OTAs today:
- Data volume and variety: OTAs manage a substantial amount of data originating from diverse sources such as customer profiles, bookings, reviews, and more. At present, there is no good option for specialized CRM solutions explicitly designed for OTAs. As a result, it's crucial to opt for a customizable CRM that can adapt to the ever-changing data sources and requirements.
- Data integration: With data coming from multiple sources, OTAs must integrate and harmonize the data to ensure consistency and accuracy.
- Data security and privacy: OTAs collect and store sensitive customer information, such as payment details and personal preferences.
- Data accuracy: Ensuring the accuracy and completeness of data is critical for OTAs, as inaccurate information can lead to customer dissatisfaction and lost bookings. They must implement processes to identify and correct data errors and inconsistencies.
- Operational Scalability: As OTAs grow and their data volumes increase, they need to ensure that their data infrastructure and team members can handle seasonal peaks, demand surges, and sudden events to accommodate customer needs.
- Data governance: Implementing and maintaining robust data governance practices is essential for OTAs to ensure data quality, compliance with regulations, and efficient data management.
To solve these challenges, Acho helped Uniglobe to design the ideal solution within Acho:
- Set up a data pipeline for data integration and transformation
- Create a PostgreSQL table for the incoming data and use it as the Single Source of Truth of bookings
- Develop a data application that enables both staff and management of Uniglobe to manage the data simultaneously
Set up the data pipeline
To eliminate the need for handling multiple Excel files for all the staff, we set up a dedicated SFTP folder for the daily incoming data updates. This data is then merged and inserted into a table within a PostgreSQL database hosted by Acho. In doing so, we removed the hassle of deploying and hosting the SFTP folder and database for Mike.
Every morning, the pipeline initiates by fetching data from the SFTP folder according to the schedule set by Uniglobe for data synchronization. After merging (joining) the data based on custom-defined rules, the data is inserted into the PostgreSQL table, which in turn updates the table displayed in the data application.
Data application - data management
Now, Mike has finished the data preparation, it's time to utilize the data to create an application for agents. One of the challenges we mentioned earlier was scalability. As the business grows, Uniglobe hit a bottleneck due to the use of multiple Excel files. They needed to find a future-proof solution, which is why they opted for the PostgreSQL database hosted by Acho.
The primary view of the data application is a table that enables both staff and management to edit booking statuses, add notes, edit details (management only), and delete records (management only). Access control is one of the common features that enterprises have. To differentiate between Uniglobe's staff and management and assign different permissions, Mike created two roles in the application, "admin" and "staff". He has the ability to customize access permissions to all elements in the application however and whenever he wants.
In addition to the table, Mike also implemented some other features, such as a search bar and pagination, to meet their specific requirements. With these features included in the application, both staff and management can seamlessly update the status of each booking and receive instant feedback on the changes made by others. In this case, the table became the single source of truth for Uniglobe.
One of the challenges Uniglobe faced was the ability to automate certain processes, such as emailing and calling travelers after managing their data. This is a common use case among many of our customers. In today's competitive business environment, automation plays a crucial role in reducing operational costs and streamlining processes.
Uniglobe's travel agents previously had to manually input the traveler's email, subject, and message before sending an email. After integrating the feature into the application, they can now easily construct the email by clicking a "send email" button. A pop-up appears, providing a preview of the email with certain fields automatically filled in. This streamlined process saves time and reduces the risk of errors.
Uniglobe's business also requires calling hotels and travelers. Acho has integrated with Twilio to simplify this process, enabling users to initiate a call by merely clicking a phone icon button rather than manually dialing the number. Upon clicking the button, Acho initiates a call to the travel agent’s phone, which they answer first. Once connected, the system automatically dials the hotel or traveler, streamlining the calling process and improving overall efficiency.
After deploying the application and having Uniglobe's booking team use it, Mike shared with us the significant impact it had on their day-to-day operations. The application not only improved their efficiency by 90% in managing bookings but also fostered transparency throughout the entire company.
The application marks the beginning of Uniglobe's digital transformation and automation journey. Taking advantage of the scalability offered by the App Builder, Uniglobe is continuously expanding and enhancing the application as we speak.