Fernando Jorge

Big Data: Your New Travel Agent

Blog Post created by Fernando Jorge Advocate on Nov 9, 2016

Data and business analytics are so much greater than the reports and data-access dashboards for KPIs they’ve been glued to. Yes, analytics can gather data about revenue and quarterly benchmarks. They can be a rearview mirror. Or, they can leverage virtually limitless amounts of Big Data to create more enjoyable, seamless, and profitable experiences.


Imagine a vacation. How many decisions go into it? Think about how a booking website organizes their hotel room availability and pricing information. Consider that airlines must manage thousands of passengers simultaneously across hundreds of flights and dozens of airports. A successful trip requires thousands of decisions, and as a customer most of these are invisible to you. That’s as it should be. As customers, we filter out what doesn’t affect us personally. We don’t really think about the whirl of transactions around us, nor how the vendor managed to mask it. We just want to be taken care of personally, quickly, and appropriately to our needs. After all, that’s what makes vacation relaxing.


While you ultimately choose where to go, what flight to book, and which hotel to stay in, analytics-driven business decisions influence those choices. As Big Data brings more information into businesses’ purview, the likelihood that a customer receives an arbitrary offer or promotion diminishes dramatically. Businesses can identify and target those most likely to accept a travel offer based on their number of recent travel-related purchases, length of time since last trip, and typical destinations. Knowing where your friends had been may help too. If you recently traveled to the Grand Canyon and Moab – or if your search history is filled with such plans – you are more likely to receive a travel promotion for Yosemite than Las Vegas. While these offers may not lead to a reservation, analyzing historical data allows businesses to tailor offers based on what the customer is most likely to respond to.


The algorithms that factor into the rest of a relaxing vacation only increase in complexity from here. From the vendor’s perspective, juggling all this data alone teases disaster. Think about it: if a hotel is using a week-old report of their Elite Customer Program, the desk clerk won’t have the information he needs to offer each guest personalized options at check-in. If a pilot suddenly falls ill the morning of an eight a.m. flight, knowing exactly how many times this has happened over the past five years is relevant – but getting his would-be passengers to their destination is definitely more important. Operating without real-time information is a dangerous game – and it’s unnecessary. Business analytics mean businesses never have to fly blind.


To mitigate the risk that comes with operating under constant change in the real world, FICO enables businesses to make sense of huge and constantly-changing amounts of data. That’s why there’s a pretty good chance that whenever you travel, you interact with FICO analytics or artificial intelligence. Businesses simply run better using analytic-based decision making. For example, at the airport: Southwest, one of the top five US airlines, is using FICO’s analytic decision-making tool Xpress to optimize crew scheduling in compliance with regulations and real-time requirements for crew replacements and flight delays. These analytics make sure your flight is properly staffed and departs the tarmac on time. FICO also provides the Identity Resolution Engine used to match passenger records against the TSA's private and secure data sources. As a traveler, FICO technology running in the background means you’ll be taken care of. For the business it’s more than that: it means they can make decisions that affect their performance, profitability, and compliance, accounting for multiple factors, with the most up-to-date information available. That’s powerful potential.


The rise of Big Data means that access to data is no longer the problem. Figuring out what to do with it and being able to integrate it into real-time operations is the challenge. Alone, Big Data is about as useful as a travel guide written in a foreign language separate from that of the country you’re visiting. You would struggle to understand even a single sentence, much less communicate it to anyone around you. Walking aimlessly would be about as productive as navigating by that book. Data analytics can clarify what would otherwise be chaos. It allows businesses to mine information then transform it into something from which well-informed decisions can be made.


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Past data + present data = decision


After all, decisions operate at the foundation of everything we do – not only as tourists, but as organizations. But unlike travel, businesses can’t rely on serendipity. Better business decisions need better business information to create better results. As a forward-focused practice, analytics help businesses improve their fundamental operational decisions to better serve their customers, run more efficiently, reduce costs, improve margins and raise profits.


Big Data is only useful when it enables us to make better decisions. So next time you cash in a promotion, book a flight, or choose a hotel, consider all the business decisions that facilitate that seamless customer experience. With the right tools, FICO enables organizations to process and understand their data and ultimately make better decisions.


By Fernando Donati Jorge and Anya Vanecek