IT Life: Big Data For The Travel Industry

pascal clement amadeus

Pascal Clement has a mission. He’s building Big Data solutions for travel, at Amadeus

Pascal Clement is head of Big Data at Amadeus, the tech firm that serves the travel and tourism industries.

He’s been in the data management and analytics industry 20 years.  But after many years with vendors, he’s now putting Big Data to work, trying to find ways to use information to make the industry work better.

Better to travel right

AeroplaneWhat has been your favourite project so far?
I’ve been working for various vendors such as SAP, Business Objects and SPSS but my current role at Amadeus is different. I have been appointed to build a business intelligence services division within the company, which can deliver insights to our airline, travel agency, hotel, airport and other customer groups within the travel industry.

This is definitely my favorite project so far because this time I’ve been asked to build what I have recommended my customers do for many years. At Amadeus we have people with an extremely deep knowledge of the industry, which makes this particularly exciting. It’s also the first time that big data technologies have been mature enough to factor into the equation – so that too makes 2013 a unique time to be doing this.

What tech were you involved with ten years ago?
In 2003 I was selling predictive analytics as VP of EMEA for SPSS. Back then it really was early days for predictive analytics and we were heavily focused on helping customers to embrace the potential of analytics. The focus was about bringing a cost effective solution that could be deployed rapidly on very specific problems.

What tech do you expect to be using in ten years’ time?
For me a real change is the merging of localisation and predictive analytics, which combined will offer society some fantastic advances. In travel, the industry I am currently focused on, this combination could drastically improve the passenger experience throughout the travel process. Imagine being able to search ‘Door to Door’ with a complete travel itinerary returned for all modes of transport. Localisation might add significant benefits at the airport for example and may allow providers of travel options for new services we can’t even imagine today.

Amazon rules, SQL drools

amazon Jeff Bezos squareWho’s your tech hero?
Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame. I have always admired him for having the vision to realise Amazon was way more than a retailer, which used the internet. He built the company with analytics at its core and we are all familiar with the success that approach has yielded. His foresight to shift the model to offer cloud computing was also visionary and shows a great ability to predict the direction of business technology.

Who’s your tech villain?
I would like to cite SQL as my tech villain. For years our industry has built analytic solutions focused on SQL and it really has never been appropriate for that purpose. This has brought a lot of pain for the last 15 years and so much effort has been spent trying to fix the situation and find a right solution for Business intelligence.

[Interestingly, a previous IT Life subject, Jan Quant, listed SQL inventor Ted Codd as his tech hero  – Editor]

What’s your favorite technology ever made? Which do you use most?
It’s a tough call between the PC and the smartphone. I now find myself becoming evermore mobile and I think the smartphone has a whole raft of innovation still to come whilst the PC has had its glory days already.

What is your budget outlook going forward? Flat? Growing?
My own budget has grown exponentially as Amadeus is investing to support the development of an analytics services business unit. We are focused on helping the travel industry make the best decisions possible in real-time, using the very latest innovations in data management and analytics technologies. I am also convinced that the budgets of our customers for analytics spending will increase too.

Following its early adopter status in areas such as revenue management, pricing and crew scheduling our industry has not innovated enough in this space. That is now poised to change as highlighted within a new research report undertaken by Harvard Professor Thomas Davenport.

Cloud hamlet shakespeare statue question skull © ShutterstockApart from your own, which company do you admire most and why?
Again I would cite Amazon. The business is very well run and in my opinion they are the world’s greatest e-Commerce company.

What’s the greatest challenge for an IT company/department today?
For me it is data management. IT departments are often tasked with managing data with technical-first staff, and lack the business understanding required to undertake this work. This work can often be seen as the company ‘plumbing’ and therefore gaining the sponsorship and investment required is tough.

To Cloud or not to Cloud?
That’s not the question…anymore. Everything will be moved to the cloud at some point, it’s just a matter of when.

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