Technology Trends within the Cruising Industry
Historic IT Architecture
Up until 2003-2005, IT infrastructure within cruising companies was, by today's measures, relatively simple, and the business processes relatively sequential. This was due to significantly fewer passengers, smaller and fewer ships, and simpler itineraries, as well as a marketing model that heavily relied on travel agents and direct mail. This encouraged development of proprietary monolithic systems with holistic integrated functionality.
Increased IT Architecture Complexity
In the subsequent 6-8 year period between 2005 and 2013, increased competition, increased number of passengers, the push to increase revenue per passenger per day, as well as the wholesale adoption of the internet, have caused a massive increase in technical complexity required to sustain business growth. These dynamics have driven the need to have highly integrated systems rather than "technology islands", and have forced systems to be much more tightly coupled. Specialist systems vendors responded to this demand by surrounding their systems with API's and in some cases automating the update of a technical environment, without changing the underlying structure of the systems. These changes have further increased the complexity of the systems, making them harder to maintain, and more proprietary.
Multilayered IT Services
With cruise businesses requiring access to more complex functionality, and that being primarily available through the cloud, the 'one big system to do it all' concept is being challenged. Best-of-breed functionality may will need to come from external systems, for example, do you maintain customer information in the reservation system CRM component, or in Salesforce in the cloud, and if in the cloud, how do the systems integrate). This IT complexity increase has radically affected both internal and external systems.
External IT Services: for marketing and social media, cruise companies require fully integrated Digital Marketing Platforms, CRM, BI, and web services to manage their strategic analysis as well as day-to-day external communications.
Internal IT Services: for internal operations, cruise companies require centralized services accessible internationally, for yield management, reservations, finance, HR, as well as customer on-boarding, payment processing, etc.
Guest Services: guest services further complicate IT services for cruising companies with the increasing need for on-ship web access, on-demand entertainment, and ship-side / port-side purchases.
Increasingly, cruising companies require a fully flexible and scalable IT architecture that can be used across multinational enterprises, with a combination of cloud-based and premises-based components, and a substantial requirement for real-time continuous updates and integration.
In order to expand functional capabilities and contain costs in an incrementally complex environment, there will be increased pressure to use specialized service-based components which are more likely to be cloud based, but need to interact seamlessly and in real-time with all of the surrounding systems and infrastructure. This will drive the need for a significant review of the underlying enterprise architecture:
- Future architecture definition: functional dis-aggregation to achieve best of breed applications, specialization
- Movement to cloud: flexibility and scalability to cope with business growth and contraction, while simultaneously controlling infrastructure costs
- Consolidation of architectures following M&A or business growth over a long period of time with technology 'islands'
- Improved integration between marketing, reservations, and property management functionality and underlying systems
- Multilingual systems (particularly for Asian markets)