Case Study: Sabre
Sabre Streamlines Decision Making
Travel solutions provider’s executive dashboard delivers real-time data to airlines.
For more than 50 years, Sabre has transformed the travel industry through technological advancements achieved by its four companies: Sabre Airline Solutions, Travelocity, Sabre Travel Network and Sabre Hospitality Solutions.
As one of the world’s largest travel solutions providers, Sabre faces challenges that include creating business intelligence (BI) tools for itself and leveraging it for its clients. While many data warehouse and BI efforts are initiated to support internal corporate initiatives, Sabre is unusual in that it also delivers these solutions to external customers such as airlines, travel agencies, hotels, cruise and rental car companies.
During the long, hot summer of 2008, the global economy grew increasingly grim, with the volatile airline industry one of the hardest hit. In response, Sabre’s leadership coordinated an off-site, cross-company brainstorming session in which participants were challenged to explore opportunities and develop ideas, including new value-added BI services based on real-time data feeds.
The concept for an airline executive dashboard “rose to the top,” says Jessica Thorud, director of Data Warehouse Development and Delivery for Sabre Airline Solutions. “The group recognized that … getting accurate and timely operational data is a critical need for our customers’ top executives.”
That’s because airline executives must make quick assessments of daily results, forthcoming booking trends and the impacts of competition. Then they need to take immediate action, monitor the results and review.
However, the traditional process for collecting and aggregating information has been manual and time-consuming—often taking days or weeks, especially for smaller airlines. This valuable time could make all the difference in serving passengers, ensuring safety and boosting the bottom line.
A Dashboard is Born
Fueled by a common vision, strong collaboration and support at the highest levels in the organization, a prototype for the Sabre Executive Dashboard was created less than six months after the brainstorming session.
The effort involved more than 40 employees from 10 teams across Sabre, including accounting, operations, user interface development, usability, marketing, BI and the enterprise data warehouse group, as well as consultation with several customers. The product was launched in July 2009, just seven months after the prototype was developed.
"Having an array of financial, operational and other business information at their fingertips on their desktop computers every day strengthens executives’ ability to manage successfully."
— Jeff Barnhart, Sabre Executive Dashboard Product Manager
Driven to develop an important tool for customers, Sabre focused on getting the new dashboard into their hands as quickly as possible. This meant offering the core key performance indicators (KPIs) to start, getting feedback from clients and quickly adapting to offer more KPIs.
A Better View
The application’s purpose is to integrate performance metrics for decision makers. It has typically been difficult for airlines to aggregate these measurements from various sources into a single, at-a-glance view that can identify opportunities for enhancing customer service, operations and revenues.
Airlines can configure their customizable dashboard to monitor the metrics they believe will make the biggest impact. In doing so, however, those airlines with solutions from other providers in some operational areas required a standard, structured process for feeding data into their dashboards. According to the development team, providing this capability—integration of various data sets—was one of the greatest challenges. But this ability to integrate data from systems other than Sabre’s broadens the dashboard’s target market.
Ultimately, the dashboard delivers a fully automated, user-friendly interface that enables top-level managers to view performance metrics in real time and easily monitor and track daily business operations. With some data updated every 15 minutes, this single dashboard brings together the key bookings, sales, revenue and flight information that defines the airline’s performance, both today and in the days ahead.
At one airline, the Sabre Executive Dashboard provides senior management with a daily and intra-day snapshot of important KPIs in a single application. What was once an eight-hour, once-a-week process to collect data from many sources and generate reports has become a single, real-time application, facilitating quicker decisions.
In particular, having schedule information updated every 15 minutes enables executives to monitor the day’s flights more closely. Because of the cascading down-line effects, as the daily kickoff flights go, so go the rest of the day’s departures and arrivals. When top managers have access to critical information, they can readily see outlying data points—good or poor—and focus resources on addressing the root causes.
The dashboard allows top- and middle-level leaders more time for bottom-line-oriented activities because they have a single repository of shared, timely and actionable information. Access to real-time business-critical information enables improved strategic and tactical decisions, which translates into increased revenue, efficiency and customer loyalty.
“Having an array of financial, operational and other business information at their fingertips on their desktop computers every day strengthens executives’ ability to manage successfully,” says Sabre Executive Dashboard Product Manager Jeff Barnhart. “They can see how the business is doing right now and compare year-over-year. By seeing up to 331 days of future bookings, they have insight into future revenue streams. The executives and analysts can now focus on any outlying data points, determine impact and take action immediately to repeat or eliminate successes or problem events, instead of later when the window of opportunity for effective action has passed.”
Ready for Takeoff
Future enhancements to the dashboard:
- New metrics to provide even more insight into an airline’s status
- Mobile application currently under development to access the dashboard using smart phones
- Seamless connection to other Sabre dashboards and detailed reporting products
- Data from the Sabre Customer Value Calculator to provide more detailed information on passengers to help identify trends
“Near real-time integrated data has created opportunities for us to drive more value for our customers,” says Darren Rickey, vice president of Solutions Management for Sabre AirVision Marketing and Planning in Sabre Airline Solutions. “The Teradata Active Enterprise Data Warehouse, combined with our BI tools, has enabled Sabre to create data-driven solutions like the Sabre Executive Dashboard and various other reporting solutions for airlines. We’re helping our customers to enhance their customer-service capabilities and improve their revenues.”