by George Nott

CIO50 #26-50: Senthu Jegadheesan, TravelEdge Group

Nov 21, 2017
Technology Industry

TravelEdge is Australia’s largest privately owned travel management company, offering a suite of services that covers corporate travel and in-house travel management solutions, with expertise in managing events, booking holidays and organizing team-build getaways.

At the end of last year the company completed a major transformation programme. Its key aims were to provide a stable collaborative IT platform that could be accessed around the world, and empower its staff to innovate. And it had to be done within the stringent requirements outlined by air travel governing bodyInternational Air Transport Association(IATA), while meeting the individual security requirements of TravelEdge’s clients.

“The transformation project I led positively impacted business performance and was well received by all the stakeholders. As a result, the overall business started to produce superior results, meeting and exceeding customer KPIs on a consistent basis,” says TravelEdge’s chief information officer Senthu Jegadheesan.

Completed in the Q4 2016, the transformation project included the modernization of the company’s IT infrastructure, Office 365 and SharePoint rollout, improved security systems, and Amazon workspace desktops.

The business benefits have been huge. There’s been a reduction in infrastructure and support costs with forecasted savings to the tune of 40 per cent, potentially resulting in savings of $1 million over five years. There’s also been efficiency gains of 20 mins per staff member per day; equating to an estimated $400k per annum in additional value.

Getting connected

While the technology update has been significant, the true transformation took place within the IT function and their relationship with the wider business, Jegadheesan explains.

But first, he had to convince them of the vision.

“Our business was faced with severe challenges prior to the transformation project. Previously technology was inhibiting staff productivity and the IT team had been internally focused, plus there was an apparent disconnect between IT and the business,” says Jegadheesan, who prior to joining TravelEdge in 2013 spent nearly a decade with ASX-listed engineering services firm AJ Lucas.

“The structural and cultural impact relevant to the IT team was significant. Originally the IT team didn’t subscribe to the new vision and felt that the change would have had a negative impact on IT,” he adds.

He mounted a number of change management initiatives to bring them along on the journey, explaining how the renewed vision would elevate IT’s standing, and the opportunities for technology staff’s personal growth.

“They were able to overcome their old ways of thinking and improve their attitude toward change,” he says. “Consequently, the technology team became not only an internal service provider embedded within our business practices, but also became a trusted solution provider to our customers and partners.”

To convince the wider business he consulted with business teams at every stage of the project, sharing a “clear and consistent message articulating the positive benefits”.

“Culturally, self-service habits and migration to the public cloud was perceived as a radical change for the TravelEdge Group that was historically rejected in favour of insourced technology requiring a high degree of reliance on IT for support,” Jegadheesan says.

Any pain endured during the process has paid off. The improved collaboration and user experience resulting from the project has reduced staff attrition by around 40 per cent, with a ten per cent boost to employee engagement scores.

The new sense of camaraderie has given staff “the freedom to express, experiment and grow” Jegadheesan says, and the diverse team (made up of an industry busting 70 per cent female representation) enjoy coaching and mentoring programs “with the intent of supporting their behavioural and technical capabilities”.

At the forefront

Thanks to his influence, TravelEdge now sees itself differently than before.

“A core mindset shift was experienced indicating a move from being predominantly a travel services company with some technology, to a company operating with technology at the forefront of its operations with an acceptance that technology will over time disrupt the corporate travel industry,” Jegadheesan says.

And it is TravelEdge now doing the disrupting. With the right platforms and environments for innovation, the company and its technology function are introducing a slew of new products.

“Our innovations are unique because they are derived from our deep data driven understanding of our customer requirements, which in turn enable the identification and creation of the most pertinent and relevant solutions that contribute to satisfying our full range of customer segments,” Jegadheesan adds.

“The rewards provided from our innovation activity are not only about outcomes and the delivery of products, but also our ability to respond effectively in the pursuit of meaningful competitive advantage.”