Wolfgang Schuller is primarily responsible for assisting our customers in the implementation of Umbrella Faces. He has the rare gift of being able to explain complex relationships clearly and comprehensibly.
For this reason we asked him for an interview to make us more familiar with the subject of profile mapping. Lo and behold, this rather difficult subject is suddenly understandable, even to an interested layman. But why not read for yourself:
Wolfgang, how long have you been dealing with the subject of profile management for travel agencies?
I have been doing this since the end of 2013 when we conceived a new profile management system for FCM Columbus in Vienna as part of a cooperation between Umbrella and Amadeus.
This new tool then became Umbrella Faces. I moved to Umbrella at the end of 2014 and there I assist and support the majority of implementations.
What has been the highlight of your work at Umbrella so far?
That is definitely the Faces workshop with Amadeus in Bangkok at the beginning of 2017. I not only learned so much both culturally and professionally, but also really enjoyed the trip.
Another very exciting thing was the preparation and implementation of the Lufthansa City Center offices in Germany. In this phase we expanded Faces very quickly and continued to evolve our processes.
How many implementations have you worked on thus far?
I have been heavily involved in about 20 projects so far. There are then about 40 more where I professionally assisted with the client’s project management. So that makes a good 60 projects in three-and-a-half years, or about one-and-a-half per month.
Many clients describe so-called “mapping” as a challenge in a profile management project. What exactly is “mapping”?
In mapping we define how a certain field in the corresponding system is named and which format is allowed. A simple example: the designation for the field with an email address in different systems is:
· in Umbrella Faces: Email
· in Amadeus csx: APE-
· in Galileo Client Profiles: MT.
· in cytric: Personal data – eMail
The list of the fields used, their designation and the format guideline vary between different travel agencies.
And how many fields are typically defined?
There are about 30 fields for company profiles and 60 fields for traveller profiles.
How do you define mappings?
For common systems (Amadeus, Galileo, Sabre Profiles, cytric and AeTM) we have standard mappings in the form of an Excel sheet. That means customers only need to document deviations or additions to these standards in their sheet.
With Faces implementations, the definition of a mapping can be a minor detail or it can drag on for weeks. Why is that?
Easy: some customers have no prior guidelines for profiles. Without standards and guidelines each profile looks different. This jumbled data can only be cleaned up with the help of profile standards.
On the other hand, the implementation of Faces is a good opportunity to finally clean up data. Because it is only with clean data that travel agencies can automate their internal processes for the long run.
Other customers already have profile standards and clean data before their Faces project. With them it is clear which fields are needed and which format these fields need to have. In these cases the mapping definition and data migration can be done very quickly.
What should a Faces customer do if they do not yet have structured profile data?
The absolute first thing is to define a profile standard. That is actually quite easy if you know the operational processes of a travel agency. The core questions are:
· Which tools and systems are used in or provided with data from the travel agency? These are GDS, self-booking tools, duty-of-care solutions, reporting data banks, robotics solutions, quality checks or midoffice systems for instance.
· And: which profile information is required for these to work perfectly?
Is there a typical mistake that customers can make when defining profile standards?
There are actually two cardinal errors: a project leader’s lack of attention and lack of familiarity with the topic. And when those mistakes are made, frequent improvements are needed. That requires not only a significant amount of time but energy, too.
On attention: The topic of profile standards does not tolerate superficial treatment. You have to take your time and carefully consider the effect that certain definitions will have on the corresponding system.
On familiarity with the topic: Someone who is very familiar with the processes and requirements of the daily business must take responsibility for the definition of profile standards. Generally that is someone from the travel agency’s operations department. The commitment of an external consultant with deep industry knowledge, for example TravelBrain, has also proved very successful. They can do this very well and very effectively.
After mapping comes data migration; for example from a GDS or self-booking tool. How do you approach the situation when existing profile data is unorganised – “higgledy piggledy”, you might say?
It is actually quite simple: we define a “higgledy piggledy” field for all unstructured data in Umbrella Faces.
That means: All structured data such as telephone numbers or credit cards are automatically recorded in the correct field in Faces.
Unstructured data are entered into the appropriate “higgledy piggledy” field in Faces. From there they can be manually corrected over a longer period of time and transferred to the correct fields.
This process takes the time pressure out of a migration. No information gets lost and step by step it leads to a continuous improvement of data quality.
Let’s talk about Wolfgang Schuller as a person! What do you enjoy outside of work?
My family is my top priority – my wife Birgit, Hanna (14), Thomas (11) and our Australian shepherd mix Luna (2). I also enjoy running in our area’s vineyards (near Pulkau in Austria’s Weinviertel region close to the Czech border). At the moment I am also training hard for the Vienna City Marathon on 23 April.
And I am a huge fan of the Orli Znojmo ice hockey team from the nearby Czech city of Znojmo.
Speaking of Pulkau: You mostly work from home with a beautiful view of the nearby vineyards (see photo). How does your collaboration with the Umbrella headquarters work?
It works without a hitch! In the era of Webex and Skype there is absolutely no difference between being in Pulkau or in the office in Wetzikon. I can even be a part of coffee chats and informal communication through Skype.
In the past I commuted two hours to Vienna and back every day. Working from home has definitely made a very positive impact on our quality of life.
Thank you very much for your time!