Workflows & Revenue Management to Accelerate Recovery

April 15, 2021 Rachel Golden

With a wealth of information at our fingertips, we often find ourselves burdened by information overload. In this digital age, we want immediate access to all this data, but we also want to be able to easily find, analyze, and interpret it. Then, a critical step is to take action based on the information. This is where user experience comes into the equation. User experience encompasses how a user interacts with a product or service, including the perceived ease of use and efficiency. User experience with the software industry tends to focus on workflows and how to streamline activities that users need to accomplish their daily tasks.

But, why do we care so much about user experience and workflows? And what does this have to do with airlines, particularly revenue management teams? When we think of user experience in the airline space, traditionally many of us think of how passengers interact with the airlines through their websites, not necessarily the people behind the scenes in revenue management and other critical teams that are essential for the operation of an airline. However, as with anyone needing to make critical business decisions based on a ton of data, the user experience is extremely important. It is especially important, for anyone interacting with a software product like PROS Revenue Management.

Importance of Workflows for User Experience

Many software products do not have a true workflow that allows users to easily accomplish their tasks. This means that a user will typically have a list of screens or functionality that they use to accomplish day-to-day business tasks. The problem with this approach when designing software products is that there may be navigational challenges that make it difficult for the user to accomplish their work. This can be something as “small” as having to navigate away from the data they were analyzing to take an action or as cumbersome as having to re-enter the same data repeatedly. On its own, this may seem minor, but when using a tool on a regular basis, this can quickly lead to frustration for the user. It can also lead a decrease in productivity. Many users will likely look for other ways to complete their tasks, sometimes foregoing the product entirely. In turn, businesses sometimes spend a large amount of time and resources investing in workarounds to make things easier on their employees.

Any impacts to productivity can have huge implications on airlines. Before COVID, airlines were expanding their networks at rapid rates. Expanding to new routes meant new opportunities to capture new passengers and increase demand for existing routes. This put a large burden on the revenue management team to find ways for analysts to be more efficient so they can manage more routes. Or they looked to hire new analysts, which resulted in high training costs. Even during the pandemic, similar issues are arising. Some airlines have had to reduce the size of their teams, requiring them to do more with less. With smaller airline teams, the need for efficiency becomes even more critical.  

What Does a Good Workflow Look Like?

A true workflow should guide a user to the most important tasks and goals (i.e., the most important markets/routes in the case of revenue management) and guide them through the steps they need to take in order to accomplish that task or goal. It should provide a streamlined user experience that makes it very easy and simple to take the necessary actions based on information presented to them. When PROS designs workflows, we design them to give the user insights and recommendations to alleviate the amount of analysis they are required to do on their own. This allows the user to do less within the system and yet get more value from using the product to make a bigger impact.

The end-user should be the sole focus when designing a workflow. After all, they are the ones using the software. At PROS, we pride ourselves in our workflow designs. Our design committee looks like this:

The Standard Software Design Committee chart

We are focused on the user, but all stakeholders at the airline, as well as at PROS, have buy in and can impact the workflow design. We take feedback and suggestions and use that to enhance and improve our user interfaces with good design principles. Good design reduces friction and frustration for the user. This means a well-designed workflow should be easy to use, it should guide the user through their tasks, and should be intuitive or easy to learn. It should also be designed around industry best practices so that users are utilizing the system in the most efficient way possible and taking the correct actions in the system. For revenue management teams, this means preventing analysts from over or under managing their markets and flights in the system as these can have widely negative impacts in the system. Ideally, analysis and action parts of the system should be integrated so that when the user sees something that requires action, it is easy to make a change.

In the Context of Revenue Management

All of these concepts are important in any software application, but particularly in powerful, yet complex products like revenue management tools. With many subsystems that have their own features and also interact with each other, it’s paramount to ensure that it is easy to understand the data in the system, RM teams can accomplish what needs to be done, and see how their actions impact other parts of the system and other analysts. Revenue management analysts do not have the time to review every single market or every single flight, every day. We aim to design clear, effective uplifting workflows, giving the users a way to prioritize their work and they need relevant information to be presented in an easily digestible way so they can quickly make the correct adjustments. 

PROS revenue management philosophy has always been to manage by exception. Our system generates controls using industry-leading science and then analysts are responsible for managing the situations where the analyst knows more than the system, such as holidays or special events. Then, the analysts should monitor their markets and routes and adjust as needed, but the majority of the flights should be under the system’s control. The new workflows in the PROS Revenue Management solution are designed with all of these principles in mind. For example, the general flow of our workflows is structured as follows:
PROS Revene Management solution workflow

At PROS, the Product Management and User Experience teams have researched directly with our airline customers and their end users with the sole purpose to reduce friction in our products. Our process truly is user centric. We look to understand the analysts and their day-to-day problems so we can prototype what we believe is the best solution to those problems. Then, we test the prototype with end users to get feedback so we can further iterate or refine. We continue this process until we get consistently positive feedback, then the feature is developed, and we continue to get feedback for further improvements and enhancements.

Our customers tell us that a truly streamlined workflow, that follows these best practices, can decrease the amount of time they need to spend in the system by up to 50%. When analysts are more efficient, they can make a shift from reactive to proactive management of their markets and routes. This means RM analysts can look at more strategic management of their markets and routes rather than being tactical and that they can in-turn impact more long-term airline goals.

This is critical as airlines begin to recover from the pandemic and their flights increase back to pre-COVID levels. Analysts will need to be agile and effective as their networks grow and change to meet rising demand levels. They will need to be able to quickly make changes to ensure they are correctly forecasting demand and managing the capacity they have in their networks. A workflow with integrated analysis and action flows allows for the analyst to make adjustments quickly and move on to the next task. PROS workflows are designed to provide a holistic view and then allow the analyst to dig into the details as needed, which aligns with the exception-based management approach.

At PROS, we are invested in ensuring that the workflows in our products are intuitive, streamlined, and meet all the goals outlined in this post. If you would like to discuss the workflows and user experience or if you would like to provide feedback, please reach out to me. Designing a workflow for end-users is a continuous process and we are always excited to hear from and collaborate with airline revenue management teams and analysts on how to push our products and help accelerate recovery. 

About the Author

Rachel Golden

Rachel Golden is a Product Manager for the Revenue Management products. She has collaborated with airlines around the world to improve the products through new features that solve business problems across the dynamic airline industry. Much of her time has been spent working with the User Experience team to enhance the usability of the RM products for end users through the development of the new workflows. Additionally, she is the lead product manager for the RM Essentials product. Rachel earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science and a Minor in History from Cornell University. In addition to her product management responsibilities, she is also an MBA candidate in the Texas A&M Mays School of Business Professional MBA program, graduating in May 2021.

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