Train Ticket Booking Solution for International Ticket Broker
The client is a Europe-based rail ticket booking operator with operations in the Americas, Asia, and Europe. The client needed to automate some processes and renew some of the existing early-phase solutions supporting back-office operations. The company partners with train operators across Europe to provide a range of itineraries to popular destinations. These partnerships are highly lucrative, with turnover of several million Euros per year, but leave the client with the task of integrating multiple, constantly changing APIs.
The goal was to develop a MVP of a ticketing platform operating at scale. The application had extended functionality comprised of several powerful functional modules that serve the company’s different business processes.
The web-based front-end of the system was used by the client’s clients (B2C) and Travel Agents (B2B) to:
- Search for tour packages
- Book individual trips
- Book group trips
- Manage existing reservations
The back office was supposed to serve employees for operational purposes, as well as partner with OTAs (B2B) to manage their purchases in a more limited manner.
The client suffered significantly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which stopped operations on most of Europe’s train lines for a few months. DataArt responded with significant support, understanding that the industry was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. To meet the client’s business goals and constraints, DataArt offered to downscale the team to complete the project.
Meeting the Challenge
Due to existing relationships with suppliers, in-house systems, and a previously developed — but not completed — IT system, the team had to start with an investigation and audit of the current situation. DataArt was chosen by the client because of its deep industry knowledge and domain expertise. DataArt was the third vendor in a row to work on this large product, so there was substantial pressure to deliver quickly.
The goals for the first phase of the engagement were to understand, validate, and elaborate the functional requirements for MVP, as well as clarify the missing parts. The project began with a review of the ticketing system designs, work-in-progress front-end architecture, in-depth functional analysis, code-review, and an audit.
The next step was to define missing designs and work on clarifying requirements to create logically consistent flows that could help us identify missing parts. Once the team got the full picture, they proceeded to estimate the amount of work required and construct a roadmap. All deliverables were decided on with stakeholders during the process and a way forward was approved in the final meeting with the client.
This enormous effort required tremendous coordination and exceptional expertise from various competencies:
- Business analysis
- Front end
- Back end
- Quality assurance
- Project management
The key part of the customer facing product is always a good look, responsiveness, and modern approach. That’s why we made proper architecture design decisions early in the process and encouraged open dialogue with the client. After analyzing the pros and cons of each approach, we decided to start development from scratch to introduce a modern tech stack and ease of use.
After successfully completing the project phase, which took several weeks, we were allowed to proceed to implementation.
DataArt’s team used some of the existing design as a base and adjusted to make them fit the purpose. During the review we noticed that the existing designs were inconsistent and did not include all required system elements. DataArt and the client decided to create a new library of components that could be used within different parts of the system.
A team of expert designers built a route and guided specialists toward a proper vision of the solution that kept costs low. DataArt still occasionally includes the design team in the process of creating new components because the system continues to grow and evolve.
All designs are adjusted for different screen sizes and viewports (for tablets, mobiles).
To book a ticket, a traveler should perform the following steps:
- Pick an origin
- Pick a destination
- Choose the departure date
- Review available options
This basic functionality on the main website comes with extras, like a map where you can pick up an origin and destination as well as suggestions for the most popular routes. The solution is fully white labeled to differentiate offers between vendors. All options can be customized by the traveler as needed, and a wide range of class options, travel times, and baggage options are available. After providing some basic information through a form, passengers can book a ticket, pay online, and get confirmation by email and/or in a printable format.
The back office for the system, available via web interface, supports an entire range of product workflows, from managing OTA’s and suppliers to reporting.
The back-end team consisted of existing engineers on the cliene side who were involved in supporting the legacy platform and assuring new integrations and support. The fast pace of work and challenges around new integrations pushed us to move quickly. Thanks to that, we supplemented the backend team with a DataArt engineer, who effectively collaborated with the team and ensured on time feature release for fast-paced front end deliverables.
The infrastructure of the system was managed by a dedicated part-time DevOps team with their own GCP subscription. After a few months of collaboration, the client decided to transfer this competence to DataArt, which allowed us to limit the ongoing infrastructure and support cost.
The new application offers major improvements to the business operations functionality and usability. The application met all predefined visual, quality, security, SEO, and performance indicators.
The new web application:
- Allows customers to review available routes and itineraries in a visually attractive, modern interface.
- Shortens the customer path from picking up the route to successful sell.
- Includes modern SEO principles to optimize the system for the search engines.
- Decreases the amount of manual assistance needed, allowing the company’s personnel to focus on other parts of the business.
- in addition, due to the modern tech stack, the software is now significantly easier to maintain, reducing the number of engineering working hours required.
On top of the aforementioned business benefits, by engaging DataArt, the client gained access to crucial technical skills of expert engineers and ongoing support from a professional team, which resulted in a seamless experience in terms of web application delivery, testing, and assuring quality.
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