Greyhound Rolls Forward With an IT TransformationBy Samuel Greengard | Posted 2015-03-13 Email Print
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The iconic bus transportation company revamps its IT architecture in a multiyear initiative to accommodate an increasingly demanding business environment.
Operating a major ground transportation company profitably is a huge challenge. There's a need to navigate an array of complex issues, including yield management, dynamic pricing models, fuel and operating costs, and the overall customer experience.
Greyhound Lines, a century-old firm that serves more than 3,800 destinations across North America, is taking direct aim at the task by upgrading its information technology infrastructure to accommodate an increasingly demanding business environment. "We have a multiyear transformation under way," reports senior vice president and CIO Chris Boult.
In 2007, the company's CEO, Dave Leach, recognized that Greyhound wasn't keeping up with the times. There was a need to update buses, create a better travel experience for customers, and use information technology to introduce more efficient and streamlined operations.
In some cases, addressing the challenge was as simple as adding WiFi to buses and terminals. But the task also required massive upgrades of enterprise systems, the use of analytics, and the rollout of mobile apps and e-commerce capabilities. "We were looking to improve and transform operations across the board," Boult says.
Developing a Strategic Vision
Greyhound, which is owned by United Kingdom-based firm FirstGroup PLC, turned to Software AG to develop a strategic vision and begin the transition to the digital age. At the center of the initiative: a "frictionless commerce" system, which delivers the best fares available at any given moment and makes it easier to complete transactions online and through a mobile app.
In addition, the company wanted to introduce real-time analytics to drive a revenue-optimizing strategy and gain broader and deeper insights into customer behavior.
"One of the biggest challenges we faced as a company was that the IT infrastructure dated back more than two decades," Boult recalls. As a result, "We had limited capabilities and very little flexibility."
However, the AG suite "allows us to build out far more robust features in a more rapid fashion and incorporate key areas such as mobile and social business," he notes. In many cases, "We are able to use already published APIs and more advanced messaging capabilities."
The first phase infrastructure and software upgrades, which were completed in December 2014, have redefined the company. For example, while Greyhound already had GPS on its buses, it previously had no way to use the data to drive operational efficiencies.
Sophisticated Software and APIs
Now, through the use of more sophisticated software and APIs, the company is able to produce internal mashups that bring together real-time data from the buses and their GPS coordinates, historical data and real-time traffic information. "We are able to understand where a bus is located and have a better grasp of an estimated arrival time, even when multiple stops are involved," Boult says.
Greyhound is also using the platform to boost data capabilities within its Road Rewards program, implement real-time marketing promotions and roll out an array of robust mobile capabilities—including e-ticketing—through smartphones. Already, the company has witnessed an uptick in customer engagement, and it is able to position offers that are more valuable and effective.
There's also been an increase in online ticket purchases, and the company is predicting revenue growth associated with the initiative. "This is a multiyear transformation that aims to serve as a rebirth of a brand from the golden age of the bus in the 1950s and 1960s," Boult says.