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Reconstruction of the sales IT landscape

Making the Sales Landscape Fit for the Future

05/2017 - This is a mammoth project. Deutsche Bahn is getting its sales landscape, which has evolved over time, ready for the digital future, and is accelerating technological developments – all during ongoing operations.

In the past, people looking for advice on computer issues would often hear IT experts say: “Never touch a running system.” In other words, if a system is working, don’t touch it. Nowadays, in the era of digitalisation and connectivity, this mantra no longer applies. For this reason, as part of the Group programme “Zukunft Bahn, the future of rail operations in Germany”, Deutsche Bahn (DB) has decided to thoroughly modernise its sales IT landscape to focus even more on the needs of customers. This demands faster development cycles for hardware and software and the ability to update and replace components during ongoing operations. A major project such as the modernisation of the DB sales landscape requires large-scale planning to avoid compromising ongoing operations.

The foundations for the current sales IT landscape were laid around 30 years ago. The “customer-friendly travel, information and sales system of the ’90s” (“KURS’90” for short), which was developed in house at the time by Deutsche Bahn, impressed from the outset with its high degree of reliability. In the years that followed, a multitude of new functions were added to the system and the front end was updated. The core components, however, have remained the same. As a result, the technical basis of the sales landscape has become so individualised that it barely conforms with current standards any more. Enhancements and maintenance involve disproportionate expenditure and costs.

For this reason, DB Systel is helping its sister company responsible for sales, DB Vertrieb, to renew the entire sales landscape by providing consulting, development and integration services. In addition to expertise in sales systems, DB Systel can contribute methodological expertise and an agile approach and can scale the project capacities required for a programme of this size in collaboration with its partner company. “Customers have become used to completely different user interfaces and customer experiences, which are very difficult to achieve based on our existing landscape,” says Karsten Knöpfle of DB Systel. The reasons for this are purely pragmatic: Additions to the system have generated dependencies within the system that prevent developments being implemented quickly and in line with market requirements.

© DB Vertrieb GmbH

A ticket in five seconds or less!

Georg Lauber, Head of Programme

“A ticket in five seconds or less” is precisely what we expect from the future sales landscape, says Georg Lauber, head of the programme. To achieve this aim and to modernise the overall sales landscape, the Passenger Transport Board Division has been collaborating on implementation since the start of 2016 under the management of DB Vertrieb and DB Systel. The cloud is the new target platform of choice as it will allow the DB Group to react quickly and flexibly to market trends and customer requirements in the long term as well. With its DB Enterprise Cloud, DB Systel offers tailor-made services that will be used, for example, to provision a development environment automatically for the relaunch of the sales landscape.

Overall, the modernisation programme is expected to achieve two main goals: a major step forward in terms of user experience and the ability to bring new IT solutions to market five times faster than today. This is indeed a mammoth project, especially considering that ticket sales will continue throughout the development phase. For this reason, the project has been divided into more than 20 sub-projects, some highly complex, ranging from setting up a modern service architecture by means of fundamental technological modernisation to centralising key core functionalities.

These projects are currently being implemented:

Quantity fixing
Modernisation of the architecture of the quantity-fixing system, in particular the quota management system (QMS), due to ever-increasing load requirements from sales channels (especially the web/mobile channel). This involves switching the current operating system, for which support is due to expire in the medium term, over to an up-to-date platform. This also involves the management of Sparpreis saver fare offers.

UX design
The main aim of the UX design project is to provide customers with an integrated user experience across all Deutsche Bahn touchpoints under the motto “mobile first”, thereby ensuring a standardised and noticeably simplified customer experience.

The aim of the “Payment” project is to make the payment process significantly easier for customers by offering a straightforward direct debit registration option and a standardised payment interface that complies with market standards. This also incorporates improved fraud prevention to reduce the risk of online payment fraud. The payment solution will be integrated once the service provider has been selected.

The outdated EPA electronic seat reservation system is to be replaced by the new seat management system SIMA. From now on, our customers will be able to reserve a seat during their journey, and a guaranteed seat and self-check-in will also be available. An even apportionment of seats throughout the train as well as short distances between transfer points will support ongoing operations. Furthermore, thanks to SIMA, a change in the type of vehicle will have minimal impact on the reservation.

Customer account
Development of a central customer database that, as the leading system, collects and makes available all customer master data in passenger transport. The project is ensuring that sales processes are implemented comprehensively and consistently in the customer cockpits of all DB sales channels (mobile and bahn.de, call centres, travel centres, mobile terminals and ticket machines).

At present, each touchpoint has its own solution. With a view to replacing all redundant databases of individual channels in the future, a cross-channel order database is to be created that will support central order management.

Modularisation of offer components
This involves splitting up monolithic structures into modular components with clearly defined responsibilities, which represents a move away from complex IT master data maintenance to flexible rules that can be controlled directly by marketing departments. It also involves a changeover from rigid, classical process models to agile teams, resulting in a five-fold reduction in the time to market: to 24 hours in the case of data and up to two months in the case of programs.

Data provisioning basis
Creation of a central data platform: All sales-relevant data is collected, stored and made available for analyses in the data lake. This means that future analysis projects can focus on the actual analysis and build on a high-quality data stock.

Channel integration
Establishment of a cross-channel access layer between sales channels (e.g. DB Navigator, internet, ticket machines or staffed ticket sales) and the new sales back end based on DB Enterprise Cloud, with a view to a new (micro) service-oriented architecture.

Provision of services for booking all types of offers for all sales channels. Standardisation of booking processes and provision of necessary functional services such as payment method determination, ticket types and identification of customer accounts. Reduced technical complexity and process costs and improved user-friendliness through automation.

The modular design of the new sales IT architecture (here highly simplified) facilitates a continuous update.

© DB Vertrieb GmbH

Each individual project is being managed by a functional and a technical project manager. Extensive experience of the historically evolved sales landscape and the use of agile approaches are contributing equally to successful implementation. The individual projects are being scaled differently based on their size. Four scrum teams are working simultaneously on the “Modularisation of offer components” project alone. In this case, an agile coach from DB Systel is helping the team to optimise its interactions.

Continuous update

A more flexible system landscape and the decoupling of individual components will pave the way for high performance also in the future. The existing IT landscape for sales is being replaced primarily to redress existing vulnerabilities. In addition, top requirements such as the open parallel use of different sales channels, e.g. travel centres or the DB Navigator app, are to be implemented functionally and technically.