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LateRooms.com eyes 15 percent growth in IT team

To aid global expansion

LateRooms.com is looking to grow its IT team in the UK and abroad by 15 percent over the next six months.

The online hotel room reservation company currently has just over 130 IT staff, which it wants to increase to around 150 to support the business's growth strategy.

"One of the biggest challenges is attracting the right kind of talent, in Manchester and Singapore.

"We're looking for people who understand Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) and front-end architecture," said Adam Gerrard, CTO of LateRooms.com.

The company is headquartered in Manchester, but is expanding in Singapore as it grows its business in Asia with AsiaRooms.com. LateRooms.com's parent company Tui Travel acquired AsiaRooms.com in 2007.

Gerrard is working towards developing a common, SOA-based back end infrastructure and booking system that is based in the UK, with fully-customised, front-end systems for the target local market.

AsiaRooms.com was originally only available in English, for example, but has recently gone live in Thai and Malay.

"The IT work is to keep the UK base and we want to drive our shared service out of that centre," said Gerrard.

In addition, the company uses a content distribution network so that international users of the websites will have as fast an access to the sites as they would in the UK.

However, there is still some more work to be done around usability of the AsiaRooms.com website. Although it looks similar to the LateRooms.com site, there are some key differences.

"The Asia booking journey is very different to the Laterooms booking journey. We have quite a way to go in terms of what local regions want. We will do more around usability, end-user testing and mystery shopping," Gerrard said.

The booking processes are different mainly because there are more steps (around seven) on AsiaRooms.com, whereas LateRooms.com has narrowed it down to three steps after carrying out user testing.

Gerrard joined LateRooms.com around 11 weeks ago, from car hire company Avis, where he was CIO, and said that his experiences at Avis has shaped some of the working methods he is introducing at Laterooms.com.

For example, LateRooms.com is moving towards a "professional families" way of working, which involves mixing teams from different divisions and geographies, and getting them to work together.

Gerrard is trying to design an agile method that is appropriate for the hotel reservation business, because the company's original agile method was too rigid.

"It [the business] put in an agile method, but it was fair to say it wasn't sufficiently agile to give the business value expected.

"Recently, we piloted a one-week sprint - taking an idea from concept to live within a week. It's slightly too fast. We are probably going to try and stick to two or three weeks. But we are prepared to try those things.

"That's been difficult in the past, but now we're more flexible and experimental," he explained.

Apart from the global expansion, LateRooms.com's other major technology projects include moving some of its proprietary IT systems, including its content management system, CRM and Enterprise Service Buses, to off-the-shelf products.

"A lot of our systems are proprietary. We have lots of developers with HTML, C#, .NET skills, and Microsoft database.

"But we acknowledge we are not the best content management system builders in the world, for example. There's no shame in admitting this," said Gerrard.

Meanwhile, although the company operates a private cloud, Gerrard said that it will also consider cloud-based solutions such as Salesforce.com's CRM system "just because it makes sense".

Read the full interview with Adam Gerrard at Avis in our sister title CIO.co.uk

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