Rearden Commerce: Travel Insight Meets Big Data

by Richard Lee & Jason Busch

At SMBmatters, we’ve done reviews on an eclectic list of products and services – anything from vodka, smart phones, data storage solutions to scotch.  So when my business partner and colleague Jason Busch of Spend Matters and Azul Partners fame asked me to sit on a call with Rearden Commerce to discuss its next level of predictive analytics to better serve its business travel clients, I jumped at the chance, especially given my Orbitz background.

Technically speaking, this was our second product review with Rearden.  Almost 2 years ago, Jason and I had a call with Rearden’s senior GM and product lead to discuss their deal with Travelport and the latest version of its virtual assistant platform.  Back then, we were wowed by seamless integration of data from disparate sources and user interface / ease of use, and simultaneously wished we had such technology when I was at Orbitz and wondered what the next generation of platform would bring.

The next generation, as we found out incorporates the level of quantitative and correlation analysis on historical data (both personal and publicly available) that makes even a Carnegie Mellon graduate’s head spin…

  • Air travel – leveraging Bureau of Transportation statistics covering 67MM flights in the past decade, the platform is able to predict and recommend connecting schedule, flight dates and time, specific carrier and flight number, etc. It goes far beyond the “on-time” recommendations for single hops that my former employer and other travel sites provide.
  • Hotel stays – while still leveraging structured information from OTAs like Orbitz which possess technical details on over 100K properties and their holding companies, the platform is able to personalize recommendations for travelers based on historical booking / usage pattern, identified preferences, etc.

Powering this analysis and recommendation is Rearden’s powerful data / scoring engine that leverages self-learning or artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. With each new piece of data, it adds to the normalization of existing foundation and further narrows down the success rate of predictive forecast.  The result is an integrated and intuitive online purchasing experience for its users.

Rearden is light years ahead of where Orbitz was when I was trying to build a fledging B2B business – at the time, with some of the best underlying technology bits available under the sun (or at 35,000 feet). Flash forward less than a decade and big data is finally hitting B2B corporate travel. It’s about time.

From Jason’s procurement perspective, Rearden is doing some pretty cool stuff. Yet, as he observes, the power of predictive analysis far transcends making business travel better for employees. The real bottom-line value is in mining through data and “mashing-up” different datasets to analyze savings, compliance, rebate claims and related information to gain the savings upper hand. And imagine systems doing this for you and presenting opportunities proactively versus relying on sourcing analysts to hunt for things on a periodic basis.

Perhaps Rearden will bring this to users in the future. But we have no doubt providers like Opera Solutions and IBM – which each employ hundreds of statistic PhDs and are doing some pretty nifty things behind the scenes in their procurement and supply chain practices – are well on their way to bringing the power of big data to a new savings and compliance level.

Still, we hope the individual traveller benefits in the future as well. And for this, we have no doubt that we’ll all owe Rearden a big debt of corporate travel gratitude.

Jason Busch is Managing Director at SpendMatters and Azul Partners.  Richard Lee is the CEO of PARR and executive contributor to SMBmatters.

Editor’s Note:  No sooner did we post this article than we discover that Rearden Commerce has updated some of its offerings, including innovations  branded under the Deem Platform.  We invite you to check it out for yourself, since real-time seems to be not quite fast enough in today’s digital world.
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About Richard Lee
Experienced finance and operations professional. Currently partner in five companies, adjunct professor of economics at Columbia College and executive contributor to a small business blog (www.SMBmatters.com); following corporate finance, M&A and management consulting tenures with Orbitz and Diamond Technology Partners; and six years of service with the United States Army.

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