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TUI Group: Getting comfortable in the cloud

At a glance

The world’s leading travel group is moving its entire technology infrastructure to the cloud. We helped TUI Group prepare for the change and migrate a critical set of applications—building confidence, skills, and repeatable processes along the way.

What we did

  • Cloud readiness assessment
  • Transformation leadership
  • Agile coaching
  • AWS migration
  • Operating model design
  • Security and compliance
  • Cost optimisation

Unmatched travel experiences

Throughout Europe and the UK, TUI Group is the go-to provider of holiday experiences, from cycling tours in Eastern Europe to skiing in Andorra. “We flourish because we own the entire customer experience,” says Pieter Jordaan, TUI’s director of IT engineering. “You come to our shops, you fly on our airplanes, go to one of our hotels, and experience one of our end destinations.”

TUI’s portfolio includes over 1,600 travel agencies, 150 aircraft, 380 hotels, 16 cruise liners, and tour operators across the globe. To deliver responsive, data-informed experiences to more than 20 million customers, the company relies on a massive web of technology built over decades of acquisitions. It’s nothing if not complicated. So, when TUI’s global leadership set a goal to close all its traditional data centres by 2025 in order to speed innovation in the cloud, TUI UK got started immediately—with help from Slalom.

“Our first meeting was scheduled for an hour,” recalls Miguel Blasco, a solution principal in Slalom’s London office. “We ended up being there for three-and-a-half hours whiteboarding and discussing what it would take to successfully transform the organisation to use cloud services effectively.”

From the beginning, Slalom and TUI agreed on a highly collaborative approach that would up-skill TUI’s people and prepare the company for new ways of working in the cloud.

Making travel more personal

Pieter Jordaan explains how the AWS cloud is helping TUI accelerate digital transformation and deliver personalized travel experiences through machine learning.
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cruise ship

Readiness and roadmap

We began with a six-week cloud readiness assessment. Through stakeholder interviews, an alignment survey, and many conversations with the core team, a small Slalom team helped TUI clearly articulate the goals and objectives of the change. We also helped them understand how each group of stakeholders would be impacted, how they would benefit, and what they would need to make the transition successfully.

TUI will gain operational efficiencies and flexibility in the cloud, but what’s really exciting is the opportunity to pay incrementally for leading-edge technologies, instead of making big investments to build new platforms. For example, TUI will be able to train machine learning models in the AWS cloud and deploy them to its cruise ships to deliver more personalized digital experiences to customers.

"Imagine walking up to the on-deck bar and immediately being offered your favorite drink, made the way you like it, shaken or stirred," says Blasco. “While it’s being poured, you get tips about the tour you’ve signed up for the following day, based on things you’ve enjoyed on the cruise so far. That’s the kind of customer service you see in movies from the 50’s. The cloud will allow TUI to bring this memorable customer intimacy back.”

With this vision in mind, we assessed TUI’s cloud readiness across each component of our change framework and laid out a high-level cloud roadmap. We also delivered a change toolkit, a communications plan, a training approach for employees, and the first iteration of a cloud operating model that TUI can build on and extend for each of its market groups. These assets guided the next phase of project and will continue to support TUI’s cloud transformation for years to come.

Stripy teams win together

Two weeks into our assessment work, the TUI team began to zero in on their first migration target—a “beast” known simply as the web stack. Made up of seven applications across hundreds of servers, the web stack is the trading platform that processes over £4B in TUI holiday purchases each year.

“They identified it as a sensible thing they could move that would be meaningful and give them enough learnings to be able to start a mass migration to AWS,” says Blasco.

As soon as the readiness assessment was complete, a “stripy” (cross-functional, cross-organization) team came together to begin the effort of migrating the web stack, including people from Slalom, TUI U.K., TUI Group and TUI’s managed services vendor. This intensively collaborative approach was new for TUI. 

We put everyone from operations, engineering, security, and architecture together and said, ‘you’re going to design, deliver, deploy, and run this stack.' TUI wouldn’t have done that without us driving them to that point.

Slalom solution owners drove the project, teaching Agile best practices and ensuring on-time delivery. We also led workshops on topics like security, infrastructure as code, CI/CD, and AWS Landing Zone. “They really got educated in cloud, and they learned to work together in an agile way,” says Blasco.

The project team later won TUI’s IT Collaboration Award in recognition of an extraordinarily successful partnership across more than 30 people, three time zones, and ten different languages.

Proof and confidence

Nine months of work culminated in one exciting night when the production web stack was migrated to 350 Amazon EC2 instances, ALBs/NLBs, RDS instances, and Lambda functions—to name just a few of the key AWS technologies used. The team had successfully transformed a hugely complex Hybris/Endeca reservations system from on-premises to cloud.

The AWS Landing Zone they designed and implemented can be extended to support all of TUI’s cloud workloads going forward. And more than 70% of the best practices, processes, designs, patterns, standards, and code developed during the project can be re-used.

 

 

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In the cloud environment, with the new operating model, releases can be deployed in three hours instead of three weeks, and decisions can be made in two days rather than two weeks. The work also improved platform security, reliability, cost, and performance—all of which were further improved in a subsequent optimisation project.

We moved away from a very waterfall, project-driven approach for delivering change to delivering business change on demand, at speed and at scale.

What made the project successful was dedicating team members and giving the team the autonomy to make decisions at the tempo required. Slalom presented the approach to other teams at TUI, and it’s now been adopted for TUI’s most strategic projects over the next five years.

“At the end of the day, that’s what we want,” says Blasco. “We don’t want to keep on going back. We want them to be empowered to do it themselves.”

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