How Flight Centre Found Success In Open Source

How Flight Centre Found Success In Open Source
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Flight Centre Travel Group needs no introduction but even with such a high profile brand, this travel giant is certainly not one to rest on its laurels.

The company recognised that its main retail website carried great strength, and with that, came the opportunity to capitalise on this, especially through its 30 retail websites and one main corporate travel website, FCMTravel which runs in 80 countries.

As the company expanded, there was increased pressure to refresh web content more regularly which presented the opportunity to add value to the sites to support sales and marketing goals.

The company decided to accelerate its digital and mobile strategy by migrating to the Drupal open source content management platform, with global support from Acquia, to ensure a great digital experience both for internal staff and externally audiences. Notably, Flight Centre (FLT) upskilled 50% of its Australian developer team to become Drupal experts, with global training also taking place.

Now, the Flight Centre Digital Nations Team in Australia provides leadership and support to the Global Development Teams in the UK and South Africa who are similarly migrating to Drupal.

How they did it

FLT had been using a proprietary web content management system (CMS) overlaid with home-grown applications and architecture. Speed to market was elusive, the system couldn’t provide the flexibility and agility that FLT needed to support marketing campaigns and online customer interactions.

As they investigated options for a new CMS, robustness, flexibility, cost and support were determining factors. The potential to upgrade its existing CMS was quickly dismissed, along with a Microsoft option. Instead an open source solution was the favoured option given the extensive developer community which enables rapid deployment of add-ons to the core functionality.

“We had a pretty good scan of market,” said Kiel Frost, Team Leader, Digital Solutions, FCL Digital Nations at Flight Centre, who downloaded and tested five open source products over six months. “In each case we looked at what was available, where it is going, the roadmap and size of the support community.”

With a community of more than one million across 229 countries and a significant enterprise user base, it was clear that Drupal had the flexibility and promise to meet Flight Centre’s growing needs. Coupled with the local support of Acquia, the decision became much easier to make.

Acquia provides support for Flight Centre’s hardware and operating systems which support its web servers and cloud technology, with dedicated Technical Account Management to ensure that the company keeps on track with Drupal framework standards for performance and security. From a strategic perspective, Flight Centre also gains access to specialists within Acquia for performance and testing, and the community at large for any longer-term considerations.

“Acquia’s extensive experience in deploying and maintaining enterprise Drupal sites and the company’s on-the-ground support team, led us to select Acquia and Drupal for the project,” said Mr Frost. “Acquia is also hosting the Drupal deployments, which gets rid of layers of work, and we couldn’t have done it any more cost-effectively ourselves.”

The results

Migration to new CMS provided opportunity to add value to the sites, for example, the company wanted to leverage search engine optimisation (SEO) and online enquiry conversions. In the first instance, however, a quick win was to simplify workflow processes. With one main site (FCM Travel) operating in 80 countries, updating content to share across these countries with minimal localisation became easy and saved time and effort immediately. Furthermore, this also provides the ability to implement a global content repository to share content and assist with FC global brand and content strategy.

The combination of Acquia and Drupal gives Flight Centre an agile platform to create engaging multi-channel digital experiences for its customers. Marketers at FLT now have unmatched flexibility to quickly optimise the mix of content and social capabilities via responsive websites to convert prospects into loyal, engaged customers SEO value for any website is critical.

It also has allowed more flexibility for displaying products, together with the ability for users to search for available products with faceted-based search options using Apache Sorl (Acquia Search SaaS).

Having up-skilled and retrained a significant proportion of its in-house developer team, it has significant competitive advantage in support of innovation, and given its team valuable career skills.

Global support was another reason for Flight Centre to make the switch to Drupal. Since starting to deploy sites twelve months ago, Flight Centre has had on-phone support as needed, along with dedicated people to help out on site. They have also been able to use their relationship with Acquia to develop stronger bonds with the Drupal community, helping to drive the future direction of software development, and leverage this benefit for global roll-outs in the UK and South Africa.

“Acquia’s global presence was crucial to us,” said Mr Frost. “We now have peace of mind to know that we are deploying a supported solution with a strong developer community behind it.” He says the business case for the migration to Drupal was predicated on cost savings, but, in reality the ability to rapidly deploy new services globally is the real winner.

The numbers

30 brands, including one main site operating in 80 countries

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