In the Trenches: Building Our Own Tech Tools
When I first started Cranky Concierge, the focus was not just on getting set up to make sure everything ran but ran smoothly. It was an arduous process, but things run pretty well now. Notice I say "pretty" well. It's not perfect, and that's why it's time to start building.
There are plenty of off-the-shelf tools out there that work perfectly well for our purposes. Even better, many of them are completely free. We use TripIt, for example, to keep track of our client itineraries. But having started a business that's fairly unique, it became apparent that there was no way all our needs were going to be met by standard tools that were in the market.
The first tool we commissioned was a client database. The main goal for us was to be able to capture the data we fed into TripIt and put it into a searchable database. That was a pretty easy project, and it made our lives that much better. Now, we've moved on to another fun-filled project: notifications.
Any time we handle a client, we need to be notified if something goes wrong, ideally even before the client knows. Some airlines allow us to sign up for notifications when flights are delayed or canceled. Others only let frequent fliers do it for trips they're on themselves. Some have nothing at all. Heck, some airlines don't even have flight status updates on their websites. There are some tools that help in this area, but it's not exactly what we need. So now we're investigating whether or not to build a tool ourselves that would do exactly what we want it to do.
Of course, the biggest consideration is whether or not it's worth it. Will building a tool be important enough to justify the expense? If we find that we miss problems because we don't have adequate notification now, then yes, it would be worthwhile. But that rarely, if ever, happens. So is it worth building one simply for the peace-of-mind? It might be, especially as we expand. The last thing I want to be doing is staring at the ceiling at 2am and wondering if our concierges caught every problem.
In that sense, the process leading up to the decision to build is bigger than the building itself. It's important not to waste money, but in some cases, the tools we need simply aren't there. And that's when it's time to build.
Brett Snyder is President and Chief Airline Dork of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. Snyder previously worked for several airlines, including America West and United, before leaving to create a travel search site for PriceGrabber.com. Snyder did his undergrad at George Washington and earned his MBA from Stanford.