XTRA On-Line app eases business travel planning


COMPANY: XTRA On-Line
PURPOSE: To provide Internet-based travel reservation and management capabilities to corporate customers

APPLICATION: PowerTrip -- Corporate travel planning can be a simple task, or it can become a headache. XTRA On-Line, Dallas, has taken a significant step to help make planning easier with its flagship product, PowerTrip.

The PowerTrip system enables XTRA On-Line to sell Internet-based travel reservation and management services over the Internet. The company charges corporate customers a fee for making the travel reservation and management processes more efficient and cost-effective.

"By being able to set up preferred vendors and negotiated contracts, you can control the flow of your traffic -- which airlines you're going on, which hotel vendors are being used, what cars are being selected," said Steven Gardner, director of architecture/chief architect at XTRA On-Line. "The system is not looked at as a policeman, as much as a coach. It helps corporations save money by buying better and buying smarter, rather than by policing the employee."

PowerTrip lets travelers or travel arrangers with an Internet-connected PC make or change reservations and view updated travel information 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Users can also view real-time fare and scheduling options, and plan or change a complete itinerary all in a matter of seconds. The software's step-by-step Travel wizards walk users through the entire process.

"Business travel is not fun as it is," Gardner said. "[PowerTrip] allows the traveler to do a much better job in planning their trips and controlling their own destiny. You know what your options are now. You know what's available, how to get what you want."

PowerTrip comprises four modules: Trip Planner, a travel planning tool; Policy Manager, which lets travel managers modify and enforce corporate travel policies; Expense Tracker, which incorporates the Quicken ExpensAble expense management system that automatically pre-populates travel expense information into the appropriate report; and
a Decision Reporter that provides instant access to detailed travel information from a single or multiple data source.

When it came to building the appli-cation, one of the biggest challenges
developers faced was finding a way to move existing travel information in and out of the firm's Oracle 8 databases. Because C++ was being used to develop the PowerTrip business objects, developers needed an efficient way to move objects. While XTRA On-Line thought about developing and maintaining its own middleware mapping technology, developers decided that this would be "both non-strategic and expensive." Instead, the decision was made to use an off-the-shelf product -- Secant Extreme Persistant Object Service for C++ -- to perform this task.

Legacy code included existing business logic developed for earlier products, as well as integration with industry-standard computer reservation systems such as Sabre. Because much of this legacy code could not be used, developers reverse-engineered large sections into a design model and then forward-engineered it to be part of the new C++ implementation.

To perform administrative tasks, such as adding, updating and deleting travel profile information, Oracle Application Server was chosen because of its integration with Oracle 8. In the next generation of PowerTrip, which Gardner said will roll out this July, XTRA On-Line will move from Oracle to Secant Extreme Server.

Iona Orbix was the object request broker of choice due to the development team's extensive experience with Orbix, while Microsoft IIS was chosen as the Web server. The Microsoft Visual C++ and Borland C++ de-velopment environments, as well as the Objectspace class libraries, were already in place. While the software currently runs on Windows NT, the next generation of the application will also run on Solaris.

Work on PowerTrip began in December 1997 and was completed in August 1998, with an average of 18 developers working on the project. Despite the size of the project, it went live only five weeks later than expected.

So far, Gardner said, "the feedback has been very good." And in less than a year, PowerTrip has built up about 25 clients. "It's a definite start," he said. "We're starting to build up a nice clientele."

Ease of use and convenience have been key factors, Gardner said. While administrators are usually trained to use the system, other users can just "pick up and use it. If we're not easier than picking up the phone, then we've failed," he added.

XTRA On-Line's goal is to become "the best planning tool on the market," Gardner said. "For example, you're going to a meeting somewhere. When you enter that meeting into your calendar, why shouldn't a trip be booked? And why shouldn't it go out and do everything? The first thing that happens when you go to a new city is that you're trying to find out 'Where do I need to stay? What hotels are available? Do I need a car?' We want to develop a system that answers those questions for you."

-- Jennifer Lancione

TEAM

Mark McCulloch

Steven Gardner

Glenn Wilson

Chris Bradshaw

Craig Walters

Randall McClure

Layne Cooke

Stanley Johnson

Sandi Watson

Mark Miller

Matt Reynolds

Marietta Huynh

Sreenivas Kunapuli

Patrick Leary

Todd Casasent

Chad Williams

Donalyn Higdon

Jim Wedberg

BENEFITS:
the short-term benefit was to establish XTRA On-Line as a leader in the Internet-enabled, managed corporate travel business. Long term, PowerTrip will allow the company to bring to market a broad set of innovative travel management services


TOOLS:

Rational Rose, PC Lint and Purify (productivity tools)

Oracle 8, Secant Extreme Persistent Object Service, Oracle Application Server, Iona Orbix, Microsoft IIS, Microsoft Visual C++, Borland C++, Objectspace class libraries, HomeSite and PhotoShop (software tools)


PLATFORMS:
Windows NT, next generation of project will be on Solaris

Keane Report:

XTRA On-Line is well on its way to becoming the premier online provider of travel management services, thanks to the success of PowerTrip. PowerTrip is an Internet-based, comprehensive travel reservation and management system that epitomizes a value-added, business-driven, technology-savvy solution for numerous reasons.

Comprising four modules - Policy Manager, Trip Planner, Expense Tracker and Decision Reporter - PowerTrip has made travel reservation, planning, reporting and management, as well as expense tracking and management, a smooth, integrated, efficient, secure and easy-to-use process for corporate customers.

PowerTrip offers a Web interface to an object-oriented application integrated with existing relational databases and legacy code; the legacy code consisting of internal systems, as well as industry standard computer reservation systems.

The PowerTrip development effort embraced a strong project management discipline, utilized the CORBA standard and applied a formal object-oriented development methodology. It utilized several productivity tools and adhered to formalized coding guidelines.

Team Members: Detra Sarris,
Noreen Monzet and
Nancy Austin

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