"Valamar's Employee Data Platform is an excellent example of a strategic shift in systems architecture and data management which we identified as a key success factor for executing Valamar's digital transformation strategy. Agile deployment of new digital tools and services within the company require fast and easy integration with existing IT infrastructure. Employee Data Platform has already enabled us to integrate a full-service HR management platform in record time with minimal resources. Two years ago a much simpler introduction of an internal communication app required months of difficult integration work with multiple providers which significantly delayed the roll-out and created additional cost. However, the Employee Data Platform was just a first step, a proof of concept. We are now ready to apply the same approach and technology to customer data management. This second phase has the potential to unlock a lot of value for our business in the future." Ivana Budin Arhanić: Vice President of Business Development and Corporate Affairs
It is a sunny morning in Poreč Croatia, but it is not exactly business as usual. The year is 2020 and the lockdown just hit the hospitality industry at the very beginning of the pre-season. Valamar Riviera, Croatian largest hospitality company and the market leader, lunched a COVID-19 response program to minimise the effect on the business, and its one of the main initiatives is to reutilise hotels' central kitchen service and to offer Valfresco direct - a simple online ordering and free home delivery service.
Within next two months, the company implemented an e-commerce platform with online web-shop, digitised the processes and organised meals delivery to citizens. But there was a cost: needed unprecedented effort from all parties involved in the project to reach the deadlines.
"To make the e-commerce platform work, we had to integrate various systems, integrate and automate processes and assure undisrupted and real-time data exchanges between them. We did this, even though we understood that we need a better, faster and more systematic way of doing integration in future - with various software systems across the whole organisation." Roberto Gobo: Director of Digital Strategy and Technology, Valamar Riviera
Decoupling the IT business systems with Apache Kafka to facilitate the digital transformation and continuous business growth
Building a monolithic IT business system with system-to-system integration is a traditional way of building IT architecture and a pitfall of the largest IT system vendors to lock-in the customer. To assure the business process and data flow in the organisation, implementing a new system into a monolithic IT infrastructure will cause integration costs and prolong the implementation time.
As the organisation develops and business processes branches, more and more integrations are needed, requiring more and more money and time for integrations. With time, the systems will reach their integration limits and become inhibitors for further business developments.
"We extensively brainstormed our IT software architecture, researched technologies and came up with Apache Kafka as a perfect match for broad real-time data and process integration. It allows us to connect data from various sources and convert it into insights. For Valamar Riviera this will mean better engagement with the guests and providing personalised experiences." Roberto Gobo: Director of Digital Strategy and Technology, Valamar Riviera
Apache Kafka is an open-source distributed event streaming platform used by thousands of companies for highperformance data pipelines, streaming analytics, data integration, and mission-critical applications. It breaks the monolithic IT infrastructure by integrating data sources and systems and underlying processes in consistent and unified way.
This helps the organisation to implement a new system, or replace a system with another one, while retaining all the data flows and integrations with other systems. But this is not where Apache Kafka ends.
Event streaming is the digital equivalent of the human body's central nervous system
It is the technological foundation for the 'always-on' world where businesses are increasingly software-defined and automated, and where the user of software is more software.
Technically speaking, event streaming is the practice of capturing data in real-time from event sources like databases, web sites, mobile devices, cloud services, and software applications in the form of streams of events; storing these event streams durably for later retrieval; manipulating, processing, and reacting to the event streams in real-time as well as retrospectively; and routing the event streams to different destination technologies as needed.
"We need an architecture where we can pick up events such as online browsing our properties and products, check-in, having an excursion, taking SPA, etc. so we could process them and act, in real time, with appropriate proposals or actions to maximise the guest experience. But the automation of such proposals and actions requires machine learning. Without Apache Kafka and holistic overview on data and events we would not be able to apply data science effectively." Roberto Gobo: Director of Digital Strategy and Technology, Valamar Riviera
Brainstorm, a data science company specialised in machine learning and data integration in hospitality industry, is recognised as partner for implementing Apache Kafka, integrating systems and machine learning. Together, Valamar Riviera and Acquaint, developed a scalable event streaming architecture, implemented it with Apache Kafka technology and integrated with human resources information system, Cornerstone on demand HR platform, SAP Jam employee collaboration platform, customer relationship management, Valfresco e-commerce portal and Microsoft Identity Management.
The implemented solution captures new data and data updates from various business systems, process it internally and propagates immediately to any external system that is subscribed to this kind of data. Updating Cornerstone or CRM data to reflect changes in the human resources information system is now a matter of a second instead hours or even days.
Platform for next stage of digitalisation and business growth
"We defined and implemented principal architectural and technological concepts and integrated it with our current software systems/platforms. The whole concept is tested and proven. Integrating new data sources (i.e., guest data) or systems(i.e., property management system) should be fairly straightforward, easy and quick." Roberto Gobo: Director of Digital Strategy and Technology, Valamar Riviera
By connecting more and more data sources and systems, the organisation will establish a holistic and real-time view on what is going on in the digital space of the company. With all data sources connected, machine learning can be applied to further personalise products, identify opportunities for delivering exceptional guest experience and facilitate engagement with the guests.
"We get very simple and fast integrations with Kafka. We collect data through various HR systems, transform, manipulate and give it back to output systems. Output systems subscribes to Kafka topics, and they are ready to start to consume data in real time. Integrations became as simple as that." Luka Otočan: Digitalization department, Valamar Riviera
Due to its flexibility to connect with various data sources and business systems, its scalability and its data streaming capability, the implemented system, together with machine learning applied on top of it, is a true technical enabler for quick responses on disruptive business events (such as COVID-19) and for the next stage of digitalisation and business growth of Valamar Riviera.