Predictive analytics has been where Trainline Chief Technology Officer Mark Holt and his team have scored a big victory in the past 12 months, significantly differentiating the organisation's customer experience. The predictive innovations include crowdsourced seat availability (26,000 people enter data every day), a rail price movement predictor, a journey predictor with high accuracy levels to where someone wants to travel and on what day, and a UK rail journey planner that offers customers £620m a year of cheaper fares. And he has further predictive innovations in the pipeline, including delay prediction – the IT function has built a complete model of UK and EU railways.
Holt's work in the predictive space has been so successful that it has shifted the entire company's positioning from "save 43% by booking ahead" to "wonderfully predictable". It has taken predictive analytics out of tech into marketing, finance and HR, and from there into the hand of customers.
A team of his engineers even developed a Google voice app that leverages the analytics so successfully it has become the app that Google itself uses to demonstrate its product. See it in action by going to Google Home and saying: "Ok Google, ask Trainline when the next train to Waterloo leaves Woking?… and which platform does it go from?… how much does a ticket cost?… and how's the weather?"
Innovation is in Holt's bloodstream. New products include the launch of sites in 18 languages, a brand new experience for mobile customers, true e-tickets (a fulfilment converter can turn e-tickets into paper tickets), and an in-app message inbox to enhance CRM.
Since he became CTO in March 2014, Holt has worked hard on Trainline's tech culture to make it a cool place to work. His initiatives include the annual Summer of Craft, with around four workshops a week on engineering topics, making Fridays a day that engineers work on their own projects, and contributing actively to open source.
He has also enthusiastically taken up sponsorship of and participation in HackTrain – a weekend of hacking where 200 developers ride three different trains across the UK, France and Germany as they create new features and functionality to build the rail experience. Trainline even provides post-HackTrain funding to help some of the best teams develop their ideas further. The company's crowdsourced seat availability feature was prototyped at HackTrain.