“We all need to think differently - and ambitiously - especially during difficult times. Get the balance right and your organisation will not only become more agile but also more compassionate.”

David Burns, CTO, Key Travel 

For David Burns, the sky really is the limit. When he’s not overseeing business transformations and technology rollouts, he’s flying gliders above the Welsh mountains. We talked to the CTO at Key Travel about how to inspire change, build successful partnerships, and unlock greater business value.


Tell us about your career in IT  

As a teenager, I loved gaming and programming; I was lucky enough to be able to turn a personal passion into a professional pursuit. I’ve had some great opportunities and some great mentors during my career. There have been so many highlights but working with organisations such as Apple, NASA, and Google on leading-edge innovations are probably the most memorable.  I’ve also had to deal with some tough situations and personalities but they all served as learning experiences, which have helped to shape how I approach my current role as a CTO.


What makes a business leader successful? 

People and partnership. You have to inspire individuals and take them on a journey; it’s people that change the world and make a difference. Our customers use travel as a force for good, so we see this in action every day. It’s a great example of how people can make a difference. At Key Travel, we specialise in simplifying travel complexity for the humanitarian, faith, and education sectors so their teams can spend more time achieving their goals and maximising their impact. We are always striving to be a better partner to our customers - and that’s what I expect from our IT vendor relationships too. I want a partner to take the time to understand our processes and challenges - and that’s what we get from Salesforce. The partnership and platform have added real value to our organisation and taken us in directions that we would have never had considered.



Can you share an example of how your Salesforce implementation has delivered value? 

I can provide lots of examples, but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed that value into another league. As countries started to close their borders due to local lockdowns, we needed to help our customers repatriate hundreds of medics, teachers, and NGO leaders from across the world. We were dealing with a lot of complex, time-sensitive requests from people desperate to get home to their families. With Service Cloud, we were able to see what different travel options had already been tried for different people. It helped our team make faster and smarter decisions. Without that agility or visibility, customers could have missed what was potentially the last plane out of a country. 


How do you ensure new technology deployments are a success? 

Most of the challenges with IT implementations revolve around people. It’s all about winning hearts and minds. Before we deployed Service Cloud, we organised a lot of group sessions to help our people understand why we were changing our current processes and how this would benefit them in the future. If anyone from the business had an idea, the IT team would explore the options, which meant people felt listened to. Within hours of go-live, people were telling us how Service Cloud had already made a difference, which was amazing. That was a first for me - and I’ve been in IT for 25 years!


What’s next on the transformation agenda?

The team is coming up with new ideas all the time. With Salesforce, we can innovate in days instead of months; sometimes just one webinar is all it takes to learn the skills to deliver a new feature to the business. As well as implementing live chat, we want to use Community Cloud to provide customers with greater visibility of the status of their requests in real-time. We’re also pioneering an integration with a global travel booking system, which will enable us to link customers reservations to Service Cloud cases. 


What advice would you give to other Trailblazers? 

Don’t be tempted to undertake lots of customisation to make a new IT solution fit an existing business process. The IT department needs to be a guardian of best practice, which sometimes means pushing back on the business to reconsider how they manage certain workflows. We all need to think differently - and ambitiously - especially during difficult times. This can mean challenging conventional approaches through transformation in order to remove superfluous processes and deliver faster results. Get the balance right and your organisation will not only become more agile and focused but also more aligned to your customers’ priorities. 

By continuing to unlock new opportunities with new technologies, Key Travel will be able to help more humanitarian, faith, and education organisations reach communities and countries in need. Learn more about how it is enriching the experience for its customers here.