We recently joined IBM at the World Aviation Festival. It was 3 days of blue-sky discussions alongside discussion of sobering challenges. The message from airlines boiled down to a core problem statement: We need the right skills and tech in order to attract and retain staff, delight customers and be more sustainable.
Here’s a 3-minute round-up of the interesting talks and discussions.
Getting the right talent on board
There were simultaneously serious and empowering discussions about the skill shortages that airlines face. The mass furlough/redundancies during the pandemic followed by lightning-quick rehiring programmes have prompted organisations to re-think their hiring and professional development strategies.
Wizz Air, for example, talked about a training programme that promotes hiring from within by helping employees progress to new roles and divisions, like cabin crew training to become pilots or managers on the corporate side.
In terms of digital and innovation discussion, there was a definite sense that legacy technology is affecting recruitment and retention. Top tech talent want to be able to work on cutting-edge app and data projects based on modern cloud platforms and services. And that talent is needed in order to develop services that make employees’ lives easier. Our IBM colleagues alongside Lufthansa and Apple talked about a partnership for spinning up quick app prototypes that streamline processes for staff, for example groundcrew communications. Therefore, airlines struggling to drive their cloud transformations are seeing a knock-on effect from a talent perspective.
Reducing delays and winning the battle for customers
Delay reduction was another big theme at the event, which is unsurprising given last summer’s negative travel headlines.
‘We need to enhance the customer experience by being on time’ was something we heard again and again over the 3 days. And, of course, there are the major cost implications that come with delays – from fuel to passenger compensation.
Data capabilities are seen as essential to the solution. There was an interesting panel discussion about optimising traffic flows to reduce delays and enhance customer experience. And to do that, you need the ability to process and act on real-time data – whether it’s to help pilots with routing and navigation, to improve communication around aircraft turnaround or to streamline baggage handling.
Meeting sky-high sustainability expectations
The industry is certainly feeling the pressure – driven by ESG trends as well as fuel costs. Delay reduction was part of the sustainability story, too, as there’s a corresponding reduction in fuel (and emissions).
Data and application development play a central role here, too, not only in measuring and tracking emissions, but in offering customers innovative services. For example, Southwest Airlines talked about an initiative to provide its corporate customers with emissions reports to inform offsetting programmes.
But…Digital transformation isn’t keeping up
Staff, customers, sustainability – to overcome challenges in all these areas, airlines need better digitalisation capabilities. And 100% of airline leaders we spoke to believed cloud transformation was essential to their competitiveness.
But they don’t have the transformation velocity they need, and a common reason is that their cloud migrations are stalling. There have been lots of assessments and months of discussion, but too much remains in on-prem data centres.
And until those migrations progress, all those other essential capabilities remain tantalisingly out of reach.
7 months to be 100% cloud – Finnair’s cloud experience was a big eye-opener
I did a talk with AWS about Finnair’s cloud migration experience, which was noteworthy because we helped them achieve a complete data centre exit in 7 months.
Compared with the dragging, multi-year, head-banging cloud transformation experiences other airlines discussed, this quick result got big attention. (Read more about Finnair’s cloud migration here).
The speed itself was a huge win for Finnair, but the important result is that they have the agility to innovate and leverage data, better resilience – and are on track for a double-digit TCO reduction.
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