Introduction to Airline Digital Transformations

June 15, 2017

This is an introductory posting for a series of blogs on delivering successful Airline Digital Transformations.

The buzz in the airline industry and more broadly the retail industry is Digital Transformations. Most airlines are discussing or are actively engaged in a digital transformation. So what is a digital transformation and what is its scope?

 What technology capabilities will an airline need to deliver a digital transformation? What should the roadmap be to delivering a successful digital transformation, and what can an airline do to achieve early wins during the process? 

The answers to these questions vary from one airline to another, and there are no right or wrong answers - airlines must do what is right for them. The inclusion of the word 'digital' into this transformational concept puts airlines at risk of including too much into the scope. If the scope gets too large, the price tag of the transformation could become a hurdle to cost-conscious airlines. Airlines need to effectively manage the scope of their digital transformation or it will become a 'catch all' for all functional areas' priorities, and therefore will not be successful. 

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An airline must determine the scope of their Digital Innovation Platform within their IT Platform

Most airlines are isolating the scope of digital transformations to the customer experience, which for an airline is traditionally focused on customer-facing solutions. It is clearly table stakes for a digital transformation to deliver an exceptional omni-channel customer experience through digital channels like mobile, traditional web, chat, SMS, airport kiosks and airport signage. But what else should be included in the scope? 

Should contact center and airport agent solutions be included? How about inflight?  What role should airline operations play in an airline's digital transformation? Should revenue management and dynamic packaging and pricing be included in the scope? Of course the scope should be defined based on the problem that the airline is trying to solve. The strategic directive most airlines are trying to address with a digital transformations is to become a retailer, not just a seller of airline seats.   

Airlines would also like to drive loyalty by engaging the customer with their digital products through the entire customer’s journey, and the airline needs to provide content and capabilities that are unique to the airline. Over a series of blog posts I will address the questions raised in this post and I will provide my opinion on the technology capabilities that will be required to deliver a successful digital transformation for an airline. I will provide a point of view on the high level sequencing that will give the greatest opportunity for success. There have been many discussions and articles written about the need to define and build a digital retail environment to accommodate the needs of a digital transformation. I will make an argument that an airline must deliver or have a platform that is more encompassing then a retail platform; they must have a 'Digital Innovation Platform' that will give them the agility and speed-to-market needed to react to the competitive airline marketplace.

Blair Koch, Datalex CTO & President USA