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Airlines investing in BI to improve customer experience

April 25, 2014

Recent advances in the field of business intelligence had made these tools far more sophisticated and comprehensive than their predecessors, enabling organizations to improve a wide range of operations.

In the latest example of this trend, a recent report found that every airline in the world and the vast majority of airports now invest in BI solutions as a means of improving the customer experience.

BI plans
The study, conducted by Smart Thinking and sponsored by SITA, an air transport tech company, found that airlines and airports are focusing their efforts on improving their mobile offerings for customers. By 2016 the majority of these organizations aim to provide useful alerts to passengers. Specifically, 79 percent of airlines intend to offer flight status updates, 61 percent will provide baggage alerts and more than 75 percent will offer airport directions via mobile devices. Advanced BI tools are essential for delivering this level of knowledge and service.

That is why every single airline surveyed indicated that it is now spending money to improve its BI capabilities. Nine-tenths of all airports are now investing in these areas, as well.

"Our research has clearly shown that the move to smartphone apps and mobile services is well underway," said Nigel Pickford, director of market insight for SITA. "But many of the services that airlines and airports are planning are heavily dependent on their ability to provide more meaningful data and insight—providing passengers and staff the right information at the right time."

Business intelligence tools can help airlines and airports achieve these goals.

BI challenges
However, as these organizations move to embrace BI technology, there are a number of challenges which must be overcome first.

One such issue highlighted by the Smart Thinking and SITA report is privacy. As Pickford noted, travelers are extremely eager to get ahold of more information about their flights, baggage and other aspects of their journeys. However, these same individuals are also protective of their privacy and will resist data-collection efforts they view as overly intrusive. This means airlines and airports must walk a difficult line while deploying new, advanced BI systems which, by their nature, require robust and comprehensive data to produce useful results.

Airlines must take two key factors into consideration. First, organizations need to select the right BI solutions, as well as the accompanying data collection and management tools. Decision-makers must select the right BI tools that best suit their firms' specific needs and goals from a wide range of options. Given the expense and sensitivity of such initiatives, and the fact that many BI projects fail, companies should strongly consider hiring advisory services. 

Just as importantly, organizations need to have skilled, experienced IT staff in place. All BI tools, no matter how advanced or automated, require human oversight to be effective. A firm that lacks the right talent will inevitably fail to see a satisfactory return on its BI investment. However, BI personnel are in high demand, and many organizations struggle to attract and retain these workers. Using contingent workers or consultants to implement and oversee projects can help companies meet their BI needs. 

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