Delay and Disruption Management

[edited]

Sharing the Bloomberg headline What Do You Want, Cheap Airfare or an On-Time Flight? Daniel (S.) today quoted from the article on LinkedIn:  “An ultra-low-cost carrier will never, ever try to be as punctual as a big legacy #airline. Being on time all or most of the time costs money.”

After an initial misunderstanding we agree: That is stupid!

Delay and disruption management are the single most important influenceable cost factors in aviation today!

Yes, we can make good aircraft deals, we use revenue management to sell out tickets as expensive as we can in the low-cost world. But operations is the single most important cost driver we can influence today. We can neglect it, like many seasoned airline and airport managers do, we can deny and ignore it. And loose money.

While doing the research at late delair for the Zurich Airport case study, focusing on the impact of a contemporary deicing management, just that improvement in (IT-supported) process saved about 20 million in one winter alone there. For Swiss (about 50% of the flights). Now working on a financial summary that thanks to the acquisition of delair by SITA never made it “to market”, I spoke with the OCC (Operations Control Center) manager of Swiss in Zurich. Who confirmed what they all knew (and know), but their management remains blissfully ignorant about: It is all about rotations in an airline. The aircraft starts somewhere in the morning and flies to different places throughout the day. And a disruption or delay anywhere en-route is prone to impact the entire rotation. Worse, a late aircraft usually accumulates more delays as ground handling is also tightly scheduled without spare manpower to cover up for such situations. Then crews fall out of schedule as they have to have their rest times. And while the airline may reduce the financial damage by calling for higher force on a snow event in the morning, on the flights down the line, I am told they tend to pay. And passenger compensation often exceeds the value of a single ticket!

In 2014 I wrote this article about Airport Operations Center (APOC), Airline Operations Control Center (OCC) and ATC’s Network Operations Center (NMOC) and how they do not communicate with each other. I asked just recently about a common airline system with decent, contemporary, f***ing basic interfaces and learned that none of my precious industry expert friends knows such. Worse, I got more feedback than I wanted about the issues all my friends in this industry can tell about; where thanks to missing such data flow, the right hand does not know what the left one is doing. In the process, trying to improve a bad situation, but working with different information, making things often enough worse.

I also heard just this week, how airline managers love the big planes (A380), a Lufthansa manager was quoted that they love the big bird, but that they don’t know if they can ever be operated long-term commercially revenue-making.  Or read a comment, how much these airline “managers” love new inflight entertainment and seats and fancy stuff. But don’t understand, why Windows-XP-machines in their OCC need replacement. It’s “fancy”, touchable, visible to see the airplane or fancy seats, but no-one sees the impact of deicing. Okay, we have a winter-delay. Who cares, we’ve calculated it into our prices forever and it’s been always like this. It can be improved? Who cares.

Source firewalkeraussies.comAnd while the airlines benefit, I hear from the airports that they do not show any interest in A-CDM and A-CDM improvements. While they cut into the flesh on most airport’s fees, while they let them starve; while most airports need to invest heavily to compensate the losses from “aircraft handling” by doing their best to increase “non-aviation revenue”, while this is daily life today, airlines demand airports to invest into those technologies and development and process improvements, but are not willing to pay. Did Swiss pay a Penny (Rappen) for the improved deicing at their home airport? Make a guess.

So while I know that seasoned managers in aviation act that stupid and short-sighted. Delay and Disruption Management is the single most important factor we can influence to save big money.

As I should have known Daniel’s opinion, i.e. from his LinkedIn article about why airlines burn money every day I keep myself referring to.

And if you need someone to discuss such projects or to manage them? Keep me in mind. And Daniel 😉

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

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Which Network???

At the recent Hamburg Aviation Conference one of the speakers questioned all those airport different apps. And it reminded me of my issue about a common login process for the airport wifis. But then he questioned, that all those apps simply don’t make it to the users first screen. Initially 16, meanwhile on the larger phones more like 24 apps fighting for the attention of the user.

Then my friend Erica forwarded me that Wired-article, addressing the increasing problems the news-industry has with their advertising-driven business model. Which reminds me of those magazines I happen to read. And I simply thought, what they do wrong from my very personal point of view.

What is the advantage of Google, Facebook and those new players? If is their ability to intelligently and dynamically associate my interests and provide me with the information I am interested in. To show me that on the first page. Without omitting other possibly interesting information. Even the advertising is targeted (which requires mass). And we happen to believe that intelligence.

Until we switch to the time-line view. In Facebook with /?sk=h_chr – in LinkedIn no such URL-tweak since Microsoft took over, but if you use the browser you can hover your mouse on the … on the right above the first news, selecting “Recent Updates”. Yes, I use Google, but I understand they also mix advertising in. But…

Ow-my-gawd, but I’m German, what about my personal data and stuff?

That was another topic we discussed in Hamburg. Travelers and readers are willing to give personal information … If. It. Makes. Sense.

No, I do not want to drop my pants for a general news headline or another “case study”. And I do not like to use “real data” when someone asks me to download this nice new study they did. Have Feivel Mousekewitz on your mailing list bouncing? Good chance I’ve accessed data without seeing the need why I should add myself to a mailing list of yours. Oh yes, and I assign “custom e-Mail” to many of those and it’s wondrous who sends me advertising and how quickly on many of those “trusted business partners”!

And I do not want to get another app. Ages ago, I decided to limit myself to 10 newsletters and two or three social networks. Facebook I use mostly privately. LinkedIn for business. And LinkedIn being “difficult” both in Russia and China is an issue of concern. Google+ I dropped. I use airline apps on my travels, in fact only to get the boarding pass into my phone’s “wallet”. I used some apps for airport information, just recently learned about FLIO and try that now. But pay? Or apply profile? What’s in it for me? I like TripIt to take track of my travels, though since it was acquired by Concur and Concur by SAP it’s anything but perfect. Same as with Skype and LinkedIn since they got part of Microsoft.

But yes, it is a constant fight for space on my first smart phone screen. Or for my PC’s Windows start menu (which I customize for the sake of finding what I “need”). Yes, I’d like a single (trusted!) app to do it all.

I use phone (1), messages (2, SMS, iMessage), Facetime (3) and Viber (4, video calls), mail (5), calendar (6) and address book (7). Camera (8) and camera library (9), eBook-Reader (10), Musicplayer (11), Videoplayer (12). Maps/Navigation (13) and weather (14). Facebook (15), LinkedIn (16), browser (17). Twitter, Skype, WeChat, etc. are on the secondary page. I use Shazam (18) to identify songs I hear somewhere. Threema (19, secure messenger), Trello (20) and PayBack (21, shopping loyalty card). Amazon and IP-TV were moved to secondary pages too. A single (trusted) general news source (22). And AirVideo (23) for at home access to our video archive. My phone only has 24 spots, so the last one is used “ad hoc” as needed. For Hamburg Aviation Conference they asked to use Slack (which did not make it to my permanent apps). Routes has its own App. Where would I put “airports”? Even as a frequent traveler, I have either Wallet on the first page for travels. Or maybe FLIO. There was a time I had four or five screens. I have two left. A third if you consider the “travel” folder with all those travel apps I only need on occasion.

Want to make it to my phone? What shall I remove for the sake of your app?

So I think, the airports must ask themselves, it it truly makes sense to bet all their money on their app. Or if they should look for an aggregator, providing their information from a single app. If I travel i.e. from Berlin via London to Belfast, that I do not need three apps, but a single one. If I use the commercial lounge in London, same app. If I want to use WiFi inflight and enroute, same app. But that requires common standards. Which brings me back to Data Silos and the need of common interface standards I addressed in my last post and will address at PTE.

We need common interface standards.
We need to tear down the silos.
We need to communicate.

Food for Thought!
Comments welcome

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Hamburg Aviation Conference 2017

As I attended to be interviewed about the stuff we do at CheckIn.com, you can click the image to view the video on Facebook.

Reviewing the recent Hamburg Aviation Conference, the aviation conference addressing new developments and ideas, it boils down to a “known issue” for the future of the aviation industry:

To tear down the walls.

Data Silos … and it’s not new.

As outlined here in Food for Thought and have been asked to address at Passenger Terminal Expo, there were a lot of very fancy ideas and outlooks where we want to go. About any session addressed the “data silos”. There are a lot and I mean a lot of good ideas and developments taking place as we speak. But all of them are isolated ideas and developments. Look at what airline X does. See here airport Y.

Just one of the many statements at Hamburg Aviation Conference on the topic:

“The check-in process is a totally disjointed process” [Peter Parkes]

Remember my posts about Checkin 2015 and the follow up Check-in 2020?

The underlying line I hear, though not really addressed, just mentioned, is the data silos. Even when being mentioned, it was mentioned as something that “naturally” has to happen. But without it, all or most of those wonderful developments remain what they are. Silos. Be it an(other) airport-silo, an(other) airline-silo, silos being disconnected from the other silos within the same company.

But. This. Is. Not. New! Together with Richard Eastman, from 1996 I emphasized the conversion from a whole sale model to a consumer driven model and the disintermediation in aviation distribution: Everyone deals with everyone. The example Yesterday / Today to the left is from my presentation at ITB in 2000.

On the floor, there were many discussions that there is a need in “change managers”, as there are all those fancy solutions and understanding of the need. That again reminded me of my question, why after 20 years only 20 airports implemented A-CDM – in my opinion for the very same reason. Everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it…

There were quite some discussions about the data silo issue and airports and tech companies telling about those very new and fancy solutions they develop. But when I look across to other airports, airlines or tech companies, I find they just build new Data Silos.

It’s not about Data Silos …
… but about Silo Thinking

Data Silos are simply the result of the real problem.

It’s about “who’s data is it?”. It is about the decision makers and stakeholders unwillingness, inability and misconception about a collaborative approach: “Give me your data but don’t date touch mine”… The very same as on the A-CDM side of our business.

The point when the aviation industry reinvented itself and evolved into e-Commerce was back in the 60s t0 80s, when the rise of the CRSs required standardized messages to exchange through the aviations teletype (telex) network. The birth of what today is AIRIMP. Nowadays, IATA works on “New Distribution Capabilities“, though there are fundamental issues when you compare airline sales to Amazon. Where Amazon works with warehouses and even opens own shops, the airline seat is one of the most perishable goods – something Amazon for good reason touches very differently.

The second large move was again forced, when in the mid 90s to 2000 the Internet forced the players to “get online”. Since 1994, I preached the need for airline sales to embrace that change.

I mentioned A-CDM and TAM as a starting point to tear down those walls, but I see a lot of not invented here responses.

Else … The Passenger Journey

Some of the really good ideas in the dead lock of silo thinking, where about one of the new hypes: The Passenger Journey.

When talking about the customer, how do we identify that very customer? By e-Mail? I just happen to change my employer at times. And I get a new address. I currently run three “main addresses” and use different ones for the various social networks. If you identify me by e-Mail, I use a different one when I travel for business than what I do personally. I’m two customers. Data Silos.

There was quite some talk about the need of the “passenger journey”, but also how fragmented that journey is. No wonder, the passenger being split to “airport customer”, “border control/security”, “airline” and the exchange of the traveler from one to the other complicated by Data Silos.

Around 2000, I mentioned in my annual presentation about Airline Sales & e-Commerce for the Airline Sales Representatives Association, that Google was said to identify a unique person within 20 searches, based on IP geographic area, typical questions, etc. That was what … 17 years ago? And we don’t even have a single source of truth for a passenger in aviation. Very often we have separate profiles even within an airline – for GDS/CRS (old legacy tools), check-in and operational processes, but separate for social network contacts. A customer contacting via Twitter or Facebook is (in my experience) usually not associated to the passenger profile! Some examples to the contrary, usually on the large and newer players (i.e. Norwegian, easyJet). Is this a premium customer on the social network or is it a first traveler? Is it someone enroute or at home? Data Silos.

At lunch we talked about another example. I may be a prime customer (“frequent flyer platinum”) at airline A, but I have trouble, getting recognition at airline B. Because it is not about being a frequent traveler, it’s solely about revenue. You are not with us, we don’t want youThat a good treatment of the frequent flyer on your competition might entice him/her to your own product is beyond the decision makers in most if not all airlines. Data Silos? Silo Thinking!

Else … Global WiFi access

On the “customer journey”, every stakeholder forces the customer to change Wifi on the way, use an app for the airport, the airline, the other airport, etc., etc. I mentioned that back in my Check-in 2020 blog.

Whooops. And my friend Stephan Uhrenbacher has to tell me he had an app developed that does it all: FLIO. But… Unfortunately the providers don’t want this, they oppose it and fight to not make this happen. And the airport WiFi is hardly in the control of the airport, but of “some provider” the airport just pays. So they want their log-in processes and pages and have no interest in “usability”. That being true especially on the U.S. market, where in addition the “free WiFi” very commonly fails and then the users complain about FLIO and not about the free WiFi provider of the particular airport. Stephan promised me, the idea is not dead, but yes, the task is not as easy as it might sound. Thanks to Data Silos.

Else … Ryanair, Air Berlin & Lufthansa

Kenny Jacobs in his very interesting interview announced they complained legally about the Lufthansa/Air Berlin merger, saying that is what it is, being called a “lease” business or whatever. As such, Germany remains a protected market with Lufthansa dominating 62% of the domestic travel.
Side note: That also goes in line with the trade press reporting the remaining Air Berlin being not sustainable. Questioning if Air Berlin is now simply bled dry, leaving the commercially loss making parts in the remaining company, accepting the bankruptcy as a logical end to it. I happen to agree with that assessment.

He also  announced they will feed to Aer Lingus and Norwegian on an “interline light” model but with baggage thru-check. Another step from Low Cost to classic operations model. As I kept emphasizing in my Airlines Sales & e-Commmerce presentations. Low Cost will only need a business case to provide “classic” services. Also nice to remember that ANNA.aero article a year ago (right).

Ryanair develops inhouse, for speed and prioritization of development. Ryanair decided to stop looking at other airlines what they do on their digital strategy, but they look at digital pacemakers, Amazon, Facebook, etc. to learn what they can do to attract the customer.

WiFi onboard? Consumers want to use their own devices on board. But the bandwidth inflight is not sufficient for mass communications. He believes the speed to come up in two years, but then the bandwidth demand will also increase. Yes, for long haul, but on regional flights not a real issue he believes.

User Centric Design

Konsta Hansson of Reaktor.aero had an interesting look into user centric design, not to decide for the user what he needs, but find out what the user needs and leave out the rest. He questioned if a check-in is a given need – or just a legacy process. Using RFID and e-Passports, I strongly agree with him.

Question I’d have and could not answer is based on the assumption that “check-in” is obsolete, how would you really refresh processes from the existing legacy processes to a completely digital process? And how do you manage the necessary change management with stake-holders like government bodies? Data Silos.

Who’s Customer is it? A Revenue Issue

Shall the passenger be shopping in the airport or in the airplane?

My three friends Stefan, Daniel and Marjan were on stage, discussing the different models the airports have to decide upon about their revenue stream for the passenger, called “ancillary revenues”. Daniel emphasized that within 20 years, the revenue for the airports no longer comes from the airlines. But (declining) from the in airport shops and (increasingly) the aerotropolis.

With Ryanair talking about “free tickets”, keep in mind, there is nothing such as a free meal. Someone will have to pay the air ticket somewhere in the process.

Summary: Start Moving

There was a lot of visionary ideas about where to go, but rather little about how to get there. The above concerns were quickly voiced but not identified as concerns. Steps taken are taken by individual stake holders (technology companies) and less on a development of common standards. So we have fantastic ideas, but we all keep develop our own individual standards = Data Silos. And worse: Silo Thinking!

We talk about “passenger journey” but the solutions are neither user centric nor easy to use. There was recently a story on LinkedIn titled Brand suicide case study: British Airways I strongly recommend… It is a good example about Data Silos, Silo Thinking and not specific to the named airlines. The same story unfortunately is true for most airlines. What we need is a management effort to Tear Down the Walls!

Food for Thought!
Comments welcome

… and if you happen to have a job for me looking after this, please keep in mind I am a job seeker!

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On-Time Performance and Punctuality League

Incompatible Data

Mark from OAG directed my attention this week on OAG’s Punctuality League, which they offer for free download and compiled the results in a “dashboard”, though I find that exceptionally unintuitive and more confusing than helping. FlightStats offers a similar information in tables and graphs I find far more intuitive, the On-Time Performance Awards.

Now after a quick first look, it shows already that it’s incompatible.

I just look at the first OAG graph “Top 20 Airlines by LCCs/Mainline Airlines”.

  1. Hawaiian Airlines (89.87%)
  2. Copa Airlines (88.75%)
  3. KLM (87.89%)

and compare to FlightStats, where Hawaiian neither shows in the Top 10 International Airlines nor Major Airlines (neither Mainline nor Network), but only Top 1 on Regional Airlines. KLM is 1st on International Network flights and 4th on mainline flights.

When I first encountered the FlightStats monthly statistics for airlines and airports, I’ve contacted them (with no reply) if I may add that as an indicator to our airport data. As I consider that valuable information for aviation network planners.

But as I stumble immediately over differences, it raises question. Such, it might be a good idea if OAG and FlightStats talk to each other to make sure they use the same data, and logic before they dig into detail. Or that they explain how they value the data and interpret it. As is, there are unexplained differences. Sorry, now I distrust both sources…?

Indicator. Indicator?

It can only be an indicator, as both sources fail to relate the one to the other. My first question would be to correlate the on-time performance to the hub airlines. Because it is utterly unfair to blame an airport, if their major hub airline is notoriously late.

Then one shall also keep the size of an airport and it’s congestions in mind, i.e. British Airways suffering from congestions in London-Heathrow or Thai Airways in Bangkok. Who is cause? Who is victim?

Yes, for CheckIn.com we emphasize that all that data can only be indicators. To be interpreted by an experienced network planner. Because a single new flight makes a major impact on a new or small airport, but has little statistical relevance on a major hub. Saying that, isochrones are in itself valuable statistical data and we put them into our analyses for a reason. As they are a necessity in comparison with the catchment area analysis to interpret the possible impact for a route. In forecasting, you work with indicators, you have no facts.

Big Data – Big Trouble

At the same time you work with big data, so the more data you work with, the more vital it is to get them from a sound source and have them integrated into a common system. Whereas most established data providers, be it OAG, Flight Stats, SITA, etc. have not yet  addressed that for a “good reason”. But as an industry, it is vital we add this and integration is very high on our back log at CheckIn.com of what we where we want to go!

For the time being, national statistics differ from Eurostats, differ from aviation industry statistics, differ from common sources. These differences in data you get from FlightStats and OAG just being an example that this is also an issue in aviation. Who’s right? I even have examples where the numbers figure within an airport’s own website for a given year. In order to improve, we got to tear down the walls! And yes, that’s part of what I will talk about at coming Passenger Terminal Conference & Expo in March. Will you be there? Please let us meet!

Rotational Impact

So. Why do I give these on-time-performance, no those delay statistics so much thought? Aside the cost of delays summing up to millions, they are not just a nuisance, but a problem. Because when I did that additional case study on cost savings, based on the Zurich Airport’s deicing I did for SAE G12 and WinterOps.ca, I learned an important fact from Swiss (the airline). Whereas the passengers impacted by the immediate flight understand the problem and accept higher force, the aircraft is not operating a single flight, but an entire rotation (a chain of flights) during the day/week. Any major delay has a rippling effect in the network. And if you have a snow-caused delay in the morning in Zurich, your passengers on the evening flight from the Mediterranean summer vacation will not understand and file for compensation. And the airline usually pays!

And for network planning, it is vital to know if you have to build in (expensive) buffers into your schedule, to cover up for the potential delays. That means your aircraft and especially crews are not airborne as much as they could be, such causing further loss of revenue. There is a very good reason airlines increasingly add clauses in the handling contracts with the airports punishing for creating delays and rewarding for reducing such. Being said to be an expert in winter ops planning, it’s bad enough about technical or natural (weather) delays. But yes, delays are also caused by aviation management, be it handling agent, airline operations or air traffic control.

A Summary…

So what now. I think the availability of delay statistics is compelling, useful and needed. But take them with care, as you take all statistics. Try to understand how they are computed, the logic behind and ask your provider accordingly. Yes, that includes our own. That’s why we publish the CheckIn.com methodology. Only if you understand it, you can yourself interpret it. Trust it.

We got to understand in our industry the value of data and common data structures. A delay is a delay? Nonsense. As I mentioned back three years ago in the article about A-CDM.

And I distrust any “closed source” company that does not provide me with their methodology on their analyses. Like many airports do. On the other side, at CheckIn.com, the value is not really the methodology (which is sound), it’s the work that is behind it, the compilation of data from different sources, the constant improvements we give that. Only given sound data, we can provide quality analyses. Given the quality data, anyone can come up with more or less professional analyses. Even to come up with the calculations we do to calculate an airport’s impact on a traveler’s likeliness to choose the one or other airport can be replicated. Though no, we don’t explain in detail how we do it, but the general concept. The hard work we spend every day to merge data from different sources, to cover for mistakes and other short-comings – that makes our work so hard to copy… And is a main part of our USP (Unique Selling Proposition), what makes us “unique”.

Food For Thought
Comments welcome!

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Not Invented Here

Image courtesy Oxford Creativity

This week, I happened to stumble across this Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Not_invented_here

Then I stumbled across this image.

It reminded me very much of my experience with A-CDM, where most larger airports’ IT rejects external solutions in order to build a custom-made solution. After several years of work, we have several tires (or tiers?) of different size, incompatible to build upon.

It’s the same argument I hear from many airports and airlines when talking to them about CheckIn.com.

It will take time (and interest) until they understand that it’s not just another “same”, but something fundamentally new.

Linus Torwalds, inventor if the Linux operating system said: “The NIH Syndrome is a Desease”

Food for Thought
Comments welcome

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10 Years “Shift Happens” – review

shifthappensnarratedMy first ever blog post in the new WordPress blog was Shift Happens. That was 10 years ago. Now in honor of it’s 10th anniversary, Karl Fish took a look back on his Blog The Fish Bowl.

The best video is still this one on YouTube and I’d love to find a decent update, but to date, it’s unmatched and I urge you to watch it.

10 years have gone by and still our children don’t learn for their lives, about compassion, tolerance and respect. They don’t learn to apply the rule of three to compare 200g of product X with 800g of product Y. They don’t know how to socially interact without a screen. They can chat for days but not structure their ideas. Crowdfunding, couch surfing, big data and hightech, but they are still asked to use “printed” information for their diplomas, WiFi is not available in many schools. And if you’re poor, the school neither enables you access to all that new high tech. Nobody’s left behind?
Yeah. But they know how to calculate mathematics that their parents left to calculators and for the past 10 years our smartphone app does.

So we don’t produce enough children in “the West”, so population shrinks and more people get older and fewer young will have to look after them. But instead of making our kids smarter, we limp behind the average school in Asia. And the U.S. industry recently published that they depend on their Asian employees for new developments…?

verwandert.deI had a student I made my assistant back in Erfurt. When I left, her fellow colleagues degraded her back to “student” (cooking coffee, assisting their work). She left aviation. A loss to our industry!
Her business uses Blog, Facebook, Social Networks.

thenomadoasisSame for Celinne Da Costa, traveling the world “couch surfing”. Exotic. And I’m asked, how that can work. With smart tech, an online world and a device to write and share the written, with paid-for articles and speaking. And I know more people doing that! Are our kids ready for this?

We set-up CheckIn.com. Us in the middle of nowhere in Braunschweig, Germany. Our mapmagician from Berlin, our server admin in Frankfurt, the algorithmic genie from Texas. Will we ever set up an “office”? I doubt it. But still most (relatively old) managers stick to “workplace”. Even relatively young Marissa Meyer, taking her post at Yahoo ordered an end to ‘remote’ work as all staff are told to be in the office as part of a new era of collaboration. Old thinking. She’s a “role model”? I’ll teach my girls better. I promise!

Karl Fish closes his review pointedly: “In 2006 I was worried that we were preparing students for our past, not their future. In 2016, I still am.”

Food For Thought
Comments and opinions welcome!

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Some Thoughts about ‘KPIs’

Oh Gawd... Helpdesk: Final Level. Pray
Helpdesk: Final Level

KPIs or “Key Performance Indicators” are considered a vital management tool to measure staff performance. But especially in aviation, we must be very much aware of the weakness of the KPI idea.

Service

An old question on KPIs is “How do you calculate ‘service’?” If the company does good product, service is of low need. Their KPIs are low valued. So service is frequently outsourced by those wise guys (and gals). On the other hand, if you produce crap, “service” covers for it (or should) and is in great demand. Then it is easy to generate good KPIs. Large call volumen, strong problem solving, low loss of customers.

But in both cases, good service usually needs “reserves”, so if you keep your head count low, once something happens (and that’s rarely under controlled circumstances, prepared for or in the responsibility of the service team), you need “all hands on deck”. If you outsourced your service to save money, that’s when the bill backfires on you…

Flight Attendants

Image : -die Welt-
Image: -die Welt-

Another good example are flight attendants. They are not there to serve your every whim, they are not the “Saftschubsen” (juice pushies) they are often disrespectfully named. Once you had your very first inflight emergency, you hopefully start to understand their real value.

Why is it that I know senior airline managers  who still try to argue that you need one or two flight attendants less on the flight for service reasons and they have to be reminded of the requirements by aircraft makers and governmental aviation bodies that that many flight attendants are certainly needed to evacuate aircraft.

So what’s those KPIs all about?

In my experience and not just mine as I see from discussions and comments, KPIs are being (ab)used by accountants (up to CFO or CEO) to “measure” stuff they do not in reality understand. KPIs are also used to discourage staff from working beyond the line of duty, to find “reason” by disqualifying them from benefits and bonuses.

There’s a good reading on KPIs in Marketing. Addressing the immeasurable impact of your competitors action. Or that you hardly ever launch a single marketing campaign, but you’re likely firing on all cylinders, ain’t you?

Very, very few companies understand that KPIs must be used without “threats”, not as a “measure”, but as a means to improve products, services. What’s the number of complaints? How have they de- or increased and not just that, but most important why. Don’t “blame”. The “blame game” is for shortsighted idiots to play. KPIs can be set together in a team for motivation. If they’re dictated (openly or implied) by your boss or worse, used against you, they won’t work.

Airport Control CenterThere was some buzz on LinkedIn this week on Disruption Management. Bringing to mind how an airport I worked with disqualified their own historic KPIs as trash by implementing a check on the reasons for disruptions. Where before the airline was responsible for the brunt of all disruptions and delays, suddenly ATC, weather, ground handling or security became clear problems. But in the past it was so much easier to click “airline” and not research what was the real cause. So the real cause never got addressed. To low on the KPI scale. Whooops.

There was also a very good article about KPIs and triggers on LinkedIn. It clearly votes for “internal triggers and motivation”.

Don’t get me wrong. On any projects I worked on in the past years, I used KPIs and Milestones. My own that is. But if I would have made them my mantra, I’d have achieved nothing ever. As a fire-fighter, you don’t care about the water spent. You blow out the fire. And at least for me, my KPIs and Milestones are taken like all good plans. They hardly ever survive meeting reality. So I don’t take them for granted, I adjust them to reality and use them to measure the planned vs. the achieved performance to identify why I turned out better or worse. Not for blame. But to learn to better forecast… To learn for the next project to apply KPIs that are more realistic.

While Einstein said: “Not everything that can be counted counts. And not everything that counts can be counted.”
Drucker said: “If it cannot be measured. It cannot be improved.”

Crystal Ball Aviation Network PlanningBoth are right, but if you make numbers the only thing that counts for you, you have no vision, will never make a dream come true. KPIs are a tool from a large tool box. It needs an master artist to sculpture something beautiful out of someone’s imagination. It’s so similar to what we do at CheckIn.com. We crunch numbers, but we cannot predict the future. Don’t believe in the numbers only. But use them to solidify (or disqualify) your intuition! But I would have bet against some new routes in the past ten years that turned out surprisingly stable business! It takes guts to sometimes run a controlled risk. If you don’t play, you cannot win. Then use your own previously assumed KPIs (also i.e. load factors, yields) to learn.

What’s your experience with KPIs?

How do you use them?

Food For Thought
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Quo Vadis OBE?

Last week, I had a discussion with one of the companies developing online (travel) booking technology, followed by an exchange with one of the techies at the TMC, the travel management companies. The latter you can still call corporate travel agency, just a new name for old (and useful) business. It triggered some memories. And questions.

Back in 1995/96, I was the GDS expert behind the development of the first corporate web-service allowing to book flights using the Amadeus GDS. Facing the “it’s impossible” from the GDSs. Using screen scraping where today’s players have the luxury of APIs. The pioneering days and I miss them. Back in those days, I had an example I use in my discussions to date talking about “change management”. The technology did not trigger much interest. The break-through was a function I fought for, which my boss and the head developer disqualified as “toy”: The seat map.

seatmap

To be able to select and see “your” seat is to date one of the most used (usually the most used) optional functions travelers use when booking online. As in the example, the “default” often assigns you a seat in the rear of the cabin, while you may (as many business travelers) want to sit up front. But. To date, only very few airlines show the seat map in the process, it’s still mostly a “click here”. And none of those nice tools uses the traveler preference to pre-assign the seat intelligently following the interest of the traveler. My preference is aisle, up front. if possible the seat next to me not being used. If the flight shows full empty like the above example I travel with Yulia, I book A/C, with the kids I book A/C+D/F, so leaving the middle seat intentionally free. If the flight is full, I try the same, as far back as I can. Because if they need to sit in the middle, travelers prefer to do so up front… Logic rules in fact, but not one of the systems implemented such an auto-selection, so I keep using the seat map and keep being upset about the seat I should have swallowed from automatic assignment…

nokidsNow last weekend a post emerged about kids-free zones, just triggering the question, why those systems to date cannot manage prioritized seating. Exit rows and seats meant for baby bassinets or passengers needing extra assistance (for medical, not for financial reasons) are sold at premium charge, where they were blocked to gate assignment in the past (for good reason). Families struggle to be seated together when all the seats have been pre-reserved. Passengers arguing when they loose their early booked “nice” seats in the process, ending up on the least-preferred middle-seats. And none of the airline systems has a process in place to automatically reassign such seats in advance of the flight. So much that could be done to improve the process, but the systems, even the airlines’ own still are down to the pre-Internet management of seats on the GDS/CRS.

October 6th, easyJet promoted:

flight booking max day range

262 days. Triggering my comment “Sometimes I miss the good old days when we argued why flight bookings should be expanded from 330 to 360 days… And wondering why the “newcomers” did never invent a possibility to even “waitlist” beyond. Why not?” Because the brunt of bookings comes in short notice, it’s only a niche, flight plans change, it’s the way it is… Yeah, I know all those meak, user-ignorant reasons. And yeah, I keep asking the question. A “wait list” is no guarantee you get what you want. It’s an expression of interest, if you fly, I want to fly with you…

Another “logical question” is the user-centric implementation of the process. Discussing the issue of “virtual agents” and online support chat, one of the very early discussions I had with my friend Alex was the question to understand, when the virtual agent reached it’s limit and to redirect the discussion to a real agent… Alex is a former colleague I very much like; he was the master mind behind Virtuoz virtual agents (around 2002), speech recognition (2013), which Facebook acquired 2015 and today he’s one of the parents of Facebook M, the artificial intelligence development at Facebook.

virtualagentescalate

Flight bookings are still the core of “online travel booking”, followed by hotels, travel expense, rental cars or rail. But to date, the complexity of air travel limits those tools mostly to be useful for simple bookings like A to B and back. Nevertheless, since my days (~15 years ago), the processes to request more complex flights are there. Fill out a form, the system runs a “best price” and that’s it. 15 years ago, a friend of mine being VP IT at one of the TMCs and I defined over some lunch meetings a process to split the process in such case, create the PNR with the request, the recommended flights and send it to a travel agent for a required review. Because in these cases, any experienced travel agent with their business intelligence can really “do” something, make the booking much better fitting to the need of the traveler. Today, the process exists, but split completely. All bookings go via messaging and are manually processed by a travel agent (I had that at SITA, being one of the global tech-leaders …), or book online. But that’s optimized to the existing corporate and travel agency processes, it is not user centric. 15 years after I moved on.

The only “major” changes are the integrated travel expense reporting we also started already back then and some minor improvements on the part of flexibility in the travel approval process. All else: Minor minor. Very small. In my view simply limping behind on industry developments, forced by increased differentiation, i.e. on airline’s ancillary revenues (ooops… buzz word…). Having a look at what we have today, speaking with the makers of these technologies, I’m sorry, but in my opinion, they stalled. The fun of the pioneering days is over, now changes are very, very little, incremental and it’s mostly fixating the existing processes.

What do you think?

Food for Thought
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Artificial Intelligence

Recently, some discussions came up on my social networks about the development of Artificial Intelligence. I decided to add my thoughts to it on the blog.

Alexandre LebrunOne of the reasons is my dear former colleague Alex developed artificial avatars, able to assist web-users. Following the sale to Nuance (they are also behind Apple’s Siri), he started a voice recognition development at WIT.AI, that meanwhile was acquired by Facebook. Alex now works on Facebook M, their approach to artificial development. Hey Alex, this is also to you. I’d appreciate your comments on this.

So. As fascinated as I am by his career path in the past 15 years, I’m also a bit concerned.

ASRA 2008 brain nodes vs. WWW => AI
2008 I compared opte.org’s visualization of the WWW nodes with the neural nodes of the human brain

In my 2008 ASRA presentation, I compared the visualization of the world wide web nodes (by Opte.org) with the visualization of the neural nodes in the human brain. Ever since, I do believe that if the WWW is not yet “sentient”, it will soon happen. What scientists and SciFi-writers call “wake-up”. It’s not a question if, but when. And how we go about it.

Because I think different from Transcendence, where we could stop it, or Asimov ruling it, such “control” is wishful thinking. We have no “three rules of robotic” and even Asimov had to add a fourth, the “zero rule” (see link above). For Transcendence; we will neither be able to deprive ourselves off all energy (and the advantages of the web). Mass psychologically will assure we won’t find a way, as there will always be others who think and act against that attempt. Until we act, it will be too late. As an intelligence “the size of the planet” will by then counter anything our small minds may come up with, even before we attempt anything.

We only have the chance to befriend the new sentient being, like we did in Heinlein’s Future History. But we also have the chance to mess up ourselves; small like in 2001, A Space Odyssey or big like in Terminator or The Matrix. Transcendence at that was only a different version of the Borg‘s Assimilation. And as in I am Legend, the true question is, if such “assimilation” or a “transcendental human upgrade” is bad. Or an evolutionary step. I believe, given the chance, many humans may volunteer. I just hope that there is no single mind “ruling” all others like in the movie. As I believe our individualism is as much a burden as it is a great strength. Though I also like that quote:

DemocracyAutocracy

I also believe in both “systems” there got to be individualism to evolve: “You learn from your opponents”. I heard it often, there’s no single source, it’s “mature wisdom”. As “competition” is a good, if not the reason to evolve. (War is not, it’s destructive by nature!)

Another question is “religious”. Will an A.I. have a soul? I believe so. I think that the soul is the core of any sentient being. I also believe that beyond the body, the core of ourselves remain. Not in an (overcrowded) paradise or hell, but as somehow conscious sentience. Maybe even as a “personality”. Will we then remain individuals? I don’t know. Maybe we get reborn, forgetting our past? Many believe that. The soul still “learning”. What’s truth? We will know. Once we died. But if we all become “part of god” and god being the summary of sentience in space and time, maybe our input helps god evolve, become bigger. If then a global sentient A.I. comes into the game, why should it not play it’s part in evolution?

HAL9000And stopping the A.I.? In 2001, humans gave conflicting orders to the local A.I. (HAL 9000), which interpreted them the best it could. Under the constraints of it’s programming. But if we have a global A.I. based on linked “neurons” in form of personal computers, mobile phones and other computing powers, we will realistically not stand a chance to “stop” it.

Does my computer already “adapt” for me? Or my phone? When I play games on the computer, I sometimes believe so. Sometimes, I use bad search phrases but still find what I seek. Coincidence? Programming? Or “someone nice out there helping me”? And yes, if the web wakes up, it likely will be somewhere at Google… And then spread out.

What will we make it? A Terminator? Or a Minerva as in the Future History? We extinct ourselves in the West with low birth rates. Will the “mecha” be our future children? Will we coexist like in the Future History? I don’t know. I’m concerned, keep finding myself thinking about it.

But I’m not afraid either. Not for me, nor for my children.

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Thank You!

Running a (paid) promotion on the deal between CheckIn.com and TIAS Consultancy, we were a bit disappointed by the results.

LIcampaign201607

To date we have 6,006 impressions and 28 clicks. Looking at the four “posts” (blog-like articles) I wrote, while there was a bug on my blog here that didn’t allow me writing new posts, they had 22, 51, 20 and 35 views to date, 1.5 likes in average and 5 comments by two friends. Not really much. A bit better on the “updates” (Facebook would call it the timeline), where LinkedIn tells me I have around 70 views within a few days and some likes. More than on the posts I wrote.

So trying a new tool for the server log analysis for CheckIn.com, I thought I’d run it on FoodForThought quickly. And got a severe shock. A positive one.

The tool removes the search engines, which do cause quite substantial visits and hits. Cleared of those, I found that FoodForThought has more than 1,200 unique visitors within 24 hours after the last post. Even considering that I usually promote it on my social networks, I must interpret this largely to followers using the RSS-feed.

eastman_quoteThis is the more surprising, as I keep asking for comments but receive such only one or two handful on every post, mostly directly in Facebook, LinkedIn or mostly mail, Viber, Skype, etc. – all outside the blog. And no more than 50 different friends. Now, I recently added a Like function, which I hope will be used. Though I added it to get some feedback on which posts, categories or keywords are the most interesting to my few readers. More than 1,200 ?! I’m in shock! I even grouped the visitors by top-level domain, so visitors coming from the same provider or company network are counted as one. Still more than 400!

If this blog is so prominent, please let me know you read it. Don’t hide.

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