My 2016/17 New Year’s Resolutions

  • Stay postive, optimistic, motivated.
  • Find a job (to make money, travel, live).
  • Ignore all the negativism on Facebook, LinkedIn, the Media, politicos & Co.!

People in Aleppo have reason to complain. Also the people hit by the many natural disasters around the world. Or the ones suffering health problems. WE? We do well! We should be very happy and grateful for what we have! Our lively, sunny-spirited daughter has a pacemaker. Other times, elsewhen or -where, she would likely be dead. Okay, okay. I do not live in Hawaii (and now likely will never make it). My wishes are little. I’d simply like a good, decently paid job in aviation (anywhere, anything in Europe). I did not expect it to be taking this long again to find something. The more “luxury” one, I’d like to be able to afford travel again.
But I have the most lovely family I can imagine. I simply cannot complain. I can set goals. Make New Year’s resolutions.

But. I. Can. Not. Complain!

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

This year:

  • Hans

    Thank you Hans Gesk for sharing always those hillarious and good-natured posts. I did miss you at ESC16 and love to see you down under!

  • Thank the entire Carri family for being so far and staying so close!
  • Thanks everyone supporting our family business @ CheckIn.com during the rather bumpy start, especially our mapgician Stefan but also Ingrid, Oksana, Martin and all the others for spreading the word! And to all the ones who have registered and taken a look.
    Also, yes, it’s another time we see lots of lip services from companies we expected to be more supportive in the startup-period. Not even supporting us by spreading the word on their own social networks or registering (it’s free) on our website and having a look at what we are doing there.

    Celinne da Costa

    And also especially Jens for his ongoing support managing the servers! Congrats to your own small family again, welcome to Father’s days 24/7/365! We owe you big time!

  • My prayers for everyone who has gone on! I’m sure you’re being missed by your friends and families!
    Special prayers are also with the Jacobs family, going through unusually rough times right now.
  • And finally for the summary, some exceptionally thanks to you Celinne for TheNomadOasis, reminding me daily of my traveling days. And that this world is about people! You’ve been a motivation in dark hours and an inspiration on the brighter side of life!

Sorry to all the friends that I’ve not been in touch with this year!

Me and My Family
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Poor Genius

As you may know following my blog, I am considered an expert in aviation.

At upcoming Passenger Terminal Conference & Expo, I will speak about the need to dear down the walls to make A-CDM a success. Being it data silos or the ones in the heads of the ones opposing change (aka. change management).

At upcoming Hamburg Aviation Conference, the famous aviation think tank, I will be on stage on our work at CheckIn.com. As an example for pioneering work, changing the status quo: That is it … is it?

I work with airports and airlines and get calls on many projects every day, being asked for advise and “just a little help”. But at the same time, the expenses still exceed the income, not talking about a possible “salary” on our work on CheckIn.com. On my airline startup investment, we get a lot of market research inquiries, but we shall develop and deliver that for free for the chance of a future investment.

It reminds me of the old joke on the social networks about asking for free consulting: “If I wanted to work for free, I’d choose to be a volunteer. Not a freelance.” And while all those callers have a well-paid job, they hide behind their company not being able to pay me, but I sure will get their “business” later. Can’t tell you how often I heard that.

I’ve lately being asked to travel to North America. And to Russia. To help on a project. Payment? Oh, if my help works out we may be able to agree on a consulting contract the next time… You. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me.

As a boy, I loved the biography of the Nobel-price-winner Marie Curie, about whom Wikipedia writes: “She subsisted on her meager resources, suffering from cold winters and occasionally fainting from hunger.” But she did have a dream. And she lived it.

Now it’s time. Not “tomorrow”, not “some day”. I mention on my social networks that I look for a new challenge, paid work. I’m busy all day, work long nights, but that all comes without enough pay, so we dig into our savings – not what I want life to be. Neither my wife, nor my children.

More friends have left our industry this year, not finding decently paid work in our industry. Being seasoned, creative experts in aviation, they now work in other industries paying them their living. If you pay €30K/year for a “manager” position, you get what you pay for.

I keep answering my friends (close and loose) questions, share my experience. Just keep in mind when you ask a freelance for free help, that if you use their time, they have less time to make money and feed their family, their children. And don’t promise “exposure” to “opportunities” that we both know they won’t arise. It might be an idea to not imply that your company doesn’t have money to buy into expertise. You might simply not have asked. Or did you?

Food for Thought
Comments welcome

And I wish everyone happy holidays and a wonderful, prosperous, challenging, healthy and fun 2017.

See you in Hamburg (08-09Feb), Ajaccio (22-24Feb), Amsterdam (14-16Mar) or Belfast (23-25Apr). Or elsewhere.

 

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LinkedIn and CheckIn.com

LinkedIn makes it to my personal blog for three reasons this week. The LinkedIn ban in Russia, the naming of our LinkedIn Group and our experience with LinkedIn promotions of our posts.

I also add a note about why we give away Isochrones for free, but call ourselves “The Isochrones People”.

linkedinrubannedLinkedIn Ban in Russia

As much as it is a “political signal”, one must keep in mind that the rules were long known and other companies invested big money in Russia to store the personal data of Russian users in-country. Further, German and European Data Watchdogs (Datenschutzbeauftragte) also demand storage of that data in Europe (mostly a reason for big data centers built and used in Dublin).

As we are in preparations at CheckIn.com to add Russia (on demand by an airline customer), we added a new blog ad hoc to our page (not yet in our look-and-feel) to promote what we initially started using LinkedIn for. Though that already was on the back-log of things to do, relating to the LinkedIn promotions we address below.

drivetimesLinkedIn CheckIn.com Group

A few weeks ago we created a group on LinkedIn to address the non-commercial side of the business of analyzing catchment areas, things like isochrones or why travelers choose an airport against other airports. Distance is just one reason, reputation (both airport and airline), prices and frequency. Commercial and personal relations (VFR, visiting friends and relatives) and tourism can influence the decision of the travelers to choose an airport over the other(s). Where we identified an average of 10 airports being competitive to other airports in Europe and five usually having an impact on travelers, studies say that people usually look at one airport as “their” airport with maximum of two others as “options”.

That’s what we won’t discuss as “news” on a commercial level, they are to frequent to discuss on my personal blog, they are neither focused on airline network development (but part of it like MIDT). So I decided that we set up a group and I looked at other commercial-interest groups. I could have set up “Catchment Area” or “Isochrones”, but that way may have attracted people from other industries and I wanted to keep an aviation focus to the group. So I decided to name it CheckIn.com. In the long run, we may rename it to CheckIn.org revitalizing the respective website with a good cause that is currently still hosting the Airline Sales Representative Association that broke up and disbanded 2015.

Other website? Why not the LinkedIn group?

Germany Purchasing Power vs. Airports
Germany Purchasing Power vs. Airports

LinkedIn Promotions vs. Blog, Website, Mailings

As it happens, I have been a long-year supporter of LinkedIn, I do love the social networks for keeping in touch with people I know and value. I only confirm links on my social networks to people I have a relation to, be it personal (mostly Facebook) or business (mostly LinkedIn). I liked the groups on LinkedIn and the company profiles, even decided to set up a LinkedIn company page to promote our news – and a group for the stuff that’s not commercially driven. But in the past months since, I found posting on LinkedIn outside my own profile not to make much sense, neither professional, nor personal. In average, less than 10% of my network react on my posts – and that’s mostly the same people.

At the same time, any article I write here on my personal blog is being read and results in more responses (though mostly personal, not on the blog) than any LinkedIn post. And on the example of this year’s mostly accessed post on Purchasing Power & Airports last March, that one even in the past month showed as the top post by 482% to the next best one, The Numbers Game. Almost 5 times more for the Purchasing Power. Seems it is being spread on channels beyond my own “control”. Which is what social networking is all about.

licampaign_status20161128We did a promo for our company page and our group (click on the graph to see it real size). Where the group does not have the commercial focus! We have 10 members on the group, we have 51 followers on the company page on LinkedIn. Out of … how many contacts I have from events like Routes or Connect who I consider that they should be more interested in the issue? Out of those, how many have registered on our website? It’s free. It gives a very clear value: Free Isochrone Map and Facts! And even with some new followers, still the majority of users on our company profile did not register on our website.

I mailed my contacts directly (personally) with a prepared mail text (using poMMo, which I also use for many years for other such updates like the birth of my daughters). Interesting enough, about every airport I talked to keeps telling me excuses and that they “will register”. We’re not talking to buy the more complex analysis, we talk about a simply, free registration to access the incredible amount of data we provide for free. Airlines are more active than them. About any airline I so far contacted in Europe has registered. And uses the data. And the first order analyses and they support actively asking pointed questions, especially about the route level analysis we are having in development. But they take what we have now, which we believe to be more likely of interest for airports. Interesting there also: For some reason my contacts I know best and considered “save” mostly have not yet even registered. But people I know just a bit, they come and show interest. And invest. And invest again. So they like what they get, they understand the value, my “friends” obviously don’t.

Worse for LinkedIn, even on articles posted (LinkedIn Pulse), they have a lifetime of max. 3-4 days, on blog and mail, we sometimes get response weeks later. On our blog, as for the example above, even months later, the unique visits are substantial!

And then the news hit, that LinkedIn has been banned from Russia. See above…

jb_enfp-a
Need a Campaigner? Hire me!

So we decided this week that I add a blog to promote news directly on our website. We do collect ideas for a “version 2” of our website, so far we still invest. I keep looking for work as we can’t live of our work at CheckIn.com (yet) and all money goes into improvements. I will still support Yulia on CheckIn.com, but it’s her company. And we prefer to pay for developers, mapgicians and mathgenies… Anyway, side-tracked 😉

We did expect airports though to understand the insane quality they get for a fraction of what they paid so far for far less. We give the “classic” Isochrone Maps for free: As we outlined in the new News, we see them as insufficient basis for any decent route calculation. Over the next weeks, we will transfer the LinkedIn posts there and refer from LinkedIn to the posts on our own site.

RoutesEUThe Isochrones People

A question that came up this week again, was why we promote that Isochrones are not Catchment Areas, but call ourselves The Isochrones People?

During pre-launch we learned that Isochrones and Catchment Area analysis are used as equal. Isochrones are also – and will remain – the basis for our analyses. Beyond the reach of the typical isochrones, in the background we calculate something like 6-8 hours “reach” for which we calculate drive times – beyond we go into “statistical noise”. But when we talked to our supporters from airports, airlines and consultancies about “The Catchment Area People” vs. “The Isochrones People”, there was immediate understanding what we’re doing on the latter one. And similar many questions about the first… Like “isn’t that the same?”

It’s a catch-phrase, people working in our industry shall identify as as the leading source for such information. And hey, we give them away for free, so yeah, I’m happy with being one of “The Isochrones People”.

Food For Thought
Feedback welcome!

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What are the Fact, and to how many Decimal Places?

"What are the facts? Again and again and again-what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what "the stars foretell," avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable "verdict of history"--what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!" [Lazarus Long]
“What are the facts? Again and again and again-what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable “verdict of history”–what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!” [Lazarus Long]
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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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The Numbers Game

I think this time we got the numbers right ... we just don't know which ones to use.
I think this time we got the numbers right … we just don’t know which ones to use.

Talking about CheckIn.com, we have been asked many times, how we crunch our numbers. Or that our drivetimes are different from Google. Yes?

The second question is rather important, as before you crunch the numbers, you got to see what you work with. And this article on LinkedIn by Jasper Venema rang a bell last week…

So let’s talk about statistics today.

Passengers

We are in the process to add some new region to CheckIn.com and as usual, the first and foremost figure we need are the passengers. We usually use Wikipedia, but even between different Wikipedia pages, more so even between different Wikipedia languages, we find different passenger figures. Now we usually compare them with commercial data we get and guess what: There’s official sources such as ACI, IATA, national statistics, airport associations, but also commercial sources like ANNA.aero, Albatross, AEX or others and in all cases, we have – sometimes substantial – discrepancies on annual passengers per year for a(ny) given airport…

passengersSo we started to ask the airports. And get again other numbers.

We know one difference, where an airport association doesn’t use the departures and arrivals, but simply doubles the departures they get. Not very contemporary and definitely not state-of-the-art, but yes, it explains some. Jasper Venema’s article explains some other. But in numbers we don’t much care about explanations. It should be in our industries own and vital interest to use the same number for the same “item” (here “total airport passengers for a given year”). And quite honestly: If the airline has different numbers as they don’t count non-ref passengers, so be it. With most airlines not happy to give out “their” numbers for a given airport or route, the number that counts is the one the airport publishes.

Drivetimes

drivetimes

Whereas we showed long time ago, that they differ from tool to tool. And sorry, Google is neither the best, nor the most accurate of those. We compared more than 20 different tools, from our initial logistics software used by trucking companies via Google, MapPoint, Maptitude, Apple, Here, … Today we mostly use OpenStreetMaps, as we found them on the tests we did in different countries and where other tools failed, they come up with the proper calculations. Even on ferries they are mostly accurate, where Microsoft and Google still translate long-haul ferries with Zero drivetime.

We cannot consider traffic jams, temporary construction sites or detours, but found OpenStreetMap to provide lower speed defaults on highways likely overloaded. We don’t know how fast you drive, but neither do Google, Bing & Co. – we got to work with assumptions.

Start + End Points

ccom_ham_errorAnother bug we have in our backlog and work on constantly (it’s “relax work”) are the city centers. We calculate population based on the municipality. Now municipality borders are nothing really easy to use for mapping. Take the example of Hamburg. For some reason, Hamburg “owns” a part of the North Sea. Such we had to modify our boundary data for Hamburg to exclude that intentionally as it caused questions on our default example and the map to be “off Hamburg”. Then you need a “geopoint”, a given geographical point defined by latitude and longitude. For many municipalities, there is such a point defined, usually called the “admin center”. But many municipalities either have not defined such point – or it’s a (stupid) “theoretical” centroid that does not relate to streets. Where missing, the drive time takes such computed centroid too, the center of the boundary. In many cases that results in a point somewhere inaccessible by road. There it takes the spatially next road, which does not have to be easily accessible or be well connected to the main roads. Or the centroid is too far off from any road.

Airports are also prime candiates. The geopoint to be used for navigation very often is not the terminal road, but the center of the main runway. The next road might also not be near the terminal, but on the other side of the airport. As such, for each and every of the airports in our database, we defined the geopoint at the terminal or closest to the terminal. For many smaller airports, there is no street data in any of the map tools we use, as those roads are managed “privately”.

locarno
Locarno city limits

Around Lugano, we found many municipalities being located in the alps, with a town, and a lot of mountain with ski slopes. Unfortunately, without a defined city center, drive times differed substantially between a drive to the next municipalities city center defined and the one undefined. Having covered those, Lugano remains an “interesting map”, as there are also several municipalities with “exclaves”, split into different parts surrounded by other municipalities. But we can color only the complete one. So parts are in one drive time zone, others are in the next. Look at Locarno, where there is no admin center, but the centroid ended in the middle of the lake…

Helgoland has an airport, but the entire island is banned for cars. No drive times ツ

Population + Maps

European populationAnd don’t underestimate that the population for all those municipalities we have on file are not the same coming from Eurostat, national statistics offices or the towns themselves. The naming differs between those sources and there is no “common code” like we have in aviation, to uniquely identify those towns. That likely also being the cause of the +20% mistakes when using that commercial maps provider (€32K) for drive time calculations that caused us that ad hoc map change earlier this year. Little town Münster, Bavaria is not the large city Münster in Northrhine-Westphalia the commercial mapping provider returned. And is that now Münster, Bayern or Munster, Bavaria or Muenster (Lech)? Worse in France I can tell you… So we had to make sure we only use geopoints and not unreliable “names” and maintain an extensive list of “associations” to make sure we have the data properly associated – until the next update when they changed a lot again.

But worse; you can’t use Eurostat everywhere, even within the EU. With their data being outdated the day they publish them or regions like Scotland using a totally different and incompatible data model, so they publish “calculated estimates” for the wards. More guesstimates than estimates. And Europe only covers just 28 states anyway, the entire Balkan is missing, Norway, as well as most the microstates … Are the Aland Islands independent or part of Finland? Those are just examples.

And then we need to associate cartography data from the cadastre offices that is incompatible on the same year to their (own) national statistics and Eurostat. So that also goes into the number crunching. Do this for one airport is bad enough. Do it for Europe? We wouldn’t try that stunt again, now we know what we had to go through… And no, the commercial “solutions” are just as bad, so we had to do it “again” for our own database. So we use OpenStreetMap for the mapping. But for our layers, we compiled our own database of administrative boundaries, meanwhile mostly from national cadastre offices with own updates to make the maps match the population data.

Other variables

crystalballaviationplanningSo we take into account the airport size by passengers, defining (assuming) the “reach” of the airport. That’s also something variable, as in some areas there’s a lot of large airports (i.e. Germany to BeNeLux), other regions, airports are rather scarce. Spain for example has Madrid in the center and except for two minor airports all other airports are on the coast. To Bucharest a substantial number of people drive eight hours. We calculate ferry times, including standard waiting times, but what about ferries that go once a day and then you have 18 hours to wait for next days (once-daily) flight?

As I keep saying: Despite all the data we provide on flown passengers on that or similar routes, on passenger potential in the catchment area, etc., I disagree with the recent statement by Marc Gordien on his very good article on air service forecasting maths. To look into the future was, is and will be a look in the Crystal Ball. We can only minimize the risk for failure by providing (and using) the best possible data to justify our gut feeling. But considering myself a professional; when I see new bases opened by easyJet, Wizz or other airlines, I frequently find myself at a loss, would have never seen fit to justify the risk. Still, many of those routes work.

IcebergPrinciple

It gives reasons to consider the soft factors. Reputation. Ticket prices (and ancillary revenues). Frequency. Ethnicity. Commercial relations. Tourism. And many others. And my commonly used example where a regional airline opened up a route on a trice weekly basis, only just when they started making money to be cannibalized by a low cost carrier with bigger aircraft and less frequency, dumping the route in less than a year. Unfortunately, the regional carrier was gone, the route is no longer served. Data is not everything. But it helps to qualify the real cases and make sure you understand the risk taken on new routes.

BransonComplexityQuo Vadis?

Do you find something “weird” on our maps? Please let us know! There are still many mistakes and bugs and we constantly work on the database to improve the information we have. But we believe we now have a rather well working system, the bugs our users point us too are mostly either quickly corrected or (mostly) resulting from reasons beyond our control. And the results very nicely match the facts we get from other sound sources from airlines and airports to compare our results with.

We also work very hard trying to simplify our analyses, compile meaningful facts in the dashboard and provide the more complex detail on the analysis page. We discuss options to also interface the data with other tools, though currently, most of the established companies prefer to live in their silos ツ

brilliant, big (crystal) balls
brilliant, big (crystal) balls

Working with (sound) assumptions, the numbers help you to understand and qualify the potential and the risk, but there are exceptions, no matter how many work on the data to improve it. It will remain an ongoing development and ample room for improvements. And such we will gain better and better understanding of the facts. But we can’t read the minds of the decision makers: The paying passengers. We can only assume a likeliness from sound statistical analyses.

We do not replace a route analyst or airline network planner. But we polish the Crystal Ball(s) in use and provide real nicely shining and new ones to take a better look. Check it out.

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
Comments welcome!

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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
Comments welcome!

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The EUSP Elevator Pitch

With World Routes now behind us, since I wrote it, I had several discussions about my Routes pitch and why all companies should have a business plan and have their employees know it.

elevator_pitch

 

The first step developing a business plan is the Elevator Pitch. It is the very summary of what you are doing. Usually, it starts with an essay, then you boil it down. To three minutes (a quick introduction), then to three sentences. Or less. Including a friendly greeting for a good first impression! And it’s a good idea to think about a slogan there, Best for the slogan are three to five words, something that sounds catchy. Like we used “The Isochrones People” for CheckIn.com. “People” we used to emphasize that despite the focus on “data”, it’s made by and for people. Positive emotion.

Aaron Swartz - CuriosityBut the elevator pitch is meant to make your audience curious. Curiosity is one of the most universal and positive emotions. Curiosity opens more doors than any other emotion!

That is why the focus shifts from the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) to the Emotional (ESP) one. But you need both. And you need to boil them down to their core. Not one of your customers will keep more than two or three key points from any given presentation. So if you have your USP(s) and ESP(s), you can make sure your message stays consistent. If you have more than one product, solution, different “client types”, “target groups” or present to clients, investors or your own people, you will create variations. But when you write the different chapters of your business plan, when you develop a presentation, when you communicate, you review them that you always stick to your consistent message(s).

And this is, why I changed my presentations for start-up business development replacing the USP with the

EUSP – The Emotional Unique Selling Proposition

Because it is not about the USP only. Or the ESP. It’s about both.

Eeee...gypt_These days, in a job interview, I heard a senior and very “seasoned” manager (engineering background) again telling me about the technical benefits of their wonderful tool – in my opinion totally loosing the potential client (that was me). Yeah, I’m “tech-sawy”. But people buy not products and fancy technical gadgets, but they buy for their personal benefit (or that of the company).

Improvements to the processes such have to result in “personal” improvements. For the same reason I believe, A-CDM has adoption problems, as ops people believe they shall be replaced by those tools, they are expensive and the focus is on the technical benefits, neither on the cost savings nor the improvements for the people in the process. I’ve not seen a single “elevator pitch” or a “business plan” in use there either.

When you work on start-up companies and their business ideas, you quickly learn the value of a business plan. And to start with the elevator pitch(es). Not for the investors and banks and such, but for yourself. Bring your thoughts into a structure. Communicate consistently And I can only recommend the very same to anyone in business.

That is the elevator pitch. It just opens the door. But it keeps your message consistent.

And to wrap up, there are some examples, what an EUSP is not:

  • Not an Answer. Curiosity is the emotion that opens doors!
  • Not a Mission Statement. That’s a separate thing you should have in the business plan, focused on you, not really on your customer.
  • No Hot Air. We’re the biggest, best, most advanced, sexiest, bla, bla, blubber.
  • No Sales Pitch. Yeah. That’s tough. But you tell what makes you different. Not about price. Or focusing to close a sale.

You’re not selling a car or insurance on the door! With the EUSP you introduce yourself. All the ‘ugly’ selling comes once you created interest (curiosity!). And Trust.

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

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