St. Florian’s Principle²

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

Oh holy dear St. Florian
Don’t burn my house
Take the neighbors one

Four related cases in the past weeks triggered this Food For Thought:

helpdeskGerman Rail – remember Lufthansa…

The IT system of German Rail crashed, disabling not only the entire distribution for a day, but also the train guidance system EBULA causing major delays on train schedules, stranded passengers, the whole nine yards.

The German FVW titled its blog “That wouldn’t have happened in the past”. In m comment I referred to Lufthansa’s IT-crash in 2004 (German article). It is not impossible for IT to fail: A “99,9% up-time” is an +8 hour outage. Usually at the most busiest and inconvenient times.

Purely incidentally I was once at Frankfurt airport when the system failure disabled issuance of boarding passes. To date, I do not understand, why the staff just sat back and delayed boarding for “technical reasons” until I came, wrote the seat numbers on blank boarding passes and handed them out to the check-in agents. A wonder: NO single traveler sat on any middle seat, they either had a window or an aisle seat. I think that never happened ever since 😉 And that flight was about the only one that left that day “on schedule”…

But the believe in the invulnerability of the IT-systems is as unfounded at is is common. Contingency planning for any possible natural disaster, but none for the case of a computers black out! There were processes in place “b.c.” before computer. Have copy samples of “manual documents” dusting in a folder in the closet is not much of an investment, but it could be the difference to a cancelled operation. And for the case of a power outage just a box somewhere with enough copies for a 24 hour backup could not be that expensive either…

bahnAnd even if you rely on it, German rail sure saved a few hundred Euros not investing on a cache memory for the train guidance system that would have saved them from major train delays…

Don’t they ever learn? Bean counters…

Oh holy dear St. Florian…

Striiike…

Image courtesy -die Welt-, click for full image series
Image courtesy “die Welt”, click for full image series

It is simply a miracle how lightly the passengers of U.S. Airways got out of a potentially fatal situation that is not uncommon in the aviation industry: Bird strike. Yes, the pilot is a hero, but as usual that means he has been faced with an impossible situation and by tons of luck was able to avoid desaster by a hair. As safe as flying is, accidents happen.

Reports do question the efficiency of the New York authorities. It’s not far from the hudson to central Manhattan. And a bird strike can disable steering capabilities… Let’s say, they got another wake up call.

wigFriends called raising a discussion related to my WIG-idea. No, that one is also “stalled”. But yes, In case of a bird strike, a WIG would not crash but simply drop some meters and float. And despite the fact that I am sure, countries in the tropical belt, especially faced with global warming should have a vital interest to push that technology, Mauritian Air Taxi just ordered a fleet replacement using standard engines.

Oh holy dear St. Florian…

Nokia

nokiaYes, I know gloating is not nice. But a report last week on Nokia is a case that does make me smile. Nokia in 2007 shut down their plant in Bochum from one day to the other to replace it with a newly built plant in Romania. The result: Nokia’s reputation went through the floor (they became “the example” in Germany), their sales dropped, the Romanian plant only employs less than half of what they planned for. So the bean counters were miserably wrong with their previous assessments about the advantages for Nokia.

The closing of the report said something like: In the retrospect of the financial crisis, sure Nokia was just a little premature, but it shows how wrong it is to focus on numbers and short term profit only, underestimating social cohesion in crisis. It’s tough to calculate people’s reactions. And yes, more than 1.300 of the 2.500 former employees still have no new job… Them having the usual 50-100 friends and relatives in direct vicinity plus the usual 50-100 friends of these friends that are being aware of that, even on a conservative calculation that accounts easily up to some 5-10 million “lost customers”.

Oh holy dear St. Florian …

Uptime

99% uptime = +8 hours/year outage
99% uptime = +8 hours/year outage

Speaking with the IT-expert in a German tour operator about “dynamic packaging” he gave an example of his counterparts in other companies to target 70% uptime of their GDS-based functions. The issue we discussed being “time outs” on API-calls on the GDS causing vital systems to stall. We agreed. 70% is a farce! 99.x is the necessity. 99.9+ must be the goal. Having been pace makers on the IT-networking since back in the 60s (SITA, Sabre & Co), the travel industry has lost its drive.

Asking about why the tool they use does not have a function to check on API-calls for a time-out, I was told that the IT-company developing the tool did develop it for “agent use”, not for an “Automator” working unsupervised…

Oh holy dear St. Florian …

Do you have other such cases?

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Revival Of The Sales Manager

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.
Giovanni Bisignani
Giovanni Bisignani

In the past months, IATA secretary general Giovanni Bisignani has published one horror scenario for the airline industry after another. At the same time, I have worked with an airline that had always addressed e-Commerce as a part of the sales portfolio and in the past year increased their sales force beyond the airline’s growth figures. At the same time, they announced record revenue and earnings where their direct competitors struggle to survive.

The following focuses on airlines, but is similar in other industries (i.e. hotels).

Since 1994 I address Airline Sales & e-Commerce in my annual ASRA-presentations… One concern I try to communicate ever since is the need for airline sales managers to adopt the new technologies into their product portfolio. The stronger e-Commerce gets, the more important that knowledge becomes. But just lately a friend of mine, being Manager Scheduled Flights Procurement – sitting on the other side of the table – complained that many airline sales managers have no idea what their company does in regards to e-Commerce… Say what?!

In fact there are two issues I see in need to be addressed:

Scout1. The new role of the airline sales manager
In a highly dynamic development on Airline Sales & e-Commerce, the new airline sales manager has to be fit to not only know what the own company does in that field, but he is also the scout to monitor what goes on in the market and report it.
But: Few airlines have yet build the structures and hirarchies to promote a cooperation between the IT and sales department! In many airlines, IT is higher valued than sales, so IT projects are pushed forward without sales justification. Say what?!

FirstClass2. The new value of the airline sales manager
Why is it that companies like Easyjet or Southwest Airlines operate a network of sales managers and lately increase their sales forces? Might it be possible that “traditional sales” has an impact to their revenue…? Isn’t it enough to focus on Google Adwords? And why the heck are these airlines having a sales force continue to have the higher service classes (First, Business) and fill them? Could it probably be that the sales managers can sell these “high end products”, where e-Commerce competes mostly on the price level? Exclusively on the price level?

As I emphasized in the past years: Everybody can “sell” cheap. You do not need a sales manager for that. But to sell out of season and to be able to sell at higher rates, it is reasonable to look at all distribution tools and channels: IT/e-Commerce, Yield Management, Sales and Marketing. And run them in a concerted way to assure best outcome. And hey: This is called “Sales”… Say what?! 😀

Food for thought! What do you think about this?

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Social Networking

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

Social MediaAs Blogs are a part of “social networking” and as I follow several blogs like the German Tourismuszukunft, I thought to share some thoughts. As usual, I do appreciate your feedback. This blog is meant to trigger thoughts and make you ask me. My statements are thoughtful, but not necessarily the only truth. Often enough, I do learn better from the exchange with you.

In November, I finally signed up for Facebook and Plaxo, finding old and new friends active in these networks. As of my “troubled history” with Xing and as a majority of my friends are international, I moved my private activities to Facebook and focus professionally on LinkedIn. Oh yes, and my reviews I add to Qype, though I did not have much time for that either lately. I publish once a week in this blog, try to think a bit about the philosophical blog on Sapphilosophy, try to answer on LinkedIn and communicate with my friends and update them on Facebook. Now I want to install WordPress on my website to move my blogs away from Big Brother Google, and my website needs some updating too… Information Overkill…

In an interview, I was just questioned that I do so much “business related activities”. But don’t we all have our hobbies? Business Development, Aviation and Hospitality are my business. And my hobby. My life. But we need to find the time first we can then invest into business and hobbies alike. On- or offline. And in honesty: I appreciate being a lot easier in touch with you than 20 years ago. And I appreciate a phone call (Skype?) and e-Mail. But isn’t a personal meeting definitely more valuable than any electronic exchange. Isn’t that, why we all appreciate opportunities like ITB to meet face to face with many in a short time? Isn’t that the same true for Sales? Yes, once a contact is established, e-communication is okay. But it does not forever substitute for personal meetings.

Food For Thought! (Share your thoughts with me)

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Old School – New School

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

KniggeSome of you have already read the Sapphilosophy-Blog I created in September as a result of another discussion with friends on philosophical issues like love, friendship, honor.

Very famous in Germany on the topic is “the Knigge”, his book “On Human Relations” being considered to date the guideline for respectful interpersonal relations.
In the past weeks, I was told to be “old school”, namely for the respect I have for people, but also about topics like loyalty or (personal) honor. These values are in short supply these days, but I am convinced it is the more necessary to hold up the flag.

Once more I was told this is my main weakness. Right. But being a weakness in business, I found it my great strength in life. I stay errect and look into the mirror with pride. Sure I made my share of mistakes, but is there anyone flawless? And I stand up to them. The same friend questioning this “weakness” asked me, how I could be so optimistic despite the treatment I received throughout my business life. That is because of my friends – mostly people like you, reading this blog. For you I am grateful.

I thought about it quite a while if I should address this topic in the Food For Thought blog, but the world is changing. Greed, arrogance and egomaniac arrogance are going out of fashion, the global financial crisis and people like Barrack Obama make us reconsider our values. In aviation and travel industry, we shall also consider how we treat our own, business partners and staff alike. And if it makes sense to save money at all cost.

Robert "Bob" Crandall
Robert “Bob” Crandall

Robert “Bob” Crandall was my topmost boss when I started in the airline industry back in the late 80s. He shaped the entire industry, but having met him just briefly, he has been a role model for me ever since. Under his management, the entire company was a family. Everyone worked for the benefit of the family. Suppliers were happy to deal with American Airlines. Sounds strange to you these days? Yeah. The bean counters took over.

Food For Thought: Can you look at your life with pride?
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Debugging Six Sigma

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

SixSigmaIf you don’t know what Six Sigma is about, read this Wikipedia-article first.

I had some discussions lately about sense or nonsense of Six Sigma. Part of the information flooding today is that there are a lot more variations of “best practices”. So I do not disagree with Six Sigma, but there’s two points you should keep in mind with their or any other best practices. They are guidelines. Not a panacea. And with all such best practices, they are about what you make out of them.

For Six Sigma especially, there is a point I found far to strictly adhered to: The financial focus.
In most jobs I have done in my life, I was the fire fighter for managers who did not understand the value of a fire fighter. Because a fire fighter is paid like an insurance. You are happy if you never need it.
We call it the Saint-Florian-principle:

Oh dear holy Saint Florian,
Don’t burn my house
take the other one…

automationThere are many such jobs in any company, but that’s the jobs, most often the first ones being cut by Six Sigma disciples. Service, support. They are cost factors, they do nothing but cover for the mistakes done up front. As there must be no mistakes, there’s no need for service and support. It’s a very typical trend for any company where managing responsibility is transferred from the entrepeneur to the finance, money driven folks.
Good ideas are declined as they are risky and you got to believe in the idea. Speaking to the financial guys, my experience is that you hit a brick wall. The same is true if you talk about “non-essential” services. Like service. And my experience is that the entrepeneur has a total different understanding of Six Sigma or other such best practice principles, than financial bean counters.

So it is not about Six Sigma or not, but what you make out of it! I think, we just learn, what bean counters got and get us into. I call it greed and fear. “CYA”: Cover your ass. I learned that from a CEO with finance background. I may live better if I would live their way. But I sleep far better trying something and standing up for my own mistakes.

What a chance the U.S. to have a president-elect who is creative and open to change = risk? I hope the focus of companies shifts from a conservatory play-it-safe back to a search for creative new ideas and do some trial. Sure, not everything will work out. But I predict: The survivors are the ones that move.

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Information Overkill

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

FVW Blog just mentioned a senior travel industry manager asking, who has time to read all that information published “Web 2.0”.

Classic Books vs. Digital
Classic Books vs. Digital

In the good old times, we had no control on who said what. But it did not matter much, as the word was forgotten quickly. Today, thoughts are not voiced, but published. So word reaches more people. But similar as in the good old days, the word gets lost. In the noise of flooding information, to find the interesting part becomes valuable.
Consultants recommend to keep control on what is said and published about your company. But where do you start, where do you end? Inflation of the value of the written word. So the good old paper publishing companies recover their value. Not limited to the printed issues. But to have editorial teams that built a reputation of “quality”.

Shift Happens » It’s all about control of the information flood. Information overkill. If I seek one information, I limit myself before on how much time I invest in it. I use a timer. Usually the time is gone by faster than I anticipated…

Google was founded in 1998. Before Google, there was Yahoo. I do miss the old Yahoo. I do miss a solution that qualifies the information that I get. I get too much crap searching Google. So as Google revolutionized Internet search, what will come after Google? In 1998, Google started with 24 million indexed pages. In 2004 they had already 8 billion pages in their index. (Source: Wikipedia) That means: These pages existed. How many today? Google doesn’t tell…
[Update 2016, Wikipedia says: “In 2012, Google has indexed over 30 trillion web pages, and received 100 billion queries per month”]

So if a consultant recommends you to keep an eye on the information published about you in the Internet, better ask him/her how. To date, I have not received a decent answer. So I keep 10 web pages and 10 Blog Feeds as my personal maximum. You want me to read your blog? If I do, I ask myself, which other blog I delete from my RSS-reader (Thunderbird). Interesting, more and more friends tell me they do the same. The more IT-focussed their business is, the earlier they limit their monitored information to the valuable ones
And on top of that list are: The company’s own website. The renowned, famous references. Blogs or independent websites? Only if I don’t find the information elsewhere…

Food For Thought.
How do you handle it? What’s your experience? I’m curious. Let me know 😀

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Blood Money

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

VampiresAn Inuit chief once compared the human life on Earth with cancer. Instead of looking after the world and trying to live in balance, we exploit its resources, extinct other life-forms, farm life, even kill and eat other intelligence, such as whales. No symbiosis but parasite. Like vampires.

What was not said, but I imply it – is that not all people, but just some (powerful) humans are like cancer. Many managers think they must be “tough”, make utmost profit at all cost (who told them that?). And humanity’s and world’s immune system fails.

The “Western” industry nations are build on a religious system that values life. God gave us Earth to foster it. But there is a strange implied value system that builds around “wealth” and “power”. It’s an old question: Are rich people happy? Can you purchase happiness? If you dominate, are you loved?

Starting my own business, I was (very) quickly confronted with “Corporate Social Responsibility” and questions about corporate morale and ethics. Questions as alien to me as the question “Do you breathe?”. (If I don’t, the question is useless).

Thinking about this, I hope that this crisis will enable some of our “decision makers” to recognize some of the disease and cut it. But I doubt that. Too many politicians (and journalists) are part of the systems, suck blood themselves. They would risk too much of their own blood-money, are part of the system. Welcome the Gray Gentlemen.

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Managers Learning From The Nuremberg Trials

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

Thanks to friends like Sapphire, I discuss lately questions of Ethics and Morale. If you like to join into the discussion, I recommend you our SapPhilosophy blog.

"If I wouldn't have done 'someone else' would have"
Neither was: “If I wouldn’t have done ‘someone else’ would have”

If I look at the managers today, they hide behind the same old reasons as did the people with powers in the Third Reich. Did we not learn from the Nuremberg Trials? Oh, I am German and this is about Nazi-Deutschland, I am not supposed to touch it…? Come on, this is history and we should learn from it.
The Nuremberg Trials clearly condemned the idea “I was under orders” or “If I did not do it, someone else would have done it”. Company X publishes an increase in revenue of 15, 20% but anounces about the same time job cuts of about the same many employees? Who decided? Who is the responsible boss? He did not know? Get outta here! The Nazis all were the same innocent. But charged guilty and many got hung.
So maybe we should call in for a new Nuremberg trials – and look at the current managers and politicians? Look into the mirror: You, for yourself. What do you do? Can you maybe improve on your personal (and also corporate) morale and ethics? Are you guilty?

21.09. I referred to the “Gray Gentlemen” from Michael Ende’s bestseller Momo. If you don’t know it: They are stealing the time of people and the people become busy and successful and rich, but poor in the true luxuries: Time, family, friends.

And if you believe in God, do you truly believe your soul is anything but black, if you just pray to the gods of wealth? How many families you condemn by hiding behind the above excuses? Or the one calles “Shareholder Value”? If you are a shareholder? Aren’t you responsible if the management of the company you own part of works that way?

A month ago I/we also addressed the 10 New Commandments. I would very much appreciate if you read them and also that you let me know what you think about them. Or if you find them truth and spread them!

No. 10 quotes the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
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What Is Luxury?

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

MarriedWithChildrenWhat is luxury to you? Is it the ability to travel the world? Is it a challenging job? Is it time with your family and kids? I do appreciate your feedback!

The luxury of my life was to get my eyes lasered. Some of you may recall me with the glasses. Thank goodness I got rid of them – sometimes reading glasses, I do not get younger either 😉

Currently the luxury I want is to be Married with Children 😉

To achieve this, I think I prefer a decent job. The fun part on that one: If I send out an application (even if on demand), I usually do not even get an answer. And that is especially in the hospitality industry… Excuse me? I would consider it an honor that you apply with me and a common courtesy to tell you if you don’t fit my needs.

Ahem. What's the Question?
Ahem. What’s the Question?

Not to answer is a typical sign of what is wrong today in the travel industry. It is a service industry. Decent treatment of applicants and staff, decent salaries and work hours are complains I hear all over the places. Be it travel agency, airline, or hotel industry…

Two side notes: This is a pre-prepared post as I return today from Russia. Interested to know more? Let me know! And I sure will write a summary of my experience with that trip.

December 3-5 I will be doing a workshop and a presentation at the conference in London. If Sales, Marketing and CRM in hospitality are your business, I sure appreciate to see you there 🙂

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Web 2.0 and Modem 57.6 …

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

RJ11modemIn all the euphoria for Web 2.0 I am lately traveling in “Modem-country” again. Oh no! Do you remember?! No high speed Internet, connections with 40K or even 33K (thousand) only, where a slow DSL is 768K, normal are 2M (million). Wow. It is relatively easy to use Google and many other websites, but then I stepped into “Web-2.0-content” and got into the World-Wide-Wait…

And I realized how many website developers add into “unclean” code, complex but unnecessary flash animations, large images that have not been optimized to quick loading times. I received mails with 2MB attachments, happy that we use an IMAP-server, so I did not need to download the attachments as in earlier times!

It’s also frustrating if you send me my entire inquiry back, as if I wouldn’t be able to remember what I wrote or look up my mail. If you quote, fine. If not, be so kind and delete the inbound mail. Ctrl-A to mark all, or Ctrl-Shift-End to mark from the cursor to the end. Then hit “delete”…
We became so quickly used to high speed, many just don’t care what the recipient uses to connect. And yes, I got a 20MB file attachment too… Lucky I use a decent software that did not automatically try to download it… Sorry, I will only read it upon return.

Best of all, I do like the Word.doc-attachments, they always look so funny when I open them with Open Office. Some even warn me of activated Macros in the document (which I usually disable) I know why I prefer PDF 😉 And sorry people, I will not click to auto-confirm reception, I find this rather annoying.

So my friends, you better think about all this gadgets you like on websites. Especially when you address an international audience, I may not be the only one who cannot use your site.

Mimizing to the maximum is my recommendation.
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