Transforming Your Airline (One ‘Thin-Slice’ at a Time)

Digital transformation is fast becoming mandatory in business. With improved resilience, cost reductions, greater sustainability and a better ROI, it’s not difficult to see why.

However, whether you’re a huge enterprise or a small, independent business, your approach to digitisation can sometimes be a bit much to fathom.

And like a jigsaw puzzle, all of these components can become rather confusing if you don’t know where, or how, they fit in with one another. 

Cloud and hyperscale migration, implementing robust data pipelines, training and optimising machine learning models, and crafting meticulous user experience journeys – where do you even begin?

Fortunately for you, we take a simpler approach to transformation.

The Thin-Slice Approach   

There is so much literature out there on digital transformation. You can drool at the advantages. You can avoid the trappings of legacy and on-prem. And you can even make a booking to begin your transformation journey sooner.

But still, there remains much debate regarding large enterprises that believe in a big bang approach in their attempts to digitally transform.

In some ways it does make sense. 

Why? Because it’s very difficult to pick a starting point.

And of course, it’s different with every industry.

In banks, for example, what tends to be the starting points are the HR systems. Because digital transformation is not just about the technology. It’s about the type of employee that you’re getting. 

And so where you want to start that transformation of attracting, onboarding, and keeping talented staff, particularly in a service-based business, would be in the HR space. 

But what does ‘thin-slice’ have to do with it?

We talk about ‘thin-slice’, because there are a number of systems that are impacted when a business undergoes digital transformation. It’s not as simple as installing new software or buying better servers. 

You can’t simply swap out these huge monolithic beasts and expect everything to work out for the best. 

You have to keep them running and slowly whittle them down until everything is on a digital, transformed ecosystem or platform. 

So a good way to look at airline transformation is to: 

Pick a Journey; Pick a Thin Slice

Perhaps that thin slice is selling tickets.

Selling a ticket would mean that you need to have a very strong user interface. And preferably, one that’s mobile-first.

Why? Because:

  • Over 80% of users surf the internet through mobile devices.  
  • Around 83% of users expect a flawless mobile web experience.
  • Up to 70% of web traffic comes from mobile devices.

And if you aren’t very strong in the mobile space, you’re going to have challenges.

The thing is, enabling a platform that allows you to book a ticket for your new, or existing, clients impacts the entire tech stack. It even has an impact on how you connect to your centralized booking tools like Saber and Amadeus. 

If you’re going to do this properly, you want to move away from your old-fashioned interfaces into things like APIs. You want to build out and own API management platforms. 

And if you’re doing that, you might as well microservice a lot of the monolithic applications that are connected to this entire ecosystem. 

That way, for instance, if you take your booking capability, you might want the ability to capture a passenger detail. That can be made a microservice. Say that you want to create another service that’s linked to the journey and it’s about finding the ideal seat. That becomes a microservice, too.

Then what happens is, these microservices stitch together to form a well-crafted and remarkable passenger journey.

But more importantly, these microservices become easy to deploy into the new infrastructure. 

Which brings us to the next part of the thin slice: 

Where Do You Store Your Data & Run Your Applications?

With any successful digital transformation, it’s essential to not only store your data for optimal safety and connectivity, but to also be aware of where your applications are run from. 

And traditionally, it’s been stored and run on monolithic legacy (or, on-site) hardware and within the servers of companies like Saber, Galileo and Amadeus.

But why not store your data in a thin micro-segment and start building up a big data warehouse where you can begin understanding every inch of the customer’s journey? 

So when you develop and deploy these microservices, you’re storing them into a big data environment, hosted on the cloud. Where they are scalable, easily accessible and have virtually limitless compute.

You see, for a microservice to perform at its best, it should be deployed and running on something called a container. 

A container is a small component of compute that gets fired up whenever you need it and automatically shut down when you aren’t making use of it. 

This is a great way to manage scale effectively. So that your systems aren’t collapsing when you have greater demand. You’re also able to manage it very cost-effectively. 

So to sum up the thin-slice approach: Pick a single use case and run it all the way down, end to end. From the first time you touch a customer to the point that you’re deploying and you’re managing scale within your infrastructure.

It’s very important that you approach it this way.

It resonates very much with an approach called The 1% Principle, which basically entails making minor improvements over time to make a lasting and impactful transformation. A good way to change old habits is to make micro changes. 

So in our approach, on top of the technology, we are looking at how your staff change the way that they work. How your staff respond and adapt to these new technologies.

The Thin-Slice Approach is Really About Tackling 1% at a Time. 

Pick a small task every day. Make it better. Change it. Commit to micro changes. And watch it all come together. 

Taking this approach might seem a little bit slow in the beginning, but you get an exponential effect when you add it all together. You make a transformation piece-by-piece and with each slice will come an inevitable benefit – whether it’s in the form of savings or profits.

When you build an automated process, it can double both speed and ROI. It then frees up staff, allowing them to double productivity in other areas. Resulting in more returns.

And then you can go back and revisit a process and ensure that it doubles again in its processing power or output. 

You can then start seeing the effects of this exponential scale that digital transformation enables.

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