Amadeus' desire to position itself as a thought leader for the travel technology sector sees the release of its latest discussion document, a 23-page look at the theory and practice of "lean IT" in the travel industry.
The paper is written by innovation forecaster James Woudhuysen and given an Amadeus context by Wolfgang Krips, EVP, Global Operations.
"Lean IT" is "a school of thought", according to Krips, or "a division of labour for the 21st century" according to Woudhuysen. It is more abstract than concepts such as big data and open source systems which Amadeus has looked at in the past.
Definitions of lean IT in the paper include:
- Lean thinking is about cutting waste and removing inefficiency, whilst in turn increasing effectiveness and customer value.
- Lean can also free up resources which enable businesses to bring innovations to market more rapidly, according to the study.
- Adopting lean thinking also giving decision-making power to the people who actually execute IT processes, and proactively interpreting customer data so as to improve customer value.
- Targets and management objectives in lean reflect the customer's purpose, not the organization’s prejudices.
The third and fourth definitions are already happening at Amadeus, at least within Krips' global operations domain. The idea of re-architecting a business to adopt lean IT thinking is also a change management concept.
"It's more than putting up posters in the lobby," says Krips, before highlighting how Amadeus IT team was trying to "institutionalize collaboration."
For example, Amadeus now insists that before any IT project starts, everything is in place - from staff availability, resources, server space, the brief. This lean approach means that there is less chance that the project will be encounter a "disconnect" and that it will be delivered on time and within budget.
Another area where Amadeus applies lean thinking is trying to make KPIs (key performance indicators) and SLAs (service level agreements) more relevant to what clients actually want rather than what can be delivered.
"Often, environmental or green targets are put into SLAs because they can be measured and delivered rather than because they are doing any good," Krips suggests.
So at an enterprise level, lean thinking can resonate and offer a context for rethinking established processes and ways of doing business, internally and externally.
But relating lean thinking directly to the traveller is more complex - particularly for a business such as Amadeus where travellers are the end-user of the customers who are the end-users of Amadeus' services (while not forgetting that travel is a very complex product).
When asked, Woudhuysen and Krips talk about airports - interestingly one of Amadeus new business units. Woudhuysen says that airport KPIs have changed over the past five years or so - previously airport operators would look at lost baggage in terms of how many bags went astray out of every thousand.
"Now they are thinking 'how is the best way for us to deal with the passenger whose bag we have lost' because lean thinking puts the focus on customer value not the airports' own lost baggage performance."
Krips chimes in that Amadeus' Altea passenger service system is a lean product, in that it offers a simple interface for customers (airports, airlines and passengers) to provide genuine benefits, but with an incredibly complicated networks of systems in the background, working efficiently to deliver that benefit.
"An SMS message to tell a passenger about a gate change or delay is simple and is valued by the passenger, who does not need to know how they system was able to present this."
The simplicity of a front-end interface shielding the end-user from the complexity in the back-ground is a key pillar of lean thinking.
Finally, how does a lean mean computing machine such as Amadeus deal with potential clients who, let's face it, can be a bit overweight?
"We cater for all needs," says Kripps. "If a customer doesn't want us to move quickly, then we don't have to, and we can benefit from that internally. But the question is, how long will a travel business which thinks it doesn't have to move quickly survive?"
NB: Image by Shutterstock.