The Smiling Eskimo

In this article published last week, it was reported that Alaska Airlines is making significant cost savings and productivity gains through its mobile transformation programme.

By ‘mobile transformation programme’, Derek Chan (Manager of Alaska Airlines Mobile and User Experience) refers to the 12,000+ smart devices and 50+ business applications it has rolled out to employees across various departments within the organisation.

Chan mentions how, “with the swipe of a finger or tap of an app, each step is being signed off in real-time, as soon as it’s complete. The customer service agent no longer needs to walk down the jet way to the flight attendant with paperwork, after waiting for the information to be printed from a machine in a different location.”

When quizzed about the return on investment from the mobile transformation, Chan said that it all comes down to time. “Time savings lead to money; if we save one minute, it leads to ‘x’ amount of dollars – that’s where we see our return on investment.”

This statement really resonated with me.

Particularly since we heard on Wednesday that productivity growth in the UK has been revised down by an average of 0.7% a year up to 2023.

We can debate all we like about the possible reasons behind the UK’s low productivity rate, but essentially it comes down to a whole host of factors – with low adoption of technology and innovation being a major contributory factor.

As highlighted in CBI’s recent report, “it’s the low take-up of readily available technologies and management best practices that is driving the UK’s productivity problem. In 2015, the proportion of UK firms adopting cloud computing was nearly 30 percentage points below Europe’s best performers.”

In the past, businesses shied away from the adoption of new technology as it often involved large-scale projects, costing vast sums and taking years to complete. Often with no guarantee of the desired outcome.

However with the huge rise of hosted, software as a service models (SaaS) – businesses have the advantage of being able to ‘dip their toe in the water’ and try out new technologies at a fraction of the time and cost of their predecessors. Also without needing any of the required infrastructure or hosting.

Furthermore, SaaS models have the additional advantage that they can be simply turned off if they don’t function correctly or be easily tweaked and modified to fit the requirements of the organisation.

Alaska Air is one business where one can see the increase in productivity and revenue through a progressive attitude to tech. In this case mobility in completing paperwork. The Eskimo on their tail fins must be smiling….




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