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Lufthansa CIO Dr Roland Schütz describes the airline's digital transformation

Thomas Macaulay | April 4, 2017
The CIO of the largest aviation group in the world explains how he uses technology to unlocked new revenue streams.

"That's a complete paradigm shift, how you're reaching and mobilising your workforce electronically, and I think that's the most severe impact for us."

Lufthansa has embraced the transformation through initiatives including equipping cabin staff with iPads to provide passenger information and process reports electronically. Such schemes support supports the company's move towards a paperless workplace and more flexible workforce.

The increased connectivity in both business-to-customer and business-to-employee infrastructures is breaking down the boundaries between company and clients.

"The borders between the company and the public and the customer sphere are diluting in some way, and you have to integrate them, but based on different security levels and so forth," says Schütz. "That's really a challenge because it's happening so fast and you are completely bound to the product lifecycles of consumer equipment.

"You have to do this but your back-end systems - all the legacy systems which are still in place - need to be connected to the front-end stuff in a very flexible way. We need a whole new type of architecture to integrate with these mobile frameworks, connecting to your workforce. And on the other hand of course, in a transparent manner, we have to abandon our legacy infrastructure."

Lufthansa has invested €1 billion into replacing its IBM and UNISYS combined mainframe structure, an enormous cost and effort but an essential move to drive the company forward.

Other projects at Lufthansa have required more time for the approval and investment process than for the actual implementation. Schütz says the success of any innovation requires the support from top management and HR as well as the IT department, underpinned by their understanding that technology is a process of unceasing improvement and adaptation rather than static long-term plans.

Schütz is also constantly focused on enhancing cyber-security. The company is continuously threatened by increasingly sophisticated attacks, particularly on its booking and arrangement programmes.

"We are currently considering tripling the effort we will put on cybersecurity," he says. "You are always somewhere in-between enhancing user-friendliness and getting your services secured, and that's really very resource-consuming."

 

Open collaboration

The Lufthansa strategy requires the flexibility to change and the drive to discover new channels while recognising that the company's diverse set of customers will have their own specific preferences.

The airline has an open API and invites third parties to integrate their web services with its systems at the Lufthansa Developer Network. This emphasis on open collaboration lets the airline draw on the innovations of startups supported by schemes such as a partnership the Plug and Play accelerator.  

The core technology in the company is provided by more established IT companies. Lufthansa does a limited amount of rapid development and prototyping of customer facing environments in-house but for complex systems, it relies on sophisticated technology providers to reduce time to market of new technology and features.

 

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