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A well-travelled CIO

Nadia Cameron | Jan. 21, 2015
How Qantas’ tech chief, Luc Hennekens, is ensuring the airline’s IT function is at the forefront of business innovation.

"I don't think there's a dollar of savings we have made that I regret, because what we're doing is getting better at understanding what we are spending our money on," he says.

"By doing that, we have simplified the organisation, and you get people to really focus on the things that add value, and make life better for the customer."

However, Hennekens admits cutting staff was a sensitive issue.

"I'm really proud of my leadership team, which worked day and night with me over a short period of time to figure out how the operating model needed to change to make this happen," he says.

Cultural emphasis is another core pillar for Hennekens, and he's imparting a set of business led behaviours through workshops and training.

He's also invested in a new matrix organisational structure and created a number of roles to support a more business and customer-oriented IT team.

"Traditionally, IT organisations are organised along IT and technology lines. While that is important because you get economies of scale and expertise, it's even more important to have the horizontal lines across the technology slices that focus on why we're doing all of this stuff, and on the outcome," he says.

Cloud vision
Like his peers, Hennekens is investigating the productivity and efficiency improvements that moving new outsourcing agreements and cloud-based services can bring.

One program, called 'Project Helix', is restructuring how Qantas does application maintenance services. The contract for this was recently awarded to Tata Consultancy Services.

One of its first public cloud trials, meanwhile, has been simulating flight routes and services, such as the Sydney to Dallas longhaul flight, using analytics, Hennekens says.

"You want to run 100,000 different flight plans, and each takes 20-30 minutes to run, so there's 2-3 months' worth of work," he explains. "We put that in the cloud and did it in hours."

Qantas is now setting up the capability to shift more IT workloads to the cloud. Hennekens says this will help drive shorter and more iterative projects.

"The technology enables us to grow a lot faster and to not plan everything out to the nth degree, but to learn and adjust as we go," he claims. "It gets people more engaged and gets you a net result that's more relevant.

"Once you have the capability it becomes a lot easier. The main thing about cloud is that it's shared and automated."

Embracing cloud does create challenges and trade-offs for Qantas' long-term IT suppliers.

"The key thing for me is it becomes part of how we do things and that means building the capability, processes and ability to manage that," Hennekens responds.


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