Keynote Abstract for the Bangkok Mro Ops IT Conference. Bangkok

As we’ve been posting, we’re excited to be attending the conference ( to deliver a keynote presentation. For the conference, we’ve developed a model that we believe will fundamentally reshape the relationships between airlines, suppliers and the industry. We’ve included the abstract below. We hope to see you there.

Presentation Abstract

Paradigm Change is coming, and while the aviation industry associates the term with just about every initiative, this time it’s real.

Described at the time as a paradigm change, Digital Data came to prominence in the mid-1980s. It promised a lot, but after more than three decades, becoming fragmented and proprietary, it hasn’t delivered on the promises.

The EFB journey began not much later as the phoenix from the failed ELS concept, which started as far back as 1986. Described again as a paradigm change, EFB was going to change the way pilots did just about everything, but the name got in the way, and so far it has achieved little except automation of the status quo. For the most part, EFB functionality and user experiences mimic the paper processes that it replaces. The wholesale change implicit in the promised “paradigm” shift delivered by EFB is not there. It too has taken almost three decades for most airlines to have or be actively developing EFB programs and while some have had more success than others, the search for the real business case seems to remain elusive.

Other industry programs exemplify similar, less than optimal outcomes.

Trajectory Based Operations (TBO) will drive real paradigm change in the way airlines operate and to a significant degree, do business. However, unlike Digital Data and EFB, the industry does not have 30 years to do it and needs to get it pretty much right the first time.

Data and EFB will be essential components of the system and will make the business case for EFB either easier or irrelevant, depending on perspectives. Critically, TBO, while having technology-based enablers, will not be a technology-driven system; nevertheless, TBO will require wholesale system change that will likely test the operational capability of many airlines. TBO is a big ask if one casts an eye at the rear-view mirror. Can an industry so successful at making simple things difficult even contemplate something as significant as TBO or do we have to break the way we’ve been doing things for years and find a different path?

In a strategic insight into TBO, Michael will discuss where and how airlines need to shift focus to ensure their readiness for what will be paradigm-changing and profound for the aviation industry.

Quarterly Newsletter. Q1 2017

Our latest newsletter has just been mailed. It includes Phil's excellent article below and some other interesting thoughts about the IoT for Aviation and whether it is just the next whiz bang technology that is distracting the industry form other things, or something more.

While we think it is part of a greater technology and innovation mosaic for the industry, we also think it needs consideration as a component of your innovation, digital and eEnablement strategies rather than as an end in itself. That said, it can't and shouldn't be ignored.

 For those not yet subscribed to our mailing list, it can be viewed here.

Optimizing Your Investment in Innovation

At Closed Loop Consulting, we have always believed that an organization must discover, discuss and communicate their “Purpose” to the entire company, perhaps even to their customers.  Understanding the purpose of the company, as well as how each functional discipline or individual department contributes to that purpose is also critical to an organization’s success.  Most organizations call this their Mission Statement.  To grow the business, organizations will develop a Vision Statement that helps to define what it wants to become; it’s “New Purpose”.  This new purpose is often driven by the competitive environment it finds itself in, and the imperatives of the changing markets it serves or wants to serve.  The outcome of all this, if properly facilitated, is a robust Strategic Plan for the organization.  An organization must keep its purpose and its strategic plan in focus always, as this should guide the decisions made regarding the funding of innovation.

At a recent aviation industry conference, there was a discussion about Innovation for the airline industry, and that innovation should not be restricted to a set of requirements or business needs.  I’m glad there are organizations like this with unlimited budgets and the resources to explore new technology.  However, I don’t believe this is what an airline’s purpose is.  “Innovation with a Purpose”, is why many organizations, including airlines, fund an R&D department.  Most airlines depend on the supplier base to provide that innovation, and buy whatever it is that they are offering because it is the next “cool” thing, or mandated technology by regulation.  While this has been the way the industry has operated in the past, Innovation with a Purpose is becoming necessary to meet airline customer demands, the growing competitive environment the airlines are facing, and with the demand airlines and IATA are forecasting in the next several years. 

Finding innovative ways to solve business needs, as defined in the Strategic Plan, is how this R&D investment pays off for an airline, whether it’s done internally or externally.  Everyone is interested in innovation—in innovative strategy, technology, products and services. Identifying an idea that can lead to Innovation with a Purpose, most often comes from within the organization.  For example, two million suggestions were made in a year at Toyota through the employee suggestion scheme, and 85 percent of them were adopted into the business. That could not happen without a strong, consistent Purpose. Utilizing the “Corporate Knowledge” found within the organization can produce amazing results.  It takes strong leadership to recognize that corporate knowledge, to listen and to plan accordingly.

With all of the Strategic Planning sessions I have facilitated, I find most companies are great at identifying and defending their existing strengths, some of which do not include innovation. However, patents expire, consumer tastes change and competitors come up with new ideas. Not investing in innovation, regardless of how it is achieved, is in many cases the beginning of a death spiral from which it is very difficult to recover from.  The same can be said for Innovation without a Purpose.  Reliance on innovation for the sake of it, has often led companies away from their Purpose, and into a series of expensive blind alleys.  This occurs when there is no sense of purpose that guides the innovation process.

Innovation in the airline industry in the past several years has been focused on efficiencies of flight, and on the customers the airlines serve.  All great things.  However, many of those projects failed to provide the promise they had intended due to poor or unclear requirements.  In 2005, Booz Allen Hamilton conducted a study of the one thousand biggest spenders on innovation—the companies with the largest research and development budgets around the world. They found no significant correlation with any measures of corporate success. None. Not profits, not revenues, not growth or shareholder returns. In other words, the simple decision to invest in innovation is not enough. How you invest, and especially how innovation serves a larger Purpose, determines the value of your investment and the promise of a return on that investment.

This is why the Closed Loop process works so well.  We facilitate a process that keeps a focus on the Purpose of the organization, and the departments that support that purpose.  We help identify those internal suggestions/requirements, link them to others within the organization who have the same or similar business needs, and develop a set of requirements from which the innovation will support the purpose of the business.  The Big Data phenomenon in the airline industry makes this process an imperative for all airlines, otherwise the data will cost more than the value it was to provide. 

Purpose makes an innovator more aware, or sensitive, because it is itself a response to the environment, and one that engages the innovator. We might even say that a Purposeful response, if genuinely felt, is an innately innovative response because it provides a context for paying attention to the needs of the world outside, rather than technology for technology sake.   How many times has a supplier invested time and energy in an airline to clearly understand that specific airlines purpose, its business environment, the markets it serves, and how they operate?  The airline industry is not a cookie cutter industry when it comes to operational efficiencies and customer service.

The innovator has every reason to identify the essence of practices in other industries and repackage them for his own use like Aristotle Onassis, who pioneered cruise ships by borrowing from the hotel industry. The innovator may reconfigure components into new products, like the engineers at Sony who developed the Walkman. The innovator may glimpse potential benefits in new technologies, like Apple who worked on the graphic user interface and helped to create a disruptive new technology call the Electronic Flight Bag (EFB). He or she may simply see economic logic in a situation masked by current convention.  This is why we continue to preach that airlines must not automate the status quo, but first determine, “what problem are you trying to solve”?

This focused effort to bring about change within an airline can only be accomplished by a facilitative approach that ensures all disciplines of the airline are included.  The way the supplier base can best serve the industry, is to provide solutions that meet a set of robust requirements that help integrate the airline versus the way it always been done, selling products to each department individually. 

With the pace of technology advancements today, Innovation with a Purpose will have a dramatic effect on the competitive landscape an airline finds itself in today, and in the future, but only if it is designed and implemented at an organizational level.  What a powerful position it is to clearly represent your requirements to the suppliers based on a purpose and a vision as an organization versus just one department.  Airlines can change the way solutions are innovated, versus purchasing technology looking for a problem to solve, if they have the insight to “Innovate with a Purpose”. 


October 2016 Quarterly Newsletter

For those not on our circulation list, this is a link to our latest newsletter. It discusses GADSS (the Flight Tracking Initiative) as well as eEnablement and also fills in a few gaps about Closed Loop.

If you are not on our normal circulation, you will be able to sign up on the newsletter reader. There are tabs for sharing as well so don't forget to pass it on.

Closed Loop Introductory Video

We are pleased to announce the beginning of our Fireside Chat video series.

The Fireside Chat will feature our SME team discussing issues relevant to their sphere of expertise and providing some insight to those of you looking to see what is happening in various aspects of your airline's technology, operational efficiency and differentiation strategies based on operational capability.

The first is an overview of Closed Loop. Have a look and let us know what you think.

Closed Loop Consulting: Our reason for being.... A short video illustration