Building an Enterprise Data & Analytics "War Room"

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Few industries have been hit as hard by the Coronavirus crisis as aviation. Demand for commercial flights has plummeted by roughly 70% YOY and mainline airlines are losing an estimated $5 billion per month. Aviation suppliers and manufacturers are also seeing revenues drop.

With this in mind, it is not surprising that these companies are looking to accelerate their enterprise data and analytics capabilities, a proven enabler of innovation, growth and resilience.

Case in point: GE Aviation

In a recent interview with CDO Magazine, Ross Schalmo, Sr. Director, Data & Analytics at GE Aviation and Digital explained how they built and capitalized on its self-service data program. In a nutshell, provides 2,000 unique users access to their AWS data lake where they can, essentially, do whatever they want. Even experiment.

First started in 2015, GE Aviation’s Data Lake program was originally only used by Data Scientists. However, they quickly realized they would never have enough Data Scientists to meet the data-related demands of the business so they decided to “turn the business into data professionals.” In other words, they embarked on their data democratization journey, during which they initially launched their self-service data program to ensure everyone across the enterprise was empowered to make data-driven decisions.

Now in the face of unprecedented turbulence brought on by the Covid-19 crisis, they’re now looking to take this data democratization strategy one step further by developing and implementing a new, combined enterprise data strategy.

“If you can identify your best data, acquire, curate and stage it in a flexible technology architecture that matches technical capability to consumption patterns while using governance as an accelerant for consuming data, you’ll have the foundation for a modern enterprise architecture that can grow and change as fast as your business does,” Ross Schalmo explained to the interviewer. “If you can call what we had before data democratization, I would call this trusted data democratization.”

In other words, it’s not just about making data accessible to everyone, but dependable for everyone.

By providing wide-ranging access to enterprise data and analytics, leaders across the business can access and develop algorithms for all types of data that help solve all types of problems. For example, utilizing data that illuminates the full production to implementation life cycle of a jet engine to better troubleshoot or even predict performance issues. During the pandemic months, delivering data-driven insights related to cost reduction and forecasting future industry outlook have been paramount to GE Aviation navigating this crisis.  

GE Aviation is far from the only company in the aviation/airline industry looking to expand its enterprise data and analytics footprint. At Big Data Paris 2020, Eric Poutrin, Lead Enterprise Architect Data Management & Analytics at Air France shared how they’re leveraging “service-oriented” data architecture to “bridge the gap between a traditional analytical approach and a modern analytical approach based on omni-present, predictive and prescriptive analysis on a large scale.”

25 years in the making, this system has allowed them to more effectively understand evolving passenger behavior and- using that information- adapt flight schedules and streamline the passenger experience in real time.

Of course, these examples are just the tip of the iceberg. Enterprise data and analytics is a umbrella term that encompasses all of the tools and strategies necessary (i.e. data management, data integration, predictive analytics) to collect and share all data within and enterprise. It has emerged as a key enabler of recovery across almost all industries. In fact, according to recent reports, the Enterprise Data Management Market is expected to generate a revenue of $136.4 million by 2026, rising at a CAGR of 10.5%. In 2020 alone, the market shot up to $76.0 million “owing to the rising applications of enterprise data management systems in the course of the crisis period.”

For airlines and aviation specifically, companies are using enterprise data and analytics to:

  • predict and prepare for the outcomes of bookings and cancellations in real time
  • gauge the pulse of customers through an external consumer confidence index
  • create personalized customer care initiatives
  • develop new approaches to ensuring passenger well being (i.e. automated cleaning & disinfecting scheduling)
  • accelerate remote working infrastructure for non-customer facing staff
  • accelerate cloud migration
  • optimize supply chain management
  • create demand simulations
  • boost process automation

As Joel Otto, Head of Connected Airplane Digital Strategy and Business Development for Collins Aerospace, explained in an interview with Connected Aviation Today on the future of data innovation in the aviation space, “by breaking down the existing silos of the aviation ecosystem through comprehensive data management, visibility and access to valuable data across the board becomes a reality. We can work smarter, not harder, when it comes to capturing and harnessing that data, translating to dollars saved and potentially increased revenue. Naturally, increased data visibility and access also translates to more effective safety practices throughout the ecosystem, allowing decision makers to mitigate, even sometimes predict, any potential snags quickly.”

In Summary…

The impact of the pandemic on airlines and the aviation industry was immediate and severe. However, this crisis is far from over. Though S&P analysts expect air passenger traffic will gradually recover to pre-pandemic levels by 2024, air travel will never be the same. From new, increased safety standards designed to prevent future pandemics to the fact that, thanks to Zoom and video conferencing, corporate air travel will probably never really recover, airlines and their suppliers will not just need to cut costs, but develop new business models and revenue streams in order to survive over the next decade.

To confront these as well as other emerging challenges (we haven’t even gotten to other major issues such as pilot shortages, terrorism or climate change), aviation and airline companies will need to create enterprise data and analytics “war rooms” to equip them with the data-driven insights necessary to guide them through these uncharted waters. Much like GE Aviation, more and more organizations in this sector will expand self-service analytics capabilities to enable all business leaders across the enterprise to harness the power of data-driven innovation in times of crisis as well as beyond.