Finnair digitises core business processes via Apple and IBM

Finnair is working with IBM to bring user-friendly apps to its internal workforce

Finnish national airline Finnair is adopting internal enterprise apps through a deal with IBM.

The company said the move will see the workforce use apps and support its internal digital transformation. The airline has already introduced digital services for customers, but this deal brings it into the internal operation.

“We are working with the core processes of an airline and bringing digital services into them,” Katri Harra-Salonen, chief digital officer at Finnair, told Computer Weekly. “This will bring better quality to the processes, build more user-friendly applications and tools for our employees, and increase productivity.”

Finnair, which carries 10 million travellers annually, will be the first company to use IBM’s Mobile at Scale for iOS development model, which launched in August. This gives Finnair full access to IBM’s MobileFirst iOS business app portfolio (which was built in partnership with Apple), as well as its app development and design tools. As of November 2016, MobileFirst covered over 100 apps across 15 industries.

“We have a portfolio of 14 airline-specific applications in the pipeline, and nine have been delivered already,” said Raimon Christiani, global industry leader at IBM Travel and Transportation. “There is a team of developers, security and legacy integration specialists taking care of scaling the mobile app portfolio for Finnair.”

Finnair’s first two iOS apps will be deployed in early 2017, and focus on aircraft line maintenance. They will provide aircraft mechanics with digital task cards and documentation, while their supervisors get a real-time overview of flight schedules, maintenance processes and mechanic availability.

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Both apps are already part of IBM’s existing portfolio for the airline industry, but will be customised for Finnair. This customisation and app development will be carried out by IBM’s dedicated MobileFirst Garage team in Bangalore, working with the airline. Finnair sees this as a flexible and cost-efficient approach to enterprise apps.

“This also gives us the opportunity to develop custom apps,” said Harra-Salonen. “The business can benefit from such apps, but it is important we have a rapid cycle to put them into use as needed.”

A history of collaboration

Finnair and IBM have a long history of collaboration, and signed a five-and-a-half-year cloud transformation deal in 2015. But the enterprise apps are a separate partnership, and the airline talked with several potential partners before making the decision to work with IBM again.

“We started this process from a very user-focused angle,” said Harra-Salonen. “We had workshops with different teams in our operations unit, and really tried to figure out how we could make their daily work more comfortable and effective. We then started to look at how we should build and provide this experience.”

Harra-Salonen added that users have been involved at every step. Finnair has sent teams to IBM’s facilities in Bangalore, as well as had maintenance staff attend workshops with Apple’s designers.

While Finnair believes enterprise apps have potential benefits to offer across its operations, it wants to take its time to identify the right areas for further digital integration.

“We have already completed early work with different teams, such as the crew, pilots and ground operations, so we have an initial view of the systems we might need in future. We haven’t, however, made any decisions on where to go next,” Harra-Salonen said.

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