Hat tip to my colleague Francois Henry who last week asked me if I ever read the blog of BA CIO Paul Coby, and with a blank look on my face I had to admit that I was not even aware of it. Over the past few days I’ve managed to take a look, and it is actually very well done. The blog is hosted on a non BA site (via WordPress), but still with a semi-corporate feel about it.

Writing with a similar theme to the views I’ve expressed in the past of the importance of social to infiltrate every aspect of an airline business if the carrier is genuinely interested in harnessing the power of this new model, Coby made the following comment in a post titled The Social Networking Revolution early last month.

What does it mean for companies and producers? Well, people matter more now than technology. We need to be pro-active in solving problems and to be open in managing customer problems and interactions. We need to manage all channels: online, mobile, sales, services and customer relations in an integrated way. People expect to be treated as individuals. That means they want personalisation and customisation, and when they ask questions they expect answers. This means that IT, marketing, sales, and customers service have to join up much more seamlessly in the new social networking revolution, than ever before.

And in another post written in May called Three Popular Misconceptions about IT Investment he writes something that I have found myself thinking more and more about lately.

when you look at a business transformation, the IT is only part of the equation. We all know that new IT systems – whether ERPs, CRMs, web sites or social networking – succeed or fail, not on whether the IT works, but on whether the processes are thought through and aligned with the IT, and – most importantly – on whether customers or colleagues can actually use it.

It is kind of strange for me as someone who sells IT for a living, but lately I’ve found myself in situations where I’ve actually been trying to advise customers against rushing into an IT purchase – for exactly the reason Coby was writing above. Occasionally I’ve seen airlines more focussed on getting their hands on the product than in getting the processes in place to ensure maximum success from implementing the product, and these days I’m much more conscious of the risks in going down this path, both for supplier and buyer.

The importance of ensuring the entire ecosystem around travel inspiration being first established is one such example for airlines looking at technology solutions in this space, but I can also think of other examples in the use of back office automation (or as Coby would prefer, Support Services) or even that old issue of fares filed primarily for offline channels being suitable for fare family branding purposes in the online channel. These are just a few examples that easily come to mind of cases I’ve seen in airlines where a rush into implementing the IT solution can yield lower returns than if a little more time was spent on the initial planning phases.

But in the pure self interest of someone who does sell IT for a living, clearly I’m hoping that in the cases where I do advise customers not to rush into a purchase, that the longer term benefits for the airline will also yield longer term benefits for me by having a very happy reference customer to assist in subsequent sales. I suppose that is what people these days refer to when they use that seriously overused phrase of win-win; the concept makes sense, but if you overuse the phase it ends up sounding like you are trying to convince yourself.

Finally, in the tradition of Danny Sullivan giving Bill Gates advice on his blog, here is my advice for Paul Coby. I love the human feel the blog has, the quality/relevance of the content is spot on, and the fact that it is updated regularly covers off three of the most important points in setting up a corporate (or semi-corporate) blog; but an important fourth pillar should be trying to get a sense of community and engagement amongst readers. People leaving comments want to know they are being read, both by the author of the blog and by other readers – occasionally responding to the more well thought out comments on the site goes a long way. One other thing that I did recently and which I wish I had done sooner was adding an RSS feed in the side column of the homepage to make reader comments visible to anyone visiting the site. Too many blogs bury the reader comments whereas often the discussion on a post can end up being more interesting that the original post that started it all. A small point, but easy to implement and it really makes quite a difference. Other than that small point the blog is very hard to fault and I am looking forward to reading more of Paul Coby’s posts in future.

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