In yet another sign that every company is becoming a software company, American Airlines has co-created with Microsoft on developing a mobile app now used by thousands of employees as part of a massive deal between the two companies.
While this powerful co-creation effort was buried near the end of a very long press release from the companies, I believe it’s just as — or perhaps more — significant than the other components of the megadeal, which I’ll get to in a moment.
But first, check out how the customer, American Airlines, collaborated closely with the cloud provider, Microsoft, to create a mobile app that will be absolutely critical in the airline’s effort to boost customer experiences by getting flights in and out on time, as well as reduce the amount of fuel that planes burn up while idling unproductively.
From the press release, and my own observations, here’s an overview of the impact the new app will have:
- “Every day, maintenance personnel, ground crew, pilots, flight attendants, and gate agents work together to try to get flights out on time.”
- “Until recently, these team members — who are always on the move and rarely tied to a desk — relied on accessing information via desktop computers or laptops” that were clearly not located where the work was being done.
- So, “American and Microsoft created the ConnectMe app, which team members can access from any mobile device via a Microsoft Power Apps-enabled app in Microsoft Teams,” ending the maddening physical separation of essential information from work activity.
- “With information now at its fingertips, American has accelerated airplane turn times at gates and connected thousands of frontline team members through a single platform,” and, as a result, will reduce the amount of fuel consumed as planes idle on tarmacs waiting for a gate to open.
To me, that’s a perfect example of how customers can work with their tech providers to achieve together what neither could accomplish individually. So, whether you’re a CIO, CFO, VP of Operations, or CRO, this excellent example of innovation should provide you with the inspiration to drive similar breakthroughs within your organization in close collaboration with your cloud providers.
On top of that, these types of efforts show, in tangible ways, how a new generation of low-code/no-code tools — in this case, Power Platform — is turning the phrase “every company is becoming a software company” from a corny cliché into a powerful and essential business reality.
Other Big Elements of the Megadeal
A couple of other things in the press release caught my eye:
In the opening sentence, that “partnering” term showed its face again to reflect the deep, broad, and highly strategic role the cloud is playing among large businesses of all types that are using the cloud, data, analytics, and AI to move more rapidly and more assuredly into their digital futures.
Here’s that first sentence: “American Airlines and Microsoft Corp. are partnering to use technology to create better, more connected experiences for customers and American Airlines team members, supporting the robust operations of the world’s largest airline.”
Microsoft Is Now “One of the Airline’s Largest Technology Partners”
Near the top of the press release, the companies say, “As part of the partnership, American will use Microsoft Azure as its preferred cloud platform for its airline applications and key workloads, significantly accelerating its digital transformation and making Microsoft one of the airline’s largest technology partners.”
The last part of that sentence is what grabbed me: “…making Microsoft one of the airline’s largest technology partners.” So, Microsoft is now American’s “preferred cloud platform for its airline applications and key workloads” but that qualifies only as “one of the airline’s largest technology partners”?
Kinda makes you wonder what those other “largest technology partners” are doing, doesn’t it? IBM has been a major supplier to American Airlines for decades. So, perhaps there’s some big activity there with mainframes and transaction processing, reservations systems, or something else.
It would be nice to know how the new Microsoft engagement fits in with those other big tech players. Perhaps we’ll be able to get American to explain a bit more about that in the future. But for now, here’s my interpretation of the key things Microsoft will be doing for American outside of the co-created ConnectMe mobile app:
- “American and Microsoft aim to use data and other digital technologies to meet customer demands while also streamlining business processes to give American team members the tools that enable a smoother travel experience for the consumers.”
- “The companies envision a future where every aspect of the customer experience and airline operations will be optimized using advanced analytics and other digital technologies — from enhanced bag tracking and automatically rerouting flights based on weather conditions to using digital twins to simulate operations at major hubs and proactively adjust to increase efficiencies.”
- “American and Microsoft are applying the power of AI, machine learning, and data analytics to reduce the taxi time, saving thousands of gallons of jet fuel per year and giving connecting customers extra time to make their next flight. Built on Azure, American’s intelligent gating program provides real-time analysis of data points, including routing and runway information to automatically assign the nearest available gate to arriving aircraft.”
Whatever business you’re in, what grade do you give your company for your co-creation efforts?
And what grade do you give your competitors for their efforts?