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Flying high: Process lessons businesses can learn from budget-conscious airlines

While most business leaders strive to run what’s termed a ‘tight ship’, doing so is an imperative, not an aim, for low-cost carriers like Jetstar, the now-defunct Tigerair Australia and other niche airlines that have revolutionised the leisure travel industry.

Despite the ravages the pandemic has wrought, many of them remain in the air and making a profit. Waging war on waste is central to their game plan and survival.  One of the ways they can remain viable is by improving the efficiency of their operations, from sales and marketing to ticketing, flight and maintenance scheduling, ground and aircrew rostering and more. 

Mapping processes, and digitizing ones ripe for automation, wherever they occur in the enterprise, is their tried-and-true formula for doing more with less.

So what lessons can other Australian businesses learn from these high-flying success stories? 

Document every process

Recruitment, training, safety procedures, procurement: if you’re embracing business process management and automation, it doesn’t make sense to restrict what’s included. 

To be truly effective, it needs to encompass every aspect of operations.

Your process mapping software should be your principal tool for documenting business processes, and it should easily integrate with automation platforms to find further efficiencies running your business. 

For many airlines―and organisations for the matter―the process of identifying core business processes can be a mammoth undertaking. It is not uncommon for an airline to have 1,000-plus processes, many of them central to their operations. Depicted graphically, each one represents an opportunity to streamline and save money that might not have otherwise become apparent. While your organisation may not be as operationally complex as the average carrier, taking a similar tack will allow you to identify many opportunities to introduce order and efficiency. 

Train your team to drive adoption and usage of software solutions

Process optimisation isn’t set and forget; a one-time activity that can be completed and consigned to the archives. For businesses that are serious about continuous improvement―as those with razor-thin margins must be―it’s a dynamic, ongoing exercise. That’s why it’s common for airlines to provide process mapping and automation training to a large proportion of their head office staff: to allow them to derive maximum benefit from their investment in this transformational technology. 

If your business has invested in software to accelerate your digital transformation or is considering doing so, training as many team members as possible to leverage process mapping and automation technology will ensure the software tools are successfully adopted for the benefit of your business.

Drive change from the top

Software can be a powerful enabling tool and the catalyst for transformation, but only if there’s the commitment and the will to make it work – not just from the project team charged with rolling it out, but from everyone who works for the organisation. That will and commitment must come from the top, from an executive team that buys into the vision and walks the walk, as leaders of low-cost airlines must do. 

Seeing senior executives, from the CEO down, play an active part in documenting processes and the discussions around how they might be improved sends a powerful message to the entire workforce. It tells your team that “process” isn’t a flavour-of-the-month ICT project but, rather, something that’s mission-critical, part of your organisation’s DNA, and should never be ignored.

Create a stronger future for your organisation

Cutting costs and boosting efficiency isn’t just an imperative for businesses whose financial viability depends on watching each and every dollar. In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, scores of Australian enterprises are looking to do both as they recover from the economic impacts of lockdown and pursue new avenues for expansion. 

Looking inwards at the processes they engage in every day and the opportunities to optimise and automate them may prove the key to business teams doing things smarter, faster and more efficiently.  


Read more: How low-code creates agility in a turbulent business environment


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