IMD International

Exploring digital at Singapore’s Changi Airport

Steve Lee, Group CIO presents a “Future Ready, Yet Ever Ready” approach

November 20, 2015

How digital is the airport nearest you? The answer may surprise you and may not be found in the obvious. Certainly, digital devices and mobile stations are rampant, but what about connected cleaning systems and even trolleys?

In speaking at IMD’s Orchestrating Winning Performance (OWP) program in Singapore, Steve Lee, Chief Information Officer and Senior Vice President (Technology) of Changi Airport Group (CAG), outlined some of the key strategic, organizational and leadership factors that are driving sustainable digital business transformation at CAG.

Lee aims to constantly improve and create new capacity in the organization in order to be ready for the future. He encapsulated this in the phrase “Future Ready, Yet Ever Ready,” and said that digital transformation is a necessary part of the airport’s success.

He outlined a few trends in current transformations at CAG with the need to meet the expectations of tech-savvy customers. Both the prevalence of mobile devices and the use of self-service channels have driven transformation. The Group also addresses increasing business complexity, so as to cater to the different needs of the 148,000 daily travelers and visitors that pass through the airport’s gates.

A unique challenge at CAG is that there are over 200 external organizations working in the airport including airlines, baggage handlers, retailers and service providers. This means that the group must collaborate with each organization individually to create an outstanding experience for their customers. For CAG, leading digital transformation is not only something it must do within its own organization, but also for all its partners.

With the advancement of technology and the increasing need for speed among travelers, CAG has been exploring the concept of fast and seamless travel with the use of self-service channels during departure at its current and future terminals.

Lee also revealed the secret behind ensuring that baggage trolleys are available throughout the airport, wherever and whenever a customer needs one. A trolley tracking system is in place to monitor the location and availability of the trolleys to match demand and supply based on flight departures and arrivals.

Another interesting project where Changi was a pioneer is the SWIFT feedback system, implemented in key service touch-points like toilets and check-in counters, where customers are able to give instant feedback on service levels. This project is part of CAG’s efforts to connect with customers, staff and partners. Lee said that over 700 feedback devices in Changi Airport garner an impressive figure of approximately two million responses per month, giving CAG deep insights and data into customer perception, allowing for immediate response and service recovery.

Lee also talked about the importance of good leadership when trying to drive digital transformation. He said, “The digital and business world is always difficult and always competitive. It is always a struggle, but you must keep your people safe. They must know that even if there’s a problem, their boss will keep them safe. Otherwise no one will innovate with you".

To conclude, Lee said that the most important thing, and also the most constrained asset, is to have management’s attention to focus on issues. In digital transformation, it is imperative to balance operations, IT and the business model. Thus, the management team must be able to tackle all three areas.

Steve Lee is the Chief Information Officer and Senior Vice President (Technology) at Changi Airport Group. He was a guest of IMD Professor Don Marchand at IMD's Orchestrating Winning Performance (OWP) program in Singapore.

For live insights from the program follow on Twitter at #IMDGlobalLeaders or check out OWP pictures on IMD's flickr account.

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