How Airbus Streamlined their Comms Operation

Campaign MarketingCustomer Experience

Air­bus, one of the giants of pas­sen­ger air­craft man­u­fac­tur­ing, spot­ted an oppor­tu­ni­ty to bring the kind of inno­v­a­tive think­ing it uses in avi­a­tion design to bear on its com­mu­ni­ca­tions teams. Set­ting out to improve effi­cien­cy, free up time for staff to cre­ate more engag­ing con­tent, and elim­i­nate infor­ma­tion silos, they teamed with Adobe tech­nol­o­gy to intro­duce a new pro­duc­tion plat­form. This project also saw Air­bus take its first step into B2C mar­ket­ing with its IflyA380 site, enabling pas­sen­gers to book flights that specif­i­cal­ly use the Air­bus flag­ship, which pro­vid­ed Air­bus with valu­able insights about pas­sen­ger behav­iour for the first time.

Lau­rent Fradin (LF) and Jérémi­ah Bous­quet (JB), dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion lead­ers at Air­bus Group, spoke to Adobe about the company’s move to the new platform.

LF:  At comms we have sev­er­al depart­ments fac­ing dif­fer­ent audi­ences. The press depart­ment faces the media, and inter­nal comms faces employ­ees. Over the years, every­body has spe­cialised, acquir­ing dif­fer­ent tools to serve their needs. It was not always har­monised, and every­body was strug­gling with the accel­er­a­tion of dig­i­tal. We improved some tools and process­es incre­men­tal­ly but knew this wasn’t sustainable.

Over time we tried to merge some process­es or tools, but there was not the rad­i­cal shift we hoped for. So, we start­ed to inter­view peo­ple in those depart­ments, try­ing to under­stand how they worked. We found the dif­fer­ent depart­ments were not so dif­fer­ent, con­trary to what they claimed. They were aligned on the same mas­ter process, and every­thing was about content.

This meant there was a chance to offer a com­mon plat­form across all depart­ments, to break the silos but also to offer a great col­lab­o­ra­tion platform.

There was very much a pub­lish­er-cen­tric view of push­ing a sto­ry on all the exist­ing chan­nels, and not cus­tomis­ing the con­tent, to ensure it would have a real impact, be shared, and dri­ve engage­ment with our audi­ences. Tak­ing dig­i­tal as the main enabler, we thought we should be able to automise a lot of man­u­al process­es where peo­ple were spend­ing a lot of time and resources, and give them back time to do their jobs.

Along the con­tent life­cy­cle we defined five main ser­vices to offer our var­i­ous inter­nal users. We also need­ed a com­mon inter­face to make peo­ple feel that they all work on the same plat­form, and can col­lab­o­rate effi­cient­ly, beyond the usu­al silos. That was the ini­tial con­text. From there we went to the mar­ket and looked for a solution.

Adobe:  What were your ambi­tions when you start­ed the project?

LF:  First­ly, we want­ed to be real­ly audi­ence-cen­tric, to engage with them by offer­ing world-class expe­ri­ences. Sec­ond­ly, to be effi­cient. We want­ed a tool for all the comms peo­ple based on the con­tent life cycle approach, so that peo­ple could col­lab­o­rate prop­er­ly and break down the silos and process­es where dupli­ca­tion starts.

Our third ambi­tion was to have an impact on the bot­tom line; to make sure what we invest is bal­anced by the decrease in recur­ring costs com­pared to the pre­vi­ous plat­forms. We cal­cu­lat­ed two to three years for the inter­nal return on investment.

Adobe:  What was the time frame for this trans­for­ma­tion? And where are you now?

LF:  There were two dif­fer­ent stages, and some­thing occurred in between that was not relat­ed to our dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion jour­ney, but more to Airbus’s reorganisation.

We start­ed with­in the com­mer­cial air­craft divi­sion. It took us a year to inter­view all the peo­ple, to get to this con­cept of a smart con­tent approach. At this stage we went for broke. We took the oppor­tu­ni­ty to decom­mis­sion one out­dat­ed tool—the tool deal­ing with the inter­nal news­pa­per and the inter­nal news mul­ti-chan­nel, pub­lish­ing glob­al­ly. That was our first proof of con­cept, and we con­tin­ue to pro­duce the news­pa­per this way. The sec­ond proof of con­cept was on the same plat­form, to demon­strate that you could run some­thing very dif­fer­ent with the project. That was the start, and it last­ed a year and a half.

Then came the deci­sion to merge all the com­mu­ni­ca­tion depart­ments from the dif­fer­ent divi­sions into one depart­ment, at the time of Air­bus group activ­i­ties mov­ing to a sin­gle brand. We had to demon­strate that what we were doing for the com­mer­cial air­craft divi­sion would lead to the same ben­e­fits for heli­copters, defence and space, and the group glob­al­ly. It was also impor­tant that it became their project as well. Not only did we prove it to them, but we got their buy-in. Then we restart­ed the project properly.

Adobe:  What have been the key lessons for you?

LF:  Clear­ly buy-in is very impor­tant. Then, to start every­thing from the users’ point of view was real­ly a must, and to force peo­ple to see things from this “sin­gle” perspective.

Sec­ond, all those users need to be con­vinced by the ben­e­fits of col­lab­o­ra­tion and the avoid­ance of dupli­ca­tion. Proof of con­cept was high­ly valu­able to demon­strate this and to make sure that peo­ple have more than just belief, that they can see it’s much more effi­cient. It decreased pain points, so they have more time to do what their job is real­ly about.

The third part is the ana­lyt­ics. You need to analyse what’s going on from the very begin­ning. We should be real­ly data-dri­ven and trans­par­ent, so every­body can see what’s effec­tive and what isn’t. That was key and it’s still key for every sub-project being deployed.

Change man­age­ment is also key, because it’s peo­ple doing the job, it’s not only the tools. Change man­age­ment means that peo­ple need to evolve their skills, from pub­lish­er to act­ing more like com­mu­ni­ty man­agers, lis­ten­ing to what audi­ences are say­ing and engag­ing with them. It may sound basic, but for a B2B com­pa­ny like us it’s not.

We are also in a duop­oly, so it’s not a burn­ing plat­form. The media will talk about Air­bus and Boe­ing what­ev­er we do, so it wasn’t easy to con­vince peo­ple that what they were doing was no longer the right thing.

Adobe:  How did you dri­ve the change?

LF:  We did some very sim­ple things. When we start­ed at the Air­bus lev­el, we looked at the jour­ney of one piece of com­mu­ni­ca­tion content—one press release. This showed us for the first time that it took the equiv­a­lent of two-and-a-half months full-time work to pub­lish all press releas­es (and the sub­se­quent trans­lat­ed ver­sions) on the inter­net, and two months to pub­lish on the intranet. That was instru­men­tal in show­ing that we need­ed to break the silos. To the man­age­ment, of course, the recur­ring cost was more sig­nif­i­cant. And for every­body there was the promise to serve their audi­ences bet­ter and more quickly.

Then the burn­ing plat­form came with the inte­gra­tion. The dan­ger was that this was sold as just about inte­gra­tion of resources, but we realised in this project that the real val­ue was not the bound­ary between the divi­sions, but the bound­ary between the dif­fer­ent jobs. We had to make sure they didn’t just aggre­gate the press peo­ple from the three divi­sions and con­tin­ue to work the way they used to. That could have hid­den the essence of the project, which was to break down the silos and ensure real trans­ver­sal collaboration.

Adobe:  How does IflyA380 fit in?

JB:  IflyA380 was the sec­ond proof of con­cept. We want­ed to put some B2C behav­iours into our activ­i­ties, and also want­ed to get into ana­lyt­ics, to gath­er knowl­edge about pas­sen­ger behav­iours. At Air­bus, our cus­tomers are the air­lines, and we don’t know our customer’s customer—the passengers—very well. We are work­ing with ana­lysts to study this pas­sen­ger data, dig­ging into this top­ic to bet­ter under­stand the pas­sen­gers when they look at trav­el and at flights.

We are also imple­ment­ing Adobe Cam­paign for Air­bus around this use-case. We will pro­vide inspi­ra­tional con­tent to cre­ate real brand aware­ness around the A380 among passengers.

Adobe:  When did this project start? And where are you now?

JB:  It took 12 months to launch. We were incu­bat­ed in an inter­nal Air­bus accel­er­a­tor, the Biz Lab, to define the ambi­tion, the vision, and the strat­e­gy. Then we spent 12 months tour­ing our air­lines, cre­at­ing the web­site and launch­ing the project.

Adobe:  You describe this as being ini­tial­ly a proof of concept—what’s its sta­tus now?

JB:  The project is already a suc­cess, well-appre­ci­at­ed by the air­lines and the trav­el ecosys­tem. Inter­nal­ly, we want­ed to estab­lish a dig­i­tal inno­va­tion frame­work, which is the plat­form, but also ways of work­ing on it. We cre­at­ed a team of dif­fer­ent experts from com­mu­ni­ca­tions, media buy­ing, tool strat­e­gy, and busi­ness devel­op­ment to launch this project. The lega­cy of the project inter­nal­ly is the way we can now launch any dig­i­tal project efficiently.

Adobe:  How do you see things devel­op­ing in the next 18 to 24 months?

JB:  We want to dig deep­er into this pas­sen­ger knowl­edge, and have plans to offer pas­sen­gers new kinds of ser­vices. For IflyA380, the next step is mar­ket­ing automa­tion through Adobe Cam­paign, along with the intro­duc­tion of a mobile app, which along with the intro­duc­tion of a mobile app, which launched last Jan­u­ary.  It will not only be a book­ing assis­tant, but also offer more ser­vices for pas­sen­gers through­out their jour­ney, includ­ing in-flight. Our goal is to offer the best pos­si­ble expe­ri­ence to all A380 passengers.

Campaign Marketing, Customer Experience
Digital Europe

Posted on 03-12-2018

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