IBM Interview With Dee Waddell – “It’s a Human Based Industry, It Brings People Together”
At this year’s World Aviation Festival in Amsterdam, I was joined in person by Dee Waddell the Global Managing Director, Travel & Transportation Industries at IBM. After speaking about our families and journeys to the conference we began the interview.
We discussed how to attract the next generation of tech execs to the aviation industry, how airlines need to change their culture to foster tech transformation, and how new tech can establish trust between airlines and passengers. One consistent theme that emerged was: humans are at the heart of the aviation industry.
Connecting people from family to friends to colleagues, the industry physically brings people together. The absence of this connection was made unavoidably clear during the pandemic when such physical connection was not possible.
During the interview, Waddell continuously brought the conversation back to this human factor.
Our discussion surrounding establishing trust between airlines and passengers touched on an interesting strand of the human discussion. The passenger needs. Waddell suggested a digital concierge. This would provide an option for passengers to text and immediately receive information about the status of the flight, actions to take, or even vouchers. This would help the passenger to feel connected and aware, ultimately establishing a trust between passenger and airlines especially when matters are out of the airline’s control.
Although it serves people, it is easy to forget the industry is also run by people. Pre-pandemic, 11.3 million people worked directly in the aviation industry and 18.1 million jobs globally were indirectly supported by aviation.
When answering the question “how do airlines need to change their culture to foster tech transformation,” Waddell explained: “your people are your culture.” You must not “just give them software on a mobile device that they don’t want to use anyway rather than listening to them.” You have to “make them feel good in a human design way” and “help them understand what they can do and then they feel empowered”.
Technology is already playing a pivotal role within the aviation industry with regards to airlines progressing their sustainability, payments, digitalisation, and more. However, it must also play a fundamental role in amplifying the human experience within the industry.
Article by Jess Brownlow