With the goal of being recognised as New Zealand’s leading tourism gateway, understanding key business information is critical to Christchurch International Airport Limited (CIAL). To harness the true potential of its myriad sources of information, to get an accurate and complete picture of its many facets of activity, and to be able to forecast multiple scenarios based on real-world variables, CIAL needed a robust, long-term Business Intelligence (BI) strategy. The first two cabs off the rank in setting out to implement this strategy were to build a cost-effective data warehouse – a means of gathering together numerous data sets into a single source, automating and expediting CIAL’s data modelling processes – and to create a predictive forecasting model that, using historical activity and market knowledge, would form the core of the organisation’s business planning.
As Simon Thompson, CIAL’s Manager Business Analysis and Reporting, puts it: “Number of passengers is key for us and for our business forecasting. It’s a key driver for revenue, and we need to have a good handle on this so we can run scenarios, creating forecasts to understand the impacts that particular situations will have – for example earthquakes, ash clouds or snow. You’d think understanding the business would be straightforward, but the truth is that it’s not. And this information isn’t a nice-to-have; it’s a need-to-have. Having visibility of this information, and quickly, is critical for our business.”
With passenger information in varying states coming from a number of sources, CIAL has historically had to amass partial data sets from the likes of Customs declaration cards, airline records (whose reporting of passenger numbers is aggregated and needs breaking down in order to get a true reflection of paying passengers), Airways New Zealand and FIDS (Flight Information Display) information. This information was handled by a single database, and information was extracted from there, taking a staff member a whole day to glean the required level of information.
With the implementation of a data warehouse using WhereScape RED, this process is now automated, aggregating a number of sources and presenting the digested information “at the touch of a button.”
“Before now, we had information but it was unwieldy. Handling and interpretation of information was never straightforward – our process was largely manual and prone to gaps and errors. Confidence and accuracy weren’t as high as they could have been,” Simon explains. “What once took a day to calculate now takes 15 minutes, which means we’re now able to recalculate and remodel something many times,” he says. “Before we had to suck it and see.”
The business benefits have been plentiful, Simon says, and have created positive results right across the business. Insights are shared at senior management level, in daily reports and alerts, in weekly and monthly management reports, right through to board reports. Information is also surfaced within CIAL’s SharePoint website, so that people can access it, slicing and dicing it to meet their own needs.
“It has cut down our workload. We’re getting more from the push of a button than we did in several hours’ work in the past,” Simon explains. “And we’re getting real insights from our core information.”
Business analysis staff have had their time freed up to “add value,” delving deeper into information, modelling more scenarios and including these in reporting, and dealing more closely with ad hoc queries, being proactive rather than reactive.
“The competitive advantage these tools give us is the speed at which we can access information now, and being able to twist and turn it, using a cube to analyse things in multiple ways, rather than manipulating a spreadsheet. Predictive analysis gives us better information, which leads to better, more timely decision making. These tools give us the ability to plan, and to revise plans rapidly.
“At the end of the day it enables us to provide information to business users, and to understand our customers better. And the best thing is that these things take 10 minutes to run. Now we can really test our assumptions and expectations. We can assess impacts and how they will hit our bottom line, without having to wait overnight for an answer.
“Life is so much easier now,” Simon says. “All of a sudden you find yourself wondering how you did it before, and how many grey hairs you got doing things the old way. Now all the old frustration levels have been taken out of the equation.”
With two significant BI wins chalked up, and a BI roadmap well in place, when it comes to making the most of its business information, the sky is now the limit for CIAL.