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Including its subsidiaries, Lufthansa is the largest airline operator in Europe with over 600 aircraft in its fleet and more than 120,000 staff. As well as airline brands such as the low-cost Eurowings carrier it has expanded into other areas over the years. This includes maintenance and repairs business Lufthansa Technik, IT service provider Lufthansa Systems and even financial services with Airplus.

However, maintaining a consistent view of data generated across its vast operations is a challenge for the company. For business analysts in its sales and commercial teams this has meant challenges in gaining an overall view of its information. Revenue generation across different geographies is one such area.

"Revenue is likely a very easy figure to generate, but people from Swiss Austrian Lufthansa used to have a different understanding of revenue," said Heiko Merten, head of global sales business intelligence applications. "And this is where we had to learn that we need to invest a lot of effort into aligning those definitions to get a company-wide standard."

Merten leads a team that is responsible for acquiring new data sources to support commercial teams, integrating this information into its data warehouse and choosing the right tools to share the information with the wider business.

To improve its use of data, Lufthansa has set up up a new central IT management team which brings together staff from various business units.

"We are joining the business people from product, marketing, sales and revenues management network divisions," he told press at the Teradata Universe event in Nice this week. "We join them with the IT department and we are meeting regularly to sort out what we have as requirements and to prioritise. And this is interesting to see."

It is also in the process of creating a business intelligence competence centre (BICC) to bring together the best data analysts from across Lufthansa Group. This is often easier said that done, however, and means moving away from "siloed thinking".

"This is not so easy from an organisational point, because every manager having those unicorns is not so willing to give away those people to the central department," he said. "So this is something we have not yet reached but we are aiming for and hopefully this will become a good organisational challenge that will help everybody."

Data sharing has been a challenge for the business in the past. Merten said the company is currently in the process of aligning data standards and integrating data across the organisation. This is easier said than done, as information is a cultural as well as a technical challenge.

"We have served the bizarre thing that people like to build something on their own, so they are building their own reports," Merten said. "They like to show and they don't like to share it. This is where we need to work on the cultural basis that it is a plus for everybody to share data, to share best-in-class reports."

Although Merten said that the company has a long way to go with its use of business data, it already plays a key role in sales strategies.

"We are collecting a lot of data from the website, from social media, and we try to create those patterns and see what people are looking for," he explained. "And out of those patterns create an individual offer.

"From the traditional sales organisation with account management we have created a really new organisation beside that, purely contacting the customer in electronic ways via individual newsletters to hopefully get a very individual, personalised offer that a customer is likely to accept."

One of the next steps will be for Lufthansa to complete the migration of sales data from its subsidiaries into a central Teradata data warehouse.

"We are not yet there, it is still in the process [of being integrated]. As Lufthansa is by the far biggest portfolio, it was obvious that Lufthansa should be the leading [system]," Merten said.

"We started just by copying data out of the carriers' data warehouse into the Teradata database," he explained. "Now we are step-by-step closing down the local data warehouses, but it was essential that we could not just switch it off, so we still have a transition phase that lasts a couple of years. It is a big thing, we are dealing with a lot of passenger data, historical data also."

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