BA – Blinking Awful?

I haven’t posted for a while as I’ve been very busy working with clients on industry 4 projects, but the recent IT outage for British Airways (BA) requires a response. (for more information on the BA IT outage follow this [link])

In August 2016, I examined the cost of the IT outage to DELTA airlines [link]. I calculated that this must have cost DELTA at least $60m [correction:  with related costs the post says it would be $100m]. In the wake of the BA story the FT published an article over the weekend [link] looking at the top 5 IT outages. They tell us that DELTA believed that it cost them at least $100m.

We’ll wait and see what effect that BA outage has on their revenues – but IAG (the owner for BA) declared a profit of about £2Bln for 2016, so there is a chance that this will have the possibility to knock 10% off the earnings for 2017.

Now – in an eerily similar set of circumstances to Delta – the company had recently outsourced their IT and they experienced a “power surge” and the back-up system didn’t work.

The following seem likely to me:

  1. The digitisation of business has happened and is accelerating, IT systems are not peripheral to operations they are now crucial.
  2. The creation, management and care of these systems are critical, but it appears that there is no-one on the senior leadership team who is on the case.
  3. The focus on “business cases” for IT investment don’t consider the transformation of current business operations, nor the risk of “not investing”

This posts talks about the need to prepare non-linear business cases [link].

The Oil and Gas industry (and others) are becoming rapidly digitised and will require different investment decisions around IT. It is no longer appropriate to concentrate on cutting costs, driving standardisation and outsourcing the activities. In operations “IT” is now critical to business success. This means good investment decisions drive competitive advantage and loss of IT capability can cripple the business.

You heard it here first folks…

I’m not normally known for left-leaning political judgement but – just in case you missed it the Scottish Government is being asked to consider a motion to fund public investment in the infrastructure of the North Sea.

“UK OIL would work with the Oil and Gas Authority to identify strategic assets that are potentially profitable. That would help to prevent platforms and pipelines being lost earlier than planned, and potentially help fund new ones for the future.

“We urgently need imaginative thinking like this now – otherwise the oil and gas sector could continue to decline due to lack of investment.”

Here’s the [link]

13 month’s ago this blog published an article which, amongst other points said:

To address this will require restructuring the way that the industry operates. If not outright nationalisation of parts of the network, this – at least – requires more control and probably limited subsidies. For goodness sake – we subsidise the tracks that our trains run on, I can’t see any argument for the creation of economic value there that does not apply to our North Sea processing and export network.

Here’s that [link]

 

 

Business-case for non-linear world

I wrote recently about the Delta data meltdown and how the investment in technology had not been made sensibly. I’ve seen this in a number of organisations – where status-quo seems cheaper than updating. It’s an argument that would not be made for safety or passenger comforts but appears to be OK for back-office IT systems.

The world has moved on and it now relies on data as a core asset and capability. With the 4th industrial revolution this is only going to become more reliant on data and understanding how to make risk-based investment decisions will be key.

InfoWorld report that Cloud technologies could have made even a traditional business-case work [Link]

Here is my post about DELTA [Link]

This is what Delta’s CEO had to say [Link]:

“it’s not clear the priorities in our investment have been in the right place. It has caused us to ask a lot of questions which candidly we don’t have a lot of answers for.”

 

It’s just an analogy

I’ve recently been working on analogies designed to let me talk about Industry 4.0 concepts. In short I’ve been trying to find ways to explain what’s almost unexplainable, and often to a sceptical audience. This is my current favourite:

Here’s what happened lasttime

In 1993 the Internet was explained in terms of bits, bytes, modems and tunnels. Most people had no idea why this geeky stuff would be important or what it could possibly be used for in everyday life. By 2003 it was explained in terms of Amazon and Facebook. Now my mum can order shopping on-line but has no idea how the Internet works. That’s how it should be, invisible to the application. My niece uses Facebook, WhatsApp and ASOS and can’t really imagine not using them – it’s woven into the fabric of how she does things, she’s never done it any other way. Why would she? In the mean-time those that had no idea what the geeky stuff could do ignored Amazon and are now closing their retail space [link]

Here’s what’s happening now

Industry 4.0 is now explained in terms like sensors, internet-of-things, and security. There is little understanding of how to retrofit this into existing ways of working, or why all this geeky stuff is relevant. In short people think this is a nice to have but really changes nothing. In ten years I will be explaining this in terms of its application and not how it is implemented. Industry 4.0 will be a forgotten concept and we’ll be talking about its various applications – like operating and maintaining according to equipment condition. In 20 years time a maintenance engineer (like my niece does with Facebook) will have no concept of why you would (or even could) operate equipment without on-line condition monitoring, system level surveillance, and connected “helper applications” that learn from global failure modes. Why would she?

But surely we’ve already been here?

I normally get an objection at this point along the lines of this:

“We’ve had digital oilfield for years, and it’s promised a lot, cost a lot and not delivered much – why will this be different, why should I think there will be a change.”

In my view, things no longer change incrementally when platforms become ubiquitous and costs tumble 1,000 times. They “take off”. That’s what’s occurring now. Add to these exponential technologies such as machine learning (which self-improve with time and experience) and t the stage is set for big breakthroughs.

Four companies: Facebook, Google (Maps +Waze), Uber, Amazon would be impossible without the widespread adoption of horizontal general technologies. They’re interdependent and co-ordinated rollouts enabled cross-platform co-innovation at the application level.

By the way – If you think these companies are just fluff : Google is worth 356Bln, Facebook 350Bln, Uber 62Bln and Amazon 250Bln. In total over a trillion dollars. For comparison Exxon is valued at 360 Bln.

Adoption Curve is reversed

Here’s another thought – In the 1960’s Military and Space applications were modified for business use before finding their way into the hands of rich consumers a couple of decades later. Facebook-like platforms and messaging applications such as Skype emerged first in the consumer space before being adapted for corporate deployment.

I think this mode of adoption is now true for application level innovation generally. If this is so for our next wave application innovation for industry 4.0, I expect to see it emerge first in the consumer space, deploy rapidly at scale and be ready to find ways to adapt and deploy in industry. It will be people like my niece that will know how to leverage these applications with no need to have any knowledge of how the underlying infrastructure works.

Keep your millennials close at hand; you’ll need their insights.

Image Credit http://parterre.com/2011/12/01/interrrupted-analogy/

 

 

Where’s the Delta?

On Sunday August 7th 2016 Delta airlines suffered an IT outage. Earlier in the summer SouthWest airlines suffered similar.

Delta cancelled at least 740 flights by Monday (I am sure there will be more) and Southwest cancelled 2,300 flights.  (Reference link , BBC link)

My calculation, at the bottom of the post, suggests that this cost DELTA at least 60 Million USD in lost capacity –  not counting the damage to the brand and additional costs associated with handling customer enquiries.

IT and the business are inseparable in the 4th industrial revolution. For many years there have been moves to outsource IT, drive down its cost and to make it standard and commoditised.  For utility IT this made sense. It was a cost of doing business. It was a necessary qualifier attribute but conveyed no competitive advantage.  If your copy of Microsoft Word was slightly faster than mine, it was unlikely that you’d capture more business or be able to charge more.

The outsourcing movement was used to drive this process, often awarding contracts to low-cost service centres in Eastern Europe or India.

In my view cloud based services – such as Microsoft 365 and Salesforce.com will become the norm for utility IT services and remove most of this responsibility from the IT department which will, as a consequence, go the way of the typing pool. In 25 years new entrants to the workforce will scratch their heads wondering what the point of the IT department was.

The world is, however, changing and changing rapidly. IT is becoming embedded into the core operational process of business. And executives that don’t understand IT will not succeed for long. Any company that perpetuates the phrase “IT and the Business” or any IT department that talks of “The Business” as if it were something separate from the IT function will go the way of the dinosaurs.

I don’t know if Delta outsourced its IT, or what the cause of the issue was. But it is clear that the situation was mismanaged before the outage (Reliability and resilience: no hot-backup, or hot disaster recovery ). This calls into question either the competence of those charged with planning operations or the business decision to not invest in technology and systems. Either way this is a failure of management to grasp the importance of IT in the primary operations of the business. Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t make it simple, or mean the problem can be ignored. Airlines are pretty good at maintaining aircraft, there are international standards for how it should be done and inspection audits making sure it is. Perhaps we need something similar for IT?

On this occasion it was a risk management failure where the loss of IT functionality impacted availability and utilisation of assets. My guess would be though that there are many areas where IT could be applied to the primary business to drive increases in efficiency and reliability. If management is unable to understand the business case or appoint competent management for IT resilience it is unlikely that they are exploring these more nuanced applications of IT.

The airline industry is not alone.

Put this into business context

In 2015 Delta operated an average of 5,400 flights per day, so about 15% of flights were grounded on Monday. Assuming that these planes were now in the wrong position some of them would have to reposition empty (let’s say 50%). Passengers rebooked who were scheduled to fly on a grounded flight (and Delta allowed all passengers to rebook any flight scheduled for Monday). Let’s say 30% of all Monday’s passengers (those on grounded flights and a similar number who took the precaution) took the place of fare paying passengers on later days.

Then we have a utilisation impact on aircraft of:

15% of one day capacity for cancellations

7.5% of one day capacity for repositioning

30% of one day capacity for rebooking.

52.5% of one-day’s capacity utilisation (in the height of busy season) was lost due to a systems outage.

Assuming 350 flying days this is then 0.525/350 = 0.15% capacity hit for this outage.

Last year’s revenue for Delta was 40Bln USD.

My “back of the envelope” calculation suggests that this systems outage cost DELTA $60Million USD in lost utilisation.

The brand has been impaired so future passenger numbers are likely to be lower than they would have been (at least for a while, especially as they could not even take bookings on Monday). Add to this the additional cost of media relations and customer complaint handling and we’re looking at a $100m problem.

Oh and if you are a European Union passenger you are entitled to 600 Euro’s in compensation too.

image credit Link

New industrial revolution

Bill gates was quoted in Forbes today predicting a new industrial revolution. [link]. This is in his review of Robert Gordon’s new book. I agree with Bill and if you’d like to know more about the Robert Gordon (old school, grey hair, suit and tie – 1945-1980 view of business) and the post-internet view of progress have a read of my primer here [link].

Bill gates points out three key examples as Robotics, A cure for Alzheimers and Material science. I like the way he boils it down so simply. I was influenced by books in my youth including Alvin Toffler’s future shock which I read 30 years ago, it was already a classic then [link] (Poor Alvin died last month), books by Robert Beckman [link],  Edward de Bono[Link] and James Dale Davidson [Link].

I think there are two books that anyone should read if they want to prepare for the next big trends:

Industries of the Future, Alex Ross [Link]

Second Machine Age, Brynjolfsson & McAfee [Link]

Image by Kyle Bean

Let’s party like it’s 1993

It’s been a long time since I felt like I do now. 1993 to be precise.

In 1993 I was working in Paris with a ‘386 LCD screened laptop and had just loaded 40 3.5” diskettes to get Microsoft Visual C installed. Computing was difficult, slow and expensive then. Few people knew how things worked or what it could do.  Many of my bosses couldn’t work their email and none used spreadsheets. We may have used computers to desk-top publish but we still printed slides onto acetate to project them.

I was writing software for Schlumberger at the time. I was in Paris and working on Sun Microsystems boxes running X-Windows.

So why 1993 precisely?

I installed a programme called Mosaic. It was available on PC’s, Mac’s and Unix and you could download it from CERN in Switzerland using FTP, if you knew how. You could compile it using Gnu C, if you knew how. It connected to the network and let you do all sorts of clever things through WAIS, Gopher and HTTP, if you knew how.

My fellow engineers and I were blown away by the potential. It was obvious to us. When we showed this to our bosses back then they had no idea what the point of it was, how to use it or why it was important. And I couldn’t find the words to explain – there was such a gulf of understanding and so little time to fill in the blanks.

By 1997 Mosaic was Netscape and the internet boom got underway, I could buy a book from Amazon and have them send it to me in Norway and I had opened a US Brokerage account with a company called Etrade that you could access over a telnet connection to Compuserve. Now my bosses were intrigued, but still not investing. Investment in Linux version of our software and internet browsing didn’t start until 1999. Looking back that was quick, but at the time is seemed like an age.

I think about the changes that happened between 1993-2003  (just before the iPhone was launched), and the difference between 2003 and 2013 – how social media, location services and mobile internet have taken off. Life is very different now than it was 25 years ago, and it’s all driven from that set of technologies that Mosaic brought together.

Look at the difference at the productivity levels of geoscientist and data analysis with in Oil companies. That has tracked the changes in wider technology and information processing.

Now look at how little has changed in the operations of an oilfield since 1993.

Industry 4.0 feels like Mosaic did. It’s big, it’s going to be rapid and it’s going to change everything. Yet I still can’t find the words to explain it to the people I meet who are still struggling with their email. But I’m working on it.

Read this primer and perhaps you can help me explain to operations management:  https://bestemnetwork.com/2016/03/29/innovation-and-productivity-with-4th-industrial-revolution/