Friday, November 16, 2012

Here is another paper I wrote for a student about a Web 2.0 Business Improvement Proposal for the Brisbane Airport.

            Web 2.0 is the term that defines a broad range of computing experience for the consumer that is revolves around the social dimension of online users.  It is not a specific update to browsing the World Wide Web such as what IP 6.0 does to the internet networking protocol.  Rather, it describes a 21st century online experience that goes beyond mere web browsing.  The internet is not more than just a mere source of information but has taken on a computing platform that harnesses broadband telecommunications and several online technologies to bring a level of interactivity and collaboration between users online, broadening the implications of online computing into the business and socio-political landscape (Swabey, 2008).  Dale Dougherty of O’Rielly Media is credited for having coined the “Web 2.0” term back in 2004 to simply put a title that would best describe an O’Reilly media conference (Musser & O’Reilly, 2008). Since then, the term has stuck to describe an online experience that transcended a mere trend for social networking in Facebook and Twitter,  blogging with Tumblr and Google’s BlogSpot, and media content sharing in YouTube, Picasa and Flickr,  into a defining online computing landscape from which there is no turning back. 
            It is precisely this ease with which content can become viral, reaching a potential global market as well as the marketing potential of the experience that has not escaped entrepreneurs who realized early on that Web 2.0 has not only revolutionized the way people use the internet, but also created a valuable channel to enhancing brand awareness and reach that traditional advertising could only dream about at tremendous cost to the business.  This proposal looks at improving the operations of a major international airport – the Brisbane International – by optimizing its use of a few major Web 2.0 technologies that can make a profound difference to its business.

2.1       The Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC)

            Considered the 3rd busiest airport in Australia after Sidney and Melbourne airports, Brisbane Airport (BNE in IATA code) is the only major passenger air terminal serving the residents and tourists of Brisbane and suburbs.  It has two runways and two passenger terminals - a domestic terminal with flights to and from around 46 destinations in the Australian states and territories, and an international terminal serving 32 foreign destinations. The 12 months ending in May 2011 saw it serving more than 20 million passengers. The airport is a one of the major hubs of Virgin Australia where it has a maintenance facility, and a secondary hub for Qantas and its budget affiliate Jetstar. 
            Since the dawn of the 21st century, the Brisbane airport has been the recipient of various awards starting in 2001 when the Australian Airports Association named it the Major Airport of the Year.  In in the current year, the Australian Competition and Consumer Association (ACCC) honoured it as the top Australian airport for quality of service for the 8th consecutive year while Skytrax bestowed on it the Best Regional Airport Award, following the same awards it got in 2008 and 2009. In 2010, its international terminal wing received the Queensland architecture award and entered the 18th position in the list of the world’s top 25 airports while once again being voted by Skytrax as the "Best Australian Airport” (Brisbane Airport, 2012).  In 2005, the airport earned the IATA Eagle Award, the second of only two airports in Australia to be so awarded (IATA, 2005),


            The Australian federal government has privatized several airports and the Brisbane airport was acquired from the Federal Airports Corporation by a private consortium consisting of private financial and government interests under the Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) led by Amsterdam Schiphol Airport which currently holds a management contract for airport on a 99-year lease of the facility.

2.2       Web 2.0 Business Implications

            Web 2.0 replaces the traditional view of a website as a channel for disseminating digital information to browsed and consumed by the user, with one that sees websites as engaging tools for structured interaction between people and between organizations and people. ‘Social media’ is a common, more meaningful alternative term that aggregates a panoply of Web 2.0 technologies behind blogs, wikis, social networks, social bookmarking, media file sharing, and news aggregation sites that are constantly evolving and recombining. The implications for business are numerous and have spawned the term Enterprise 2.0 for corporations as a counterpart to the consumer-centric Web 2.0. For starters, Web 2.0 changes the way customers interact with one another and that demands a change in the way businesses communicate and interact with their markets. A company website simply used an online product brochure is a wasted opportunity. More progressive companies are using Web 2.0/Enterprise 2.0 to stimulate discussion and community awareness around their brand, products and services, and are harvesting invaluable customer insight as a result.
            The key implication of social media to the business in promoting a closer relationship between the business and its publics – customers, government, other businesses, media,  and the general public. For the Brisbane Airport, communication between these segments of society and the business is made more convneient by the fact that travel related information (flight arrivals and departures, airport weather and traffic condition, potential and actual delays, boarding routines, things to do while at the airport, etc.) can now be accessed from anywhere and at any time, using PCs at home and mobile devices such as smartphones and laptops with internet access.  The same communication channel can be harnessed using social media marketing over wider market reach advertising but minus the regular advertising costs.
·         Brisbane Airport can promote cost effective deals on behalf of airport business concessionaires and airlines with an active and far-reaching social media presence.  These could result in added revenues to its business partners open up the option for the airport to earn sales commission from online bookings and online sales generated from a redirection of website traffic from its social media pages.
·         User Awareness once in the airport – Using Wi-Fi technology at the airport premises that can access a cloud database, passengers arriving thereat can be prompted to check on their travel requirements such as visas, the rules of what can be brought with them while on board or their destination, and provide them the easy channels to post feedback in regards to their travels via mobile gadgets. This creates a sense on interaction between the organization and the public the airport serves.
            Equally significant as the impact of Web 2.0 on consumers and customers are the implications for internal collaboration. That workhorse of internal communication – email – is looking decidedly tired as more effective and more efficient communication and collaboration tools devised in the consumer realm work their way into corporate life., Because an airport is a mecca for airlines and their businesses (catering, aircraft maintenance, etc.), along with airport business concessionaires (car hire firms, restaurants, trade and cultural exhibitors, duty free shops and even health and recreational establishments), harnessing the social interactive power of Web 2,0 can bring these internal elements into a more cohesive and productive group acting towards a shared commitment with airport management as if they as employees of the airport itself.
            But some companies appreciate the business value of Web 2.0/Enterprise 2.0 than others. Companies like Dell and PlusNet use it to learn more about how they can serve their customers better. Others, like Wachovia Bank and Best Buy use Web 2.0 tools to help their companies and business partners work together more synergistically with improved social cohesion (Swabey, 2008).  Every Web 2.0 application shows why it is imperative for the company, particularly its information technology departments to understand and harness Web 2.0 from a technical and social perspective.  By enabling collaboration and fostering closer relationships with their stakeholders (markets and publics as well as governments and business partners), Web 2.0 empowers the business to bring its marketing, customer service and business development activities to better economies and cost efficiencies.


2.3.      Web 2.0 in BAC

            The company is open to adapting emerging new technologies in its business operations. In a press release issued by Cisco (2012), the Brisbane Airport Corporation has implemented virtualization technology from network solutions provider Cisco, storage solutions provider EMC and virtualization software provider VMware to strengthen the company ability to enhance economies of airport operations and customer responsiveness through strategies harnessing emergent technologies information and communications technologies (ICT).  But along with this, just exactly how far Brisbane Airport has arrived in harnessing Web 2.0 or Enterprise 2.0 as a means to further the ends of its business imperatives is seen by its current social media activities (Abady, 2012).   The BAC has established a relatively wide social media presence with the following:
·         Mobile version of official  website enabling mobile users to check flight details using smartphones with internet access;
·         Official Facebook page in standard format and linked to the corporate website
·         Official Twitter account; and
·         Official Pinterest account
            Having said that, the airport’s social media presence can stand significant improvements in the way it interact with its customers and airport concessionaires.  For instance, their mobile website version displays flight arrival and departure details.  However, given the fact that over 20 million foreign passengers have used or passed through the terminal in 2011/12, it should not be that difficult to incorporate a language selection options for passengers on the existing mobile phone application (see Figure 1). This is more of a feature enrichment rather than an innovation as most online services catering to several nationalities generally have some form of language transcription that can cater to people that do not use English as their first language.
            There is currently a gap in marketing infrastructure of Brisbane Airport Corporation that social networking platforms such as Facebook, blogging and social media sharing could help close. Facebook can essentially be used like a live wiki for thousands travellers who are Facebook users who may want to be remain updated by simply clicking one button and getting linked to the official Brisbane Airport page. The type of information that the Airport can share on Facebook can be extremely broad, ranging from quick facts about the airport and say its baggage procedures and limitations to Updates on the Traffic and congestion troubling the primary routes in and out of the facility.
            There is great room for improvement within the relationship and closeness that the consumers feel towards the airport.  Brisbane Airport is a large multi-faced business that needs to leverage communicative competence in bringing together the disparate business concession operating within the pre-departure, post-departure and transit experience of passengers.   Using social media to enable the Brisbane Airports marketing strategy could aid in helping establish a better relationship with the thousands of travellers who use social networks as well as employees working in the airport. Social networks are all about crating and sustaining a feeling of connection that keeps users logging in every day or several times in a day and while the Brisbane Airport has already gained a foothold into the social media bandwagon, there is ample room to make this presence grow to its optimum potential.

2.4       Business Needs Analysis

            An exhaustive analysis or assessment of business needs is a fundamental diagnostic process to determine root causes of current problems and situations that can prepare the company in exploring and evaluating various alternatives in solving these problems, filling in proficiency or competency gaps or market expectation and real-world service quality gaps, and addressing the needs that can enable the company to better achieve its business objectives.  For the Brisbane Airport Corporation, the current situational analysis using a Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT)) analytical framework has been used to identify the major areas when Web 2.0 can be harnessed to maximize the company’s business potential in its target markets (Weihrich, 1982).  In addition, the PESTLE framework which explores in more detail the external factors can feed right into the opportunities and threats in the SWOT analysis (JISC, 2012).  These are the Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental factors that may be missed if only the SWOT was used (Thomas et al, 2007).        
Table 1: SWOT Analysis
SWOT Areas
·         The Airport is a major domestic and international hub for several airlines in the Brisbane metropolis serving as a gateway to Queensland, the region and the world.
·         BNE is seeing an increase in visitor arrivals going through the airport totalling 1.8 million or an increase in 2.7% year on year as of September 2012 (BNE, 2012).
·         The company has a relatively strong but static online presence through its corporate website at where BNE customers can check on flight information, travel news in Brisbane, and access information on various travel related topics while in the airport
·         The airport has been at the forefront of social media as it recently became the first Australian airport to use Pinterest which has a reported 8.9 million views in the country in February 2012. This was it third social network after Facebook and Twitter.
·         There is no effective internal communication that can link airport management to its business concessionaires (car rentals, duty free shops, restaurants and lounge operators, airlines booking offices)
·         Web 2.0 technologies have yet to be fully harnessed;
·         A stable and growing national economy that portends a sustained recovery from the global recession as evidenced by recent increases in passenger arrivals in the airport
·         The airport has little competition in the area other than those that function as alternate or feeder airports such as Sunshine Coast. Gold Coast, Toowoomba, Ballina/Byron Gateway and Lismore airports.

Table 2: PESTLE Analysis
PESTLE elements
·         Healthy business relationships exist between the company and local Brisbane authorities as well as commercial firms engaged in concessionary business within the airport premises.
·         Strong macroeconomic fundamentals with rising GDP and improving unemployment rate ensure a local economy slowly recovering from the onslaught of the global recession over the last three years.
·         5.1% unemployment rate as of 2011, improving slightly from the 5.2% registered in 2010.  But among the youth sector (aged 15-24) unemployed stood at 11.6% during the same period. (Index Mundi 2012).
·         Brisbane is experiencing modest but stable growth in visitor arrivals which totalled 1.8 million for a year on year increase of 2.7% year as of September 2012 (BNE, 2012a).
·         The airport has a thriving list of business concessions such as car rentals, restaurants and shops that together serve passengers while going through the airport.
·         It has a growing involvement in social networking groups such as Facebook, Twitter and recently joined Pinterest dedicated for online users who love or enjoy air travel (BNE, 2012b).
·         Strong internal IT infrastructure and development support for in-house application systems using existing computing and database platforms
·         There is a growing social media penetration rate among internet users and this can be harnessed more fully by the company
·         Cloud computing which is a form of IT outsourcing  when used from a 3rd party provider is emerging as the new way of supporting the business for improved economies of scale that effectively makes unnecessary the traditional continuous investments in hardware and software during system upgrades (Hogan, 2008).
·         Copyright violations increase with user-generated content in Web 2.0 (Ingram. 2010).  The issues revolve around managing user-developed or collaborated content and ensuring that the copyright of others is not infringed in the process. This often requires a more conscientious monitoring of critical social media content like images, music and video whose owners are known to enforce copyright ownership rights.
·         Social media often comes with personal information as in the case of user profiles and photos  in social networks and face the potential risk that such information are used without securing explicit permission from their owners. Web 2.0 implementors will have to exercise more diligence and care about protecting the privacy of individuals. (Thomson, 2008).
·         Web 2.0 content risks being compromised by malicious users who may post pornographic, licentious, hateful or racially derogatory materials.  Constant monitoring of the site can prevent such materials from defacing the site.
·         The company has not highlighted its greening or eco-friendly efforts to general more support from greening enthusiasts among its passengers.  Further studies will be conducted in this area to identify areas for improvement and inclusion as an airport feature for its social media marketing efforts.