Infrastructure Management Software Blog

Driving down OpEx with technology

It's been a good number of months since I traveled in Europe but I just spent a couple of weeks hopping around on business. There were some interesting changes to the travel experience which got me thinking about parallels in the IT Operations world.
First was the check-in experience with Air France / KLM. Basically self-service check-in at a kiosk, with a bag drop. "Nothing new there!" I hear you say. Well what was new was that it was not optional - at least not as far as I could see. There were no check-in agents at desks - only a few floor-walkers minding the kiosks and folks on the bag drop. Obviously this represents a significant cost saving, but that is not my point.

We've all seen this stuff deployed in airports for a while but airlines have been cautious about forcing customers to use it. That was not the case here. All of the regular economy class customers had to use the automated check-in. I guess the airline has overcome (or over-ridden) any fears about the effectiveness of the technology or the danger of impacting the service provided to the customers in favor of some tangible reductions in OpEx.
At the other end of the trip I also saw changes in hotel check-out. Now the US has been pretty good at speeding check-out by providing express check-out services. You know the deal, your bill is posted under your door at some horribly early hour of the morning. Your credit card is charged the amount shown unless you decide to go and pursue the regular check-out service. Of course the hotel also benefits because they can deploy less staff to service the check-out transactions. Europe has not adopted this approach. I'm not sure why but I guess it may be some differences in legislation regarding charging someone's credit card without them being present.
So the challenge for European hotels is how to maintain quality of service (a rapid check-out) but reduce the OpEx of having lots of staff present during the check-out rush hour in the mornings. A Pullman Hotel in Paris had applied technology to solve this problem. As I headed into the lobby to check out on Friday morning I was ushered towards a bank of (you guessed it) kiosks. The experience was a carbon copy of the airport check-in - just different cards being provided by me and documents being printed by the kiosk. After I had been 'processed' I sat in the lobby waiting for some colleagues to join me. There were three check-out staff that I could see - one on a regular desk duty, two floor-walking the kiosks. The Pullman is a big hotel.
Then I started thinking about how the airlines and the hotel were displaying behaviors which are very similar to what we are seeing in the IT Operations space. The drive is to reduce OpEx whilst maintaining service levels. The approach adopted is to use technology to automate activities which have required manual interactions.
The technology is being put into service in spite of any misgivings over its ability to be 100% effective. The companies are willing to take some calculated risks in order to get a demonstrable reduction in OpEx.
I see the same behaviors in IT Operations. Forward looking companies are applying technology to automate wherever possible - automate event correlation, automate analysis and problem isolation, automate fixes, automate provisioning. The technology to do a lot of this has been around for years, but previous objections to its deployment - fears over the certainty that the technology will be 100% effective - are being pushed aside as the sights are firmly set on reducing OpEx.
For Operations Center, Jon Haworth

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