The past year has been extraordinary in so many ways and, while the tragic impact on lives takes precedence, we’ve also had to deal with the huge changes in our working life too.
As the crisis developed early last year, I was busy planning in my new role as CEO of Omnevo - AOE’s new specialist product division - positioned as a digital solution pioneer in the travel industry, launching in early 2021. As the crisis grew, this became the most challenging experience of my career, but I’ve been surprised to find that it’s also become one of the most instructive and rewarding experiences too.
Creating and launching any new company is always a huge challenge but we suddenly faced extraordinary new barriers as the way we do business had to be transformed. Much of 2020 was spent planning the new company and today, still operates almost exclusively remotely. Many of us, including some of the founders, worked together for almost a year but have still not actually met in person! Yet we already operate successfully in a global network and are scaling and winning new business.
Omnevo is a truly virtual organization; this is how we were born and that is how we thrive. In this short time, we’ve already made our mark on this industry, with a culturally diverse, agile and highly committed team working alongside customers of all sizes around the globe. We’re gaining a lot of attention because we are recognized as game changers - and that innovative spirit is integral to our team spirit. We are committed to being the digital challengers and innovators in the travel and mobility industry – an ethos drives us every day.
And it’s working. But what is the glue behind this, what makes us successful? Why is it working and, in these bizarre working conditions, how did we manage to get the team so well and engage with our customers so quickly? I’m obviously proud of what we’ve achieved but I want to share my personal perspective on how we made this happen and hope that it will resonate with others in the industry - and, hopefully, help you with your management challenges too.
We started last year with a lucky advantage. Pre-pandemic, we had already implemented hybrid working models to support a work-life balance for our teams. Good communication and participation in decision-making have become key elements to help compensate for the lack of face-to-face physical meetings and chats in the cafeteria. For example, we established some internal chat channels and these have helped us to structure projects more efficiently and supported team bonding.
When I started at Omnevo, I was a little overwhelmed by the different channels we were using for communication, across mail, intranet, extranet, social, mobile etc. Each one has a function so we have basically assigned functions to channels, ensuring that everyone knows the process behind this. I guess it’s comparable to a swarm intelligence, operating various communication channels to enable an organization to be mostly self-managed. Our communication and decision-making has become very fast and effective. It also creates maximum transparency and participation in the decision process for everyone.
We live digital, we work digital, but we never forget that behind the digital process there are human values at the core. We think as one team, with one aim. This is an approach which embraces diversity of culture and gender to ensure every point of view can be - and is - considered. Our solutions are meant not to replace human touch, but to alleviate working processes for people. I know, you’ve probably heard similar messages from many companies - but I want to show you how we actually live it.
Across our team our backgrounds are highly diverse, but we have a shared common value in respecting each other, independent of our cultures and opinions. Unlike many of our competitors, we don’t have a hierarchy. We live a truly agile culture, enabling leadership within everyone through shared values and respect. We transfer this approach from our software teams to our product and project development - a perfect mix which enables us to operate quickly and efficiently.
Innovation is at the heart of our mindset, not just in regard to developing our digital products but across every aspect of how we work. To deliver that we take a democratic outlook to our work where everyone’s opinion is heard and the best idea always wins – even if it’s not mine!
Our culture and values are one of trust, recognition and transparency; these values are not written in any company manifesto, but we live them every day. We are a new brand, but we are made up of a team of very experienced people and industry experts and I’m certain that these values - and the freedom and independence it grants - help us to unleash our people’s true potential.
We ultimately started this company because we all share one common belief and goal - living and challenging digital evolution. This is our DNA and is expressed through the two words that inspired our brand name: omnichannel evolution = Omnevo.
Much of the DNA of our ethos inevitably stems from our parent company AOE, which has been awarded the prestigious ‘Best Tech Employer’ award in Germany many years in a row, but Omnevo is proudly alive with its own personality, culture and independence.
What also sets us apart is that we have the independence to think both strategically and long term. This freedom allows us to help customers grow sustainably and we do not need to compromise on short term decisions from shareholders or investors.
Customer dedication starts at the leadership level.
Most importantly, we put the customer first (yes, another common claim, but we do it). We listen to our customer’s needs and pain points very carefully and we’re prepared to take different approaches for commercial models, including sharing risks with our customers. By working together, we know we can build something new, something different, and overcome any constraints.
We’ve also evolved our digital products to meet the pain points in this disrupted market, regardless of size or type of business, be it Full service, Hybrid, Low cost or Charter airline. Already we’ve brought a number of small airlines and start-ups into the digital world with our technology, which will expand and adapt with their business for the future – crisis or no crisis.
Thanks to the partnership approach, even in these challenging times, we are seeing our customers commit more to their IT budgets – they know that digitalization is inevitable. Others are expanding the scale of their projects with us, which is a huge vote of confidence in the work we are doing. Most importantly, such a commitment underpins a strong working relationship and that is what we will all need, going forward.
Agility and flexibility are the keys to success, but they are brought about by multi-dimensional thinking, resilient teams and a new type of leadership that enables innovation and new ideas to flourish.
The airline sector desperately needs new thinking. Let’s face it, traditional solutions are outdated and do not – cannot – fulfill the passenger’s rapidly evolving needs. Customers who have grown accustomed to instant, seamless experiences full of choice, service and 24/7 convenience - in everything from shopping from groceries to food delivery to luxury goods - will increasingly expect the same quality of experience from airlines! That’s the new reality. The leading online brands and operators are driven by dedication to the customer; we must adopt that spirit and we can only challenge the status quo with the right mindset, people and organization.
‘Together, stronger’ is what motivates us and is the ethos we take to all our business partners because we know that the best ideas are not always found in-house. One of our greatest strengths at Omnevo is that we genuinely listen to our customers and partners. Again, this may sound obvious, but many companies say it but don’t actually do it. Technology is for everyone, and we don’t hide behind a wall of technobabble to confuse our clients; we simplify technology. We innovate. By fully understanding the client’s needs and ensuring that they understand our solutions, we can break down restrictive silos, challenging what has been the 'norm' for too long, and offer new thinking that can support the industry’s future.
That brings me to my closing point; how we define the role of leadership in the future.
Although we had months of planning, I’ve only been CEO of Omnevo as an operating business since it was formally launched, just six months ago. Parts of this are new territory for me but I’ve worked in the travel industry for many years and I can see the changes coming and I’m convinced we will be very successful.
What has changed now is my approach and my mindset, and I see the benefits of that change every day, not only in our company and in our partners’ success but in my personal development too. At Omnevo, we are doing things differently - challenging the norms and putting customer and passenger needs first – and our leadership strategy had to evolve to drive that change. This crisis is far from over but I’m confident we will continue to adapt and deliver a stronger future, both for our company and our partners.
From major FSCs to small LCCs, digitalization provides the most effective, low-cost path to new levels of operational efficiency and revenue recovery to all airlines. Kian Gould, Chairman of digital revenue innovators Omnevo, explains 5 reasons why. Let’s start on the bottom line: any airline – including everything from flagship FSCs to small regional LCCs – can now cost-effectively digitalize their attack on the recovering market and seize the digital route to recovery. Let me explain why.
Frankfurt, July 14th, 2021 - Omnevo, leading provider of revenue-increasing digital platform solutions for airports and airlines and part of the AOE Group, and Fraport AG, owner and operator of Germany's largest airport, announced today that Frankfurt Airport goes live with the latest advanced version of Omnevo's award-winning omnichannel e-commerce solution. Additionally, the two companies announced that they have extended their long-term partnership for another five years to further develop the digitalization of the airport's range of products and services for the almost 70 million passengers (before COVID-19) who travel through Frankfurt Airport each year. With go-live, the existing digital solution platform, which Omnevo’s parent company (AOE) had originally developed for Fraport, was migrated to the latest Omnevo product version. Through its original partnership with AOE Fraport utilized the OM³ digital platform (now known as Omnevo) to become the world’s first omnichannel airport focused entirely on omnichannel both before and, especially, during the pandemic. The newly enhanced Omnevo cloud solution enables the operation of a complete airport marketplace solution for all travel retail sales at a fraction of the costs previously required for such a leading ecosystem, creating new revenue opportunities for crisis-hit airports of any size. Thanks to the highly flexible SaaS solution, Fraport has also effectively future-proofed its digital strategy by integrating directly in the Omnevo product roadmap, enabling it to benefit from Omnevo’s strategy of continuous improvements to the solution.
COVID-19 has caused a near universal consumer adoption of digital far beyond just search and discovery. Globally, across almost every demographic, international lockdowns have got us accustomed to pre-order, pre-select and home delivery for many of our retail and service transactions. These rapid and continuing shifts in digital behavior inevitably affect the post-crisis traveler journey. As flights slowly resume, airlines, airports and associated service providers will no longer enjoy the luxury of resurrecting 'high touch' retail or food & beverage. Shopping and food & beverage are, of course, two of the most essential experiential elements in any travel journey. As travel restarts, travelers will now expect convenient digital access to these types of products as well as an overriding commitment to hygiene, sustainability and safety. And there is every reason to believe that these expectations will extend across the travel life cycle - from airport, to inflight and post flight. If you were an airline now, given the devastating onslaught of the pandemic on revenues and cash flow, just how and where would you start? Where exactly are the incremental revenue generation opportunities and cost savings to be found? Let's start by understanding the three key challenges: