Business Intelligence

Architecting data in the right way can make the gathering of the data for future analysis that much more crucial. Each portion or segment of data can be analyzed as sales come in, as goods are purchased for production or resale, and as the company grows every step can be documented for investors and angels.

Case Study: Air Canada is an early Adopter

In 2015 even beyond the initial adoption of internal BI solutions in the 90’s Air Canada continues to make Business intelligence a priority. Their IT team constantly searches for solutions with the best Alignment with business strategy and valuable process improvements, Intelligent insights of value not available previously, Usability air-canada-logoor ease of use and training of staff, Accurate clean data, Connectivity to the necessary data, Flexible easy modification, Portability of hardware and Scalability of storage can sway a million dollar installation one way or the other. With the disruption of technologies and languages changing the landscape of the IT network globally each of these qualities of BI solutions are paramount when a company like this is considering adoption.

Air Canada started out with rudimentary BI pulling sales reports directly from the main frame. They began considering a solution for their revenue sales reports. For Air Canada the primary concerns were usability and alignment with the current legacy system. Due to the antiquated and cumbersome method of reporting directly from the main frame there was a need for users and software to integrate directly with the system through easy portals, spreadsheets and PDFS (Sabherwal 221-223).

WebFOCUS became a front runner for Air Canada in 2002 as it was more cost effective but more than that they were operating a global organization with operations all over the world that needed multiple users to have access to real time data on the fly. Still somewhat limited in reporting, Air Canada added a new product called WebFOCUS Active Reports in 2005 which provided business intelligence in the single report with customized columns of data that connected managers across the enterprise with sales data via html email reports. By streamlining this reporting process the organization could connect multiple players with the right information at the same time. The first solution had several connectivity issues and as such the new solution allowed them to analyze reports offline via an html based email report so that connectivity was no longer a concern during analysis. Air Canada as a global organization also had to limit the content of several reports based upon region and did not want all reports available to all users. Active Reports provided the organization a very flexible solution for customizing visual reports.

The other issue that the company was facing was one of ticketing and revenue management for customers. The organization wanted the customers to view and see their travel data online. Online the reporting system needed simplified enough to use and secure enough to be intelligent. The key to this solution was flexible reporting and usability by an infinite number of external users. Implementation and coding of the Corporate Pass application proved very quick and cost-effective, it only took two weeks to code, relying on the use of existing databases. Corporate Pass allowed corporations to manipulate their data and reports through a number of customized choices. Clients Customers such as TELUS love the flexibility. Instead of relying solely on travel agencies or global distribution systems like Sabre, this Canadian telecommunications firm now enjoys real-time access to its travel data through a corporate reporting portal (Information Builders).

The solution was implemented by the end of 2006 and the conversation once again turned back to usability.  In 2007 Air Canada made a choice to add Data Visualization to the suite of WebFOCUS products allowing the team to use the Advance Booking Report (ABR) Spreadsheet that computed a variety of metrics for the airline. This system needed visualization because most users were not able to read and interpret the data based upon their limited scope of
knowledge. Once the organization adopted visualization tools they have since used them in each of the sales and revenue reports since.AIR CANADA ROUTES MAP

This BI solution was able to place real insight into the hands of th
e operational users on the ground in order to improve the decision making process and eventually lead to further BI insights around best routing of packages or drill downs into tickets sales based upon origination to improve market penetration in key regions.

In the last year Air Canada Cargo had taken their BI one step further into the Internet of Things. The solution was a challenge for their cargo division as they moved from paper to mobile shipping solutions. The solution they looked at was an iOS app that simplified the approach for users improving once again the usability due to the addition of Infinite Peripherals Linea Pro scanners. With moving the process to a digital data capture the risk of paper errors or loss goes down and accuracy became a very real benefit and adopted by users across the organization.

Portability and scalability are a major advantage of the new solution as well because the employees on the ground save time by having small energy-efficient scanners and the storage of a ton of information without paper making it scalable. In addition the data will used for future BI analytics through the IoT solution. Improving supply chain management, providing transparency and immediate access to data for query within the technology has given Air Canada an operational advantage over many airlines that have come and gone.

To add to this technology implemented through IBM and Apple last year Air Canada also made the move to social channels for employee communication. Air Canada is one of the most technologically adaptive corporations in Canada and has been quick to adopt cost-efficient strategies that support business improvement. CIO Lise Fournel provided a rather interesting blog about the flexible needs of the employees.

They found as they evaluated the employee base that most of the staff were widely distributed and constantly mobile moving from one location to the next. This need for Flexibility lead them to Mobile technology rather than traditional walkie talkies and PCs. It provided them with further BI as employees were able to capture data and store the metrics before integration into the BI system catapulting the airline into yet another progressive position among it’s peers. Simply being able to see the interactions provides relational data that provides unique human insights for the company to leverage later.

Air Canada, with it’s 27,000 employees, was voted the Best Carrier in North America for five straight years in the Skytrax World Airline Awards (Fournel). The company has implemented BI since 2004 in a rich and rewarding way. They had implemented a BI tool that allows them to reach into the enterprise to compile and mine data in determining how the business is operating and if there are necessary issues to address. The company had also implemented paperless mobile technology for their cargo division, customer applications, employee integration, online reservations & check in and of course flight status notifications based upon where the plane is in the air. It is safe to say that Air Canada will continue to see positive response due to their vigilant attention to their data integration.


Bradbury, Danny. Dec 22nd 2014. IT World CA. “Apple and IBM strive to become part of the enterprise DNA”. Retrieved June 22nd 2015.

Fournel, Lise. April 1st 2015. Microsoft Office blog. Retrieved June 22nd 2015.

Huet, Nicholas. April 2015. How Air Canada Cargo obtained 4 major gains by moving from paper to iOS.

Sabherwal, Rajiv. Business Intelligence. Wiley, 032010. VitalBook file. Retrieved June 20th 2015. (Compiled from Corcoran, 2008; InformationBuilders, 2008; Smith, 2007;, 2006).

Shick, Shane. May 15th 2015. IT World CA. “Air Canada’s CIO shares takeaways from her journey to the cloud. Retrieved June 22nd 2015.

Retrieved June 20th 2015.