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The aviation industry has rolled out more fuel efficient planes, baggage handling breakthroughs, and plentiful consumer-friendly premium economy seats in recent years. Yet the global airline industry needs even more disruption to improve the day-to-day lives of the travelers of the future. While carriers themselves are making some progress, it’s those companies outside the establishment that can generate the most dynamic breakthroughs, said Danny Buijssen, Head of Alliance Innovation Center – Accenture.
That’s one reason the organization — which combines the digital transformation expertise of Accenture and the airline knowledge of Amadeus — partnered with Skift to host the first-ever Air Pitch Startup Competition in 2018. More than 50 companies participated, sharing disruptive ideas that reimagined loyalty, reconsidered payments technology, and focused on revenue management. And while all the fresh ideas had potential, the winner of the competition was Volantio, a platform that helps airlines minimize unsold seats and maximize revenues.
Volantio founders Azim Barodawala and Fenn Bailey accepted their award on stage during the Skift Global Forum in September 2018 — but the story didn’t end there. As part of the competition, the team not only won a $5,000 cash prize but more importantly, Barodawala said, the chance to participate in a four day “development sprint” at the Accenture Amadeus Alliance Innovation Center based in The Dock, Accenture’s flagship R&D and Global Innovation Center in Dublin, Ireland.
It would prove to be transformational, Volantio team members said.
“We were able to achieve what would’ve taken six months or more in roughly four days of intense collaboration,” Barodawala said. “The Accenture Amadeus Alliance provided a spectacular venue to work together.” Others had similar praise for the experience. “It was a great experience to work directly with airlines as well as revenue management experts,” said Maia Adar, a Volantio data scientist.
The concept of the development sprint is borrowed straight from the Silicon Valley playbook. Small teams are given tight time constraints to solve a highly specific problem set, whether the launch of a new product or the improvement of an existing one. The goal of the sprint is to both reduce risk and eliminate roadblocks to innovation by narrowing a team’s focus.
With stakeholders from Volantio, Accenture, and Amadeus in the room plus perspective from across disciplines — developers, product teams, data scientists, facilitators — the diverse team worked on one of the biggest challenges facing the young company: How to better integrate its creative solution for enhancing per-seat revenues with existing airline reservation platforms.
By the end of the sprint, Volantio had effectively integrated its platform with the broader Amadeus Altéa Suite, which will deliver better revenue optimization to airline clients once launched at scale.
“The Volantio development sprint really demonstrated the power of the Accenture Amadeus Alliance,” said Christophe Ho-Van, Head of Alliance Innovation Center – Amadeus. “We offer the right environment for teams to co-innovate. We organize and facilitate the event — and coach teams to follow the ‘development sprint’ approach. It’s a set of services that help customers and partners accelerate time to market.”
That fits in with the broader goals of the Accenture Amadeus Alliance, said Rashesh Jethi, Head of Innovation for Airlines – Amadeus.
“The importance of partnerships in realizing the full potential of a great idea can’t be overstated,” Jethi said. “Collaboration really is the lifeblood of progress. By connecting with and supporting smaller businesses with innovative new ideas, we can offer our airline clients a richer spectrum of solutions, many of which add to our offerings and services in smart new ways, while at the same time giving promising start-ups the exposure they need to get off the ground.”
Take a look at Volantio’s progress — and the upsides of a development sprint — in the video above.