Denver International Airport is mid-way through a five-year strategic program that’s harnessing intelligence and data analytics to improve performance. Robert Kastelitz, Denver’s Senior Vice-President of Technologies and CIO, talks about the airport’s digital strategy.

What’s the context of your digital strategy?

We wanted to exploit business intelligence (BI) and data analytics to improve performance and provide a well-choreographed and seamless journey for airlines and passengers, whose needs are anticipated each step along the way.

This is a big task. As the 19th-busiest airport in the world and the sixth-busiest in the US, more than 54 million passengers travel through our airport each year, Denver is the primary economic engine for the state of Colorado, generating more than US$ 26 billion for the region annually.

So how do BI and analytics fit with this strategy?

Executing a thoughtful digital strategy has provided critical capabilities to our airport. BI and analytics have been a central focus, one of the top initiatives that I've been championing for many years.

Our vision is to use data-driven decisions to enhance our competitive advantage. Our aim is to maintain the airport’s momentum and competitive advantage by enabling predictive and optimization capabilities through a smarter BI and analytics infrastructure.

What was the trigger that started the program?

Three years ago, members of the airport leadership team came to me with a set of needs. They understood the value of data but said their team “couldn’t get to data and reports”, or that “there’s too much data for my team to make sense of”, or “my team doesn’t have the tools or skills to make the data actionable”.

We championed the idea of BI as a strategic initiative and have been busily pursuing that ever since. BI tools are becoming part of the decision-making process across departments.

How has the program evolved?

Like many others, I’m sure that over the years we had produced siloed systems and reporting structures, with minimal data integration. Our users relied heavily on canned reports and reporting was tedious and labor intensive.

In 2013, focusing on the technologies needed, we started by building a foundational BI infrastructure and team. We began to monitor availability of applications and systems – which led to greater proactivity and improved system availability.

In 2014, we continued to solidify and grow the BI infrastructure, and expanded the technologies dashboard to include complete balance score cards for performance management.

Our performance metrics have contributed greatly to increased customer satisfaction – from a low of 65% to 87% currently. We began an ASQ (Airport Survey  Quality) Dashboard to monitor key enterprise KPIs, which also guided us to develop our Wi-Fi improvement program, leading to significant customer satisfaction improvements. 

Finally, last year we began to offer BI as an enterprise-wide service. We implemented dashboards and self-service tools, supported data mining, data analysis and data visualization and introduced data science for advanced analytics.

But we’re only getting started! Our objective is to mature our advanced analytics capabilities to support prediction and optimization. Initially, we're concentrating on operational excellence and the passenger experience.

To get there, we’ve implemented data governance and we continue to integrate data from sources such as sensors and devices. Our BI team continues to provide the core infrastructure, data cleanup and integration, modeling and correlation, as well as self-service and dashboards.

Data stewardship is essential to ensure established single sources of truth to support the high quality decisions and actions. Our goal is to deliver BI dashboards and self-service tools to support analysis, prediction and action.

And this year?

During 2016 we’re maturing to a more integrated environment for performance management – using balance scorecards and dashboards.

As we move forward, we'll extend our focus to advanced analytics in support of predictive analysis and optimization. This will entail additional integrations with divisional application data, other internal data sources such as sensors and video, and other external sources such as social media and sentiment analysis.

We will support leadership with optimization scenarios for decision making – providing an infrastructure for advanced analytics to augment our information.

We've established four key elements: integrate additional enterprise data, continue to upgrade our BI infrastructure and support the needed capabilities, absorb data from new sources, and extend BI to advanced analytics in support of prediction and problem solving scenarios.

This will help us improve in many areas, including the customer experience, operational efficiencies and security, sustainability and asset management, and of course, financial performance.

Tell us about your work on predictive analysis relating to TSA wait lines?

This is a key project and includes calculating and predicting accurate wait times, analysis of passenger dwell times and operational impacts, and enhancing overall passenger flow and passenger experience.

We partnered with SITA as a proof of concept at one of our checkpoints – and the data generated has proven useful and effective for ourselves, for TSA and especially for our passengers.

We've now begun to implement this across all of our security check points – integrate data obtained with data from our location-based services. This will allow prediction and optimization related to dwell time analysis, passenger flow patterns, and correlation and operational impact analysis.

And in the future?

We're being asked to provide BI support relating to collaboration, sustainability, passenger satisfaction, security and operational efficiencies. The plan is to provide integration for internal and external data, to correlate partner information.

We’ll provide passenger behavior analytics, we’ll further integrate social media and sentiment analysis. And we’ll provide predictive analysis and performance optimization. This will help us to identify passenger patterns and proactively address customer experience opportunities.

Finally, the Internet of Things will allow our maintenance teams to proactively address problems prior to them occurring.

Any final observations?   

As technology leaders, our challenge is not to introduce new disruptive or transformative technologies, but to provide a value proposition – to be an effective strategic partner and not to just a utility provider.

Our customers within the airport ecosystem are increasingly dependent on a well-defined and actionable digital strategy. We express that in terms of strategic programs, which are defined in concert with our business partners.

We're committed to building roadmaps for each of those programs – and each must ensure that we're a bit ‘smarter at every step’, to establish our financial and project portfolios. This is central to our success in transforming from a utility provider to a strategic partner.

Hear our experts

Robert Kastelitz, CIO, Denver International Airport discusses what they have done to make the passenger journey smarter at the airport and what the future holds. What are the key technologies and what are the big challenges over the next 5 years?

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