The road ahead

The road ahead

SITA’s incoming CEO Barbara Dalibard joins the organization with a blend of travel and technology experience. What thoughts are top of mind in these early days?

What attracted you to SITA?

For me it was a personal ‘alignment of the stars’. As SITA combines the areas I have built my career on and am very passionate about; information and communications technology (ICT), innovation and travel.  The combination of all three makes it the perfect place for me.

From my previous role with Orange Business Services I knew SITA and respected the company and its people. In fact, while at Orange, SITA was my first global customer and I really admired its strong presence and position in the world’s air transport community.

Having spent nearly 25 years in ICT, my primary objective has always been to implement new technology to help customers transform the way they do business.

I applied this knowledge to the travel industry at SNCF (the French national railway company), as CEO of SNCF Voyageurs, which manages all passenger traffic, long distance and commuter services.

There I introduced the world’s first low-cost TGV and we completely transformed the customer experience providing seamless door to door information to travelers.  

What experience do you bring?

At SNCF, we were transporting 4 million passengers a day. The ‘High Speed’ business (TGV, Eurostar, Thalys, etc.) had 100 million customers a year. A massive operation that shares many parallels with a large airline or airport.

Like them, a rail operation faces many of the same challenges - disruptions, lack of information, management of customer expectations, and the need to segment customers to provide the right offer.

It was in this role that I created the first low-cost TGV, ‘Ouigo’.  In tandem, we broadened our approach launching ‘Ouibus’, a long distance subsidiary bus company and acquired 'Ouicar’, a car sharing company. 

This move took us out of our traditional rail business towards a door-to-door passenger business model based on new technologies-it also propelled us into the sharing economy.  I see many synergies to apply this type of thinking to air travel as well.

Through this experience, I gained an understanding of the travel industry, and a passion for taking care of travelers.

I am equally as enthusiastic about technology and how it can change the status quo.

Introducing new technologies and services that are meaningful for the customers even if it may compete with your existing portfolio is a conviction for me. In 2003, I launched the first application of the Internet of Things (IoT) when it was still called M2M (machine-to-machine). I also successfully launched the first Wi-Fi service, in France, when Wi-Fi was seen as a disruptor of mobile business.

I want to be sure that at SITA we keep up the momentum, with a healthy technology and innovation pipeline that will help our customers thrive.

Your initial plans?

I will hit the ground running by meeting SITA customers around the world. I really enjoy spending a lot of time with customers to understand their needs - they are our life blood. I also look forward to working closely with the SITA Board and Council who are a very important part of SITA.

Meeting with SITA people in each of our geographies is also high on my agenda. Our people are critical to our success and have a wealth of knowledge I will benefit from. It is also important to learn from our teams who are in front of the customer. They often have the best insight into what the market wants and the direction it is moving. 

This will help me connect the dots and get a clear vision of our customers and their requirements.

The road ahead?

First and foremost, it is about staying focused on the needs of our members, customers and the wider community.

I will also be focused on SITA’s technology roadmap, and on working with the Board to build the strategic plan to bring continued growth, as well as more investment in our portfolio, innovation, service management and people.

We need the right skills on board, and the right portfolio to compete and deliver the solutions our customers need and demand.

It is an exciting time to be at the intersection of travel and technology. I look to the road ahead with great anticipation.

Barbara Dalibard, CEO, SITA

What challenges do you foresee?

One of the first challenges is that the air transport community must keep pace with the speed of technological evolution.

The second challenge relates to the B2B and B2C experience. Passenger demands and expectations are changing quickly. That puts pressure on the IT community, who need to meet expectations despite expenditure constraints. It also puts pressure on IT providers.

Third, SITA serves air transport customers globally. Our customers and teams are dispersed. We need to manage a complex world and rise to the challenge of simplifying solutions for our customers whose focus is continually improving the passenger experience.  

It is an exciting time to be at the intersection of travel and technology. I look to the road ahead with great anticipation.

Subscribe to the Air Transport IT Review