Through team experience and research results, the research team has learned from many success stories of airport innovation pursuits. To improve the success of an innovation program and buy-in from the organization, airport operators must share what has and has not worked. Though airport environments differ, the following general suggestions will help airport operators implement and operate an innovation program:
- Engaging Important Stakeholders
- Leveraging Tools
- Developing Methodology
- Showcasing Value
- Developing Industry and Non-industry Contacts
- Alignment with Airport Strategy
Used in combination, these suggestions can lead to the development and implementation of successful airport innovation programs. Airport operators still on the fence about such programs need only look at the successful technology programs at some of the leading United States and international airports. It is important to learn how other airport organizations navigated obstacles to pursuing innovation.
Engaging Important Stakeholders
A successful innovation program must identify and engage with the necessary stakeholders within an airport. Whether they are specific departments, vendors, or passenger advocates, the perspectives of these parties will help drive innovation initiatives. Depending on the project, stakeholders may play a more active role in the process. Engaging the right stakeholders provides a better case for why further investment into a specific innovative technology is needed. Keeping various stakeholders engaged throughout the research and concept development process improves the success of innovation projects.
The proper use of software tools can help make sense of the large amounts of data generated by innovative programs. Software tools can help assist with collaboration, provide access to research gathered, and help draw new insights into innovation. Operators can leverage tools to stay up-to-date with project progress and identify potential uses for technology research. Effective tool utilization helps to drive synergies and improve an understanding of the various integrations that can be leveraged. Not all research conducted may be immediately relevant; therefore, effective knowledge management solutions must be used to give easy access to research as it is needed.
A well-designed methodology provides the framework on which an innovation program is built. The tools used, roles involved, naming conventions, process steps, and success criteria are all vital components to a successful innovation program. Program types and approaches will differ based on airport-specific environments and organizational structures. Despite this, the ability to replicate successful research and concept development projected multiple times within the organization will help to drive more buy-in on innovation. Having a replicable structure will allow for process improvement initiatives to be applied to the innovation programs, allowing for increased efficiency over time. Before embarking on an innovation pursuit, the proper time must be taken to design and develop unique innovation programs.
Successful innovation programs do not operate behind the curtain; efforts must be made to show and quantify the benefits to the organization. Innovation managers should be sure to track innovation in relation to airport objectives and show benefit to cross-departmental metrics. As innovation projects may not quickly show benefits in cost reduction or process efficiency, efforts must be made to show project success in less quantifiable ways. Through early discussion of research success criteria and their relation to airport objectives, an innovation program can be determined a success by the organization.
Developing Industry and Non-industry Contacts
A well-planned innovation program should incorporate the feedback, knowledge, objectives, and expertise of multiple stakeholders. A mature innovation program must be collaborative with both industry and non-industry partners to drive performance. Innovation managers should look to share everything from needs to successes to lessons learned to begin fostering an open environment around innovation research. As the current barriers begin to come down, new stakeholders can be engaged to help solve problems as they arise. Non-industry partners can play a large role in this. From universities to vendors and adjacent industries, new insight into areas of opportunity can be uncovered.
Alignment with Airport Strategy
Airport operators should consider the role that an innovation program will play in coordination with the overall goals of an airport organization. Proper alignment of objectives allows an innovation to directly show value to an organization’s overall performance. However, extensive coordination is needed to draw out the correct success measures and understand relevant implementation impacts.