Building Business Agility at Southwest Airlines

MIT Sloan Research Paper No. 4664-07

CISR Working Paper No. 369

17 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2007

See all articles by Jeanne W. Ross

Jeanne W. Ross

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Center for Information Systems Research (CISR)

Cynthia Beath

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Information, Risk and Operations Management

Date Written: May 2007

Abstract

Southwest Airlines has grown from upstart to the largest U.S. airline in terms of number of passengers flown while recording 34 consecutive years of profitability. Through most of those 34 years, Southwest management emphasized high touch rather than automation as critical to business success. Over time, however, Southwest employees introduced technology-based innovations to support key processes, including the industry's first paperless ticketing system and early entry into web-based applications. By 2002 then-CFO (and subsequently CEO) Gary Kelly recognized that IT would be important to meeting the company's strategic objectives. He initiated a business transformation that relied on building a strong IT foundation. This case describes the IT and business changes Southwest introduced to help the company succeed in its increasingly competitive environment.

Keywords: Enterprise architecture, business transformation, IT management

Suggested Citation

Ross, Jeanne W. and Beath, Cynthia, Building Business Agility at Southwest Airlines (May 2007). MIT Sloan Research Paper No. 4664-07; CISR Working Paper No. 369. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1020963 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1020963

Jeanne W. Ross (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Center for Information Systems Research (CISR) ( email )

Sloan School of Management
5 Cambridge Center, NE25-777
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-9461 (Phone)
617-253-4424 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://cisr.mit.edu

Cynthia Beath

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Information, Risk and Operations Management ( email )

CBA 5.202
Austin, TX 78712
United States

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