Building Business Agility at Southwest Airlines
CISR Working Paper No. 369
17 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2007
Date Written: May 2007
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
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