That new WestJet video isn’t the only one IT pros should see

The airline is great at viral clips, but it may be even better at putting together a successful IT strategy

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WestJet technology strategy GTEC

If you’re not in the holiday spirit by now, WestJet will manage to get you there nearly as fast as it takes passengers to so many other destinations.

As if its last Christmas-themed commercial wasn’t enough of a viral blockbuster, the company has managed to top itself in 2014 with a follow-up clip that focuses more on giving to others. If you’re not among the 2.3 million who have already watched it, see below.

The coverage of this clip in the Globe and Mail and elsewhere may lead you to believe that WestJet’s primary strength is in marketing, but earlier this month some IT professionals were reminded that you have to be good at your core competency in order to have a strong message to market. WestJet’s CTO, James Callahan, was featured in a fireside chat of sorts in Ottawa on Dec. 3 during a GTEC Summit, where he discussed the technology strategy that has helped make WestJet a Canadian success story.

Although I wasn’t able to make that session, the presentation materials were posted online and they include another video, which I had never seen before. Produced by Oracle Corp., the five-minute case study is not just interesting because of the products and services it discusses, but the cultural change it documents.

“We’ve come from an organization where technology was a necessary evil to an organization where technology is essential,” Callahan says at one point in the video.  “If we have a technology failure that prevents us from moving aircraft on the ground, we’re effectively out of business at that point in time.”

Some who attended the GTEC Summit were posting key comments they heard on Twitter, and I was amused to see this one from one of Callahan’s lessons learned at WestJet.

“Patience. It’s a journey. You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable.” James Callahan #ITSurvival #tips @WestJet @GTEC #GTECSummit

That may sound like a funny thing for an airline to say, but that patience allows you to ride through the discomfort to an ultimately fulfilling result, both for customers and the teams that make it happen. Based on how it presents its stories, you could say that’s been one of WestJet’s greatest gifts.


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