PowerApps in Practice – How PowerApps Empowered Virgin Atlantic’s Mobile Workforce

To aim for the top spot in the domestic aviation market, customer experience is fundamental. And, to achieve that, UK-based Virgin Atlantic is well aware of the importance of empowering it’s business and field workers. Only with the right tools and information at their fingertips, can they make each travel step seamless and make customers feel truly valued. And it doesn’t stop there, with a happy workforce comes more productivity, innovation and success. PowerApps has become a fundamental tool to the company, empowering its mobile workforce to quickly and easily develop apps that help them excel at their jobs. 

What Challenges Was Virgin Atlantic Facing?

Virgin Atlantic wants to be the airline that everyone loves to fly with. The ethos runs through the entire company, from finding the right flight, to choosing a seat, right until you land at your destination. The idea being that when you consider they’re next trip, Virgin Atlantic will be the first company that comes to mind. To keep the company and it’s 5 million annual passengers up in the air, it has almost 10,000 employees. And those employees need a lot of tools at their fingertips to be able to answer customer queries on the spot, get passengers to their gates on time and ensure safety at all times. 

Virgin Atlantic knew that the way to empower its employees was to use technology. This was especially relevant due to the highly mobile nature of its workforce. The company’s employees are spread amongst airports, planes and offices around the world, all requiring huge volumes of data. This was the crux of the challenge, getting the right data to the right people at the right time. The starting point was to equip all of its remote workers with tablets, however, this was where the challenge arose. Tablets are much more useful with the right apps, but the company didn’t have mobile development experience and hiring in the expertise would have been expensive and time-consuming. It was their Business Systems development Manager, Manuela Pichler, that found an alternative, PowerApps. 

How PowerApps Sparked the Company’s Imagination

Virgin Atlantic had already adopted Microsoft Office 365, which led Pichler to explore what more they could do with the software. This was when she came across PowerApps, a way to build and customise business apps that could serve business and productivity data and integrate with Office 365 and Dynamics. 

PowerApps opened up a world of possibilities for Virgin Atlantic. Its user-friendly approach meant that application development was no longer reserved for pro developers, and the company didn’t need to engage a new team to deliver what it needed. Instead, they were able to empower the people who were subject matter experts but didn’t have any development experience. The result was that employees were able to create solutions to their problems themselves. 

Since Virgin Atlantic started using PowerApps, it has built a growing portfolio of production apps against multiple backend systems such as SharePoint and Common Data Service. Development has been a combination of IT-led and citizen developer-led solutions, with the governance needed to manage security and provide support. Some of the apps that the company currently has live, in pilot and in production include:

  • Cargo gateway information – an app that allows employees to compare cross-airport cargo shipping variations. The app has transformed a large and complex excel matrix into a simple-to-follow organised display. Users can easily compare variables and deliver the information that customers need.  

  • Clubhouse spa app – an app to replace the tedious paper process of completing mandatory health questionnaires. Therapists can search for customers, check if they’ve completed the questionnaires and, if not, complete them there and then. The app also integrates with Dynamics 365 to show which customers have paid for their treatments with air miles. 

  • Asset management app – to roll out iPads to over 3000 cabin crew, an app was created to scan barcodes and assign crew members accordingly. This saved a significant amount of time that would have been spent manually writing down serial numbers and correlating with crew payroll numbers. 

  • Crew leave request app – an app to allow cabin crew to request leave from any device based against a flight quota. The app has given crew more flexibility on short-notice leave, improving engagement and satisfaction. 

  • Fuel decision log app – currently fuel-related decisions are recorded in meeting notes, spreadsheets and documents. An app is under development to log decisions and related reasoning centrally to enable better monitoring of fuel usage. 

  • Compliance checklist app – wearing safety footwear and storing high-vis kit in the right places is vital. By creating an app, the company is able to improve compliance and see trends, and engineers can focus on the tasks at hand rather than paperwork. 

  • Administration experience app – this is a PowerApp to manage all of the other PowerApps. With the potential for numerous people to create numerous apps, visibility and control is vital. The admin app allows the team to view who is creating apps, who has access and what connectors are being used. In turn, training and support can be offered, and a community of developers created. 

The Benefits of Using PowerApps

PowerApps has proven hugely successful for Virgin Atlantic. What started as a way to empower its mobile employees has grown into a tool that is used organisation-wide to replace manual processes, improve visibility of data, increase customer satisfaction and boost employee engagement. By using PowerApps, the company has been able to:

  • Empower workers – employees are able to create their own apps, giving the company a way to tap into the potential of its staff and employees the ability to supply solutions to their departments independently.

  • Create a single customer view – by using PowerApps alongside Dynamics 365, the company is creating a singular, 360-degree customer view that enables it to tailor its services and vastly improve the travel experience. 

  • Develop apps quickly – simple apps that sit on top of Microsoft SharePoint can be developed in just a few hours and even more complex apps only take a few  weeks, a vast reduction in the time needed to develop a full-blown application from scratch. 

  • Reduce costs – the company is spending far less of its resources on third-party products as they are able to develop the apps themselves. 

Could PowerApps Help Your Business?

If you want to be able to empower your employees, harness your data and replace manual processes with technology, PowerApps could be the perfect solution. With PowerApps, you are able to get the most from your data and use it to drive customer service improvements both externally and internally. With the right tools and technology at your employees fingertips, they will be better placed to go the extra mile and wow your customers. 

To summarise, here are the challenges, the solution and the results that Virgin Atlantic experienced:

  • Challenges – Virgin Atlantic wanted to be able to empower its mobile workforce with technology. While it armed them with tablets, the company didn’t have the mobile development experience or budget to deliver the apps that would make a difference.

  • Solution – the company already used Microsoft Office 365, which led to the discovery of PowerApps. The platform meant that its employees could create solutions to the department’s problems themselves without the need for development experience. 

  • Results – since Virgin Atlantic started using PowerApps, it has built a growing portfolio of production apps against multiple backend systems such as SharePoint and Common Data Service. Development has been a combination of IT-led and citizen developer-led solutions, with the governance needed to manage security and provide support. By using PowerApps, the company has been able to replace manual processes, improve data visibility, increase customer satisfaction and boost employee engagement. 

https://powerapps.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/virgin-atlantic-drives-agile-wins-for-mobile-workforce-with-the-power-platform/

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About the author

Drew Alexander is the Co-CEO of Xam Consulting.

Design-led problem solving delivering digital solutions.

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