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JetBlue CIO drives innovation through IT’s ‘toolkit’

Brian Watson | Dec. 13, 2016
Eash Sundaram has built on JetBlue’s technology-driven legacy by pioneering new ideas from all fronts, including a new venture-capital arm.

That evolution comes as Sundaram and his organization are exploring the next group of potential technology game-changers for JetBlue.

One is the near-field communications (NFC). Sundaram expects NFC can help eliminate the often laborious check-in process, essentially allowing a kiosk to identify a customer and profile the minute he or she walks up to it. Eventually, JetBlue believes NFC will power a permanent boarding pass and bag tags, along with the ability to pay via NFC-enabled devices, ultimately replacing manual touch points like kiosks and check-in desks.

There’s plenty more. Staying with the customer-first theme, Sundaram and his team are implementing more artificial intelligence and machine learning into the company’s customer-service processes.

Another key priority for Sundaram’s IT organization is delivering capabilities to employees (which JetBlue calls “crewmembers”). Airport-based teams use iPads to access weather and flight information. In-flight, staff carry the same devices, which provide specific details on passengers to help serve them in a personal manner. JetBlue was also the first airline to roll out on-board purchases using Apple Pay.

And, as Sundaram told CIO.com’s Martha Heller last year, he has even teamed developers with pilots to build apps.

Much of what Sundaram has accomplished — and hopes to accomplish in the future — goes back to two of his driving leadership themes: IT is a toolkit, and titles are best left at home. “As a CIO, you need to be open to engaging with the entire workforce in advancing those innovations that are available to you,” Sundaram says. “How you get there is how much you interact with people inside and outside the organization.”

 

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