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Microsoft 365

Air Canada employees use the cloud to learn, share, develop ideas and collaborate

Today’s post about Office 365 was written by Lise Fournel, senior vice president and chief information officer for Air Canada. 

Air Canada Pro PIxAir Canada has been voted Best Carrier in North America for five straight years in the Skytrax World Airline Awards, and we’re now focused on aggressive international expansion with our new 787 aircraft. The smart use of technology will be instrumental in achieving our goals.

We have spent billions of dollars modernizing our fleet, upgrading airport lounges and enhancing the customer experience. This includes offering the latest digital services for customers, such as mobile travel apps, online reservations and check-in, and flight status verification.

We also needed to give our 27,000 employees the latest technology tools if we wanted to create a new culture of employee collaboration.

Many of our employees, including pilots, flight attendants and ground crew, don’t sit at desks in front of PCs but work throughout the world on a 24/7 basis, so we needed non-traditional ways to deliver IT services. We decided to go to the cloud—specifically Microsoft Office 365—because it provides an accessible and scalable collaborative platform across multiple device platforms. By using Office 365, our employees stay connected to the company and to one another all of the time.

We use Office 365 to support our employee portal called ACaeronet, which presents information to employees customized to their job roles; for example, pilots see different information than mechanics or flight attendants. It gives them access to the powerful search capability of SharePoint Online (part of Office 365), which enables them to quickly find the information they need.

ACaeronet is a key source of information for Air Canada employees. It provides access to more than 100 tools, applications and data repositories that our folks access with simple search commands. It includes access to online reference guides that contain vital operational information related to Air Canada’s products, policies, and procedures so employees can readily find up-to-date answers for themselves and to assist customers. It simplifies administrative functions, such as filling out timesheets or obtaining forms, and it also contains a comprehensive directory and organizational charts to make it easy to locate colleagues for needed assistance. Moreover, it serves as a channel to the latest company news and employee publications.

ACaeronet also gives our teams access to Yammer, the social networking service available with Office 365. Our flight attendants, maintenance crews, pilots and other mobile employees jump on Yammer from ACaeronet using their smartphones to make comments, ask questions, share ideas and problem-solve.

For example, cabin crew members post notes to colleagues with tips to expedite boarding or handle unusual situations. Many use it to offer kudos to fellow employees or share their excitement about new aircraft. They even post pictures. And because our employees are a community of like-minded travelers, they also share travel tips, hotel recommendations and even restaurant suggestions for cities all over the world.

Yammer has turned into a great forum for management and employee dialog. Keeping these lines of communication open is critical, because our workforce is dispersed around the world. Ours is also a complex business, and employees often need quick answers to questions about policies and procedures.

The Millennial Generation coming into our workforce is fluent in social and mobile communications tools. They use them in their personal lives, and they expect them at work. Our Cargo Team is experimenting with Office 365 conferencing and texting tools to determine which aircraft have cargo room. This helps us fly all our planes at greater capacity for maximum profitability.

With these versatile tools at their fingertips and available from smartphones, tablets or PCs, our employees can find the information they need, wherever they are, to solve problems and help ensure a smooth, efficient operation.

We’re also saving money by moving to the cloud. We get a steady stream of new capabilities for a reasonable monthly subscription with no expensive upgrades. As an example, the OneDrive for Business service in Office 365 has advanced tremendously in one year. Employees each get 1 terabyte of personal storage space in the cloud. It’s the same with email; our employees went from 50-megabyte mailboxes to 50-gigabyte mailboxes—1,000 times larger.

Our own IT staff would be hard-pressed to roll out these kinds of service improvements at the pace that Microsoft does. Relieved of maintaining and upgrading a massive communications infrastructure, IT now has more time to develop new services that help us compete even more effectively.

—Lise Fournel

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