Here at Viasat, we have the opportunity to work with airline partners on the cutting edge of the aviation industry. Over the next few months, we will be catching up with inspiring leaders at many of our partner organizations and learning more about their approach to innovation in the aviation industry.
Founded in 1993, Qatar Airways is one of the world’s youngest global airlines, connecting more than 160 destinations worldwide from its hub, Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar. Pragya Alok is ensuring the growing airline operates efficiently at scale, through her recent work implementing the Aerodocs document management system and other enterprise software.
We caught up with Prayga to get her unique perspective on innovation in the aviation industry and what it takes for an airline to effectively meet evolving passenger expectations.
What is innovation to you?
Pragya: Having implemented multiple successful enterprise level applications across organizations, innovation for me is simple: It is being able to implement creative and efficient ideas that bring value to the organization.
What drives your passion for aviation? What made you join the industry?
Pragya: Coming from a defence background, and the fact that my father was in the Indian Air Force, my passion for aviation started at a very early age. Some of my early memories are driving with my dad to the runway and watching the MIG fighter jets soar into the sky, from the ATC, with speed, power, accuracy and elegance.
The more I looked closely, the more I understood about the vast, complex and exciting world of aviation, where many entities and machines work in harmony to have a single successful flight.
What are you most proud of personally?
Pragya: I have implemented multiple projects over the years in many sectors – banking, government, aviation, etc. It gives me immense pleasure every time the end user successfully reaps the benefits of a customized product implementation.
What does your airline do that makes you most proud?
Pragya: Five times Skytrax winner for the “Best Airline in the World” says it all. Skytrax 2019 also awarded Qatar Airways with “World’s Best Business Class,” “Best Business Class Seat” and “Best Airline in the Middle East.”
Qatar Airways has successfully renewed its IOSA certification with full conformance on nine occasions, since it first participated 16 years ago in 2003, and is the only airline to do so.
This is not possible without the dedication and hard work of Qatar Airways’ staff. With constant motivation and guidance from our GCEO, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, we have a creative and dynamic work environment that paves the way for everyone to do their best.
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned through driving innovation?
Pragya: To spend sufficient time on communication and sharing of knowledge. Ask, respect and accept feedback graciously. Having good communication allows us to better manage relationships and conflicts, apply persuasive negotiation, understand and solve problems, develop and nurture talent and, of course, have long-term healthy relationships.
The AeroDocs CDMS project implementation in Qatar Airways has taught many of us this valuable lesson – the power of good communication. More than 11 departments worked together along with Viasat (then Arconics), on a shared vision, to successfully roll out and generate value from the Aerodocs product. Today, we have around 30 departments successfully using the application.
What is the greatest shift in aviation that you have seen throughout your career?
Pragya: The aviation industry has seen a significant progression in terms of automation, and in the upcoming years, it is only going to increase further. Starting from autopilots to auto-throttle, auto anti-skid braking systems, automated warning systems, check-in kiosks, security scanners, FMS are some of the popular automations that we have seen over the years.
Qatar Airways has always been a frontrunner in aviation automation, as it not only helps in enhancing the safety and security of the aircraft, but also increases efficiency.
What was the most difficult aspect with that change?
Pragya: With automation comes an extensive amount of maintenance, training and change management.
If not maintained properly, the automated processes may get stuck, and work will pile up that may lead to customer complaints or disasters. If not trained properly, the staff may not know how to use the automated system that may lead to critical consequences. Resistance to learning new technology is also observed from long-term users of manual systems and requires the organization to have an extremely effective change management process in place.
How do you see the aviation industry evolving in the coming years?
Pragya: With the increasing demand for air travel worldwide, the aviation industry has to continuously focus on meeting customer demands with advanced technology while adhering to increasing safety, security and environmental regulations. The aviation industry can expect record-breaking growth in the years to come.
How does your role as innovator support where aviation is going?
Pragya: Considering my current role, I would highly recommend all airlines to consider an electronic documentation management system, as it has been greatly appreciated by all authors, reviewers, approvers and viewers across our organization. If implemented well, the organization not only saves time and money involved in extensive manual paper documentation, but can also accurately and securely distribute company documentation both internally and externally. The greatest benefit is observed when users have access to the latest published information online with no outdated information on hard copies being circulated.
Airlines are being forced constantly to make smarter and economically stronger decisions, in your role what decisions have you made that have supported this core goal?
Pragya: Internationally it has been acknowledged that there is a constant need to follow a worldwide standard in order to address the flaws in the documentation system. Qatar Airways strictly believes in complying with the regulations and conforming to industry standards and best practices. Thus, being the core, document management system, has become a priority to be implemented as a project.
I would like to proudly associate myself as being part of the decision-making team of Aerodocs corporate documentation management system to be rolled out in Qatar Airways.
Not only has this allowed us to have an automated and controlled documentation system with multiple cost and time benefits, but has also allowed us the consistency of document information across organizations as per the regulatory standards. With Aerodocs CDMS, we have been through two IOSA renewals now, and the system has been appreciated by auditors of both organizations that conducted the audits.
We still have some way to go until we call it a complete success, which hopefully, along with Viasat, we shall achieve in the near future.
What does it take for innovation to be successful?
Pragya: Thousands of innovative ideas get lost as they are never shared or discussed, lack focus and patience, and do not receive sufficient funding. Therefore, what is key for any innovation to be incubated and taken forward is to have compatible people on the team who are open to feedback and discussions, and who will be able to take ownership and make timely decisions keeping the big picture in mind. And of course, we need to be ready to accept failures, but learn from them.
Also, as they say, “change is the only constant.” We need to be prepared and open-minded in this ever-evolving world, and embrace these changes as we come up with new ideas and processes for the overall success and progress of our organisation.
What advice would you give to someone seeking your role?
Pragya: There is no substitute to knowledge, hard work, self-confidence and being a good human being. Be respectful and ethical, give credit to others when deserved, be proud of who you are and be a lifelong learner.
Isabella Lenhoff is a senior marketing specialist with the Viasat commercial aviation team.