As I was flying home on a Southwest Airlines flight following a long weekend in the San Francisco Bay Area, I found myself preoccupied with analyzing all of the little things that go into making Southwest a great company that stands apart from the rest of the U.S. airline industry. Although I live less than five minutes from Chicago O’Hare International Airport, I tend to go out of my way to fly Southwest from Chicago Midway despite the 45-minute drive to the south side of Chicago. Much of this stems from the fact that Southwest is consistently cheaper than the “major” domestic carriers, but for the most part I fly SWA because I know that I can expect a consistent and high quality traveling experience. From the call center operators to the gate agents to the flight attendants, when I engage with Southwest Airlines I know that I will receive high quality service just about every time; I haven’t been able to say the same about other airlines in…well…forever.
There are several reasons for Southwest’s success, from great corporate and functional management, to loyal and high quality employees, to continuous innovation, to operational effectiveness. It was the latter that created a very interesting connection to effective Information Technology / Information Systems management in my mind; specifically, the way Southwest has standardized on the Boeing 737 creates a strong analogy to IT/IS consolidation and complexity management.