British Airways Test Piloting Web 2.0 Technologies

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Some companies are downright conflicted about Web 2.0. While a character on one shoulder whispers that emerging technologies can boost efficiency and drive innovation, one on the other shoulder warns that untested applications can expose the company to all kinds of security ills.


Which is the angel, and which is the devil?


British Airways may be a bit closer to figuring it out than most companies. As silicon.com reports, the airline has established a special innovation unit, comprised of folks from both IT and business units, to lead small trials of new technology.


The unit led to the introduction of Google gadgets on the company Web site, which allow users to port airline information such as promotional offers or arrival/departure times over to their iGoogle homepages. Though the feature hasn't been widely publicized, it's downloaded about 120 times a day, says BA's CIO. With the unit's input, the company also decided to yank its costly self-service kiosks out of Germany's Dusseldorf Airport and replace them with PCs and printers.


A new open source-based portal will debut on the BA intranet in January. Employees are already dabbling with social networking features on the intranet which, if successful, may be added to BA's external site. Similarly, Google uses its intranet to test new services and features, as we noted in a blog a few days ago.


British Airways is no slouch when it comes to incorporating new technologies that prove useful. As IT Business Edge blogger Loraine Lawson wrote, BA is one of several airlines using service-oriented architecture to integrate some of its applications and data in real time, in an effort to improve performance and customer service.


BA also has a refreshing perspective on staffing, offering eight days of training a year for IT staffers in business-oriented skills like project management, reports ComputerWeekly.com. Its CIO has encouraged British universities to consider incorporating IT training in business courses, since it is becoming increasingly important for business folks to have a good understanding of technology.