A well-travelled CIO

Nadia Cameron

The plans don't stop there. Hennekens has a vision to build a sort of 'customer nervous system', pulling together the rich information Qantas gathers on customers and their past journeys as well as loyalty data.

This hub will also include information from events, such as check-in or flight delays, along with the business rules around data usage.

"What this will become is the central intelligence behind all of our channels, whether it's mobile or kiosk, or devices our staff have and use," Hennekens says.

"The key thing is we ensure everything we know about the customer is coming together and can be used in the right format at the right time.

"That's a huge balancing act between the customer intimacy you need to provide the best experience for the individual and giving the impression you know more than you need to and being big brother."

Qantas is already building the intelligence to ascertain which information belongs to what customer.

"We do already have cloud-based customer databases that feed information to the iPads in the planes, for example, and pockets of innovation are going on everywhere," he says.

Its loyalty business leads the way in terms of data analytics capabilities and has even launched a business-to-business offering (Red Planet) providing data services.

"We are working with business leaders on what the opportunity looks like around customers and analytics," Hennekens says.

"It's a massive opportunity, but we're aiming to be specific -- what do we do first, second and third... and how do we make things quickly happen so we can start learning, adjusting as we build this?"

How to use data appropriately is one such focus. "In some cases, it's OK to work with data that has a probability factor attached to it; in other use cases, you have to be certain," he says.

"That's where IT has a big role -- we sit across all those use cases, but at the end of the day it all goes back that central point."

Having enacted so much change in his first year as CIO, Hennekens says his biggest asset has been the commitment of his team and executive peers to the task.

"The senior leaders in this business are incredibly supportive of IT and that wasn't always the case," he says. "It's been tough, especially when you have to let people go, but I'm pleased with how far we've come."

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