A Recipe for Airline Success Using Technology to Capture Essential Gains in Airline Productivity

A Recipe for Airline Success Using Technology to Capture Essential Gains in Airline Productivity
Perspective   Stefan Stroh
              Michael Kaib
              Volkmar Koch
              Daniel Röska

A Recipe for
Airline Success
Using Technology to
Capture Essential Gains
in Airline Productivity
Contact Information

Beijing                      Mumbai
Jeffrey MacCorkle            Suvojoy Sengupta
Partner                      Partner
+86-10-6563-8300             +91-22-2287-2001
jeffrey.maccorkle@booz.com   suvojoy.sengupta@booz.com

Beirut                       Munich
Fadi Majdalani               Richard Hauser
Partner                      Partner
+961-1-336433                +49-89-54525-538
fadi.majdalani@booz.com      richard.hauser@booz.com

Chicago                      Dieter Schneiderbauer
Andrew Tipping               Partner
Partner                      +49-89-54525-660
+1-312-578-4633              dieter.schneiderbauer@booz.com
                             San Francisco
Düsseldorf                   Dan Lewis
Dr. Jürgen Ringbeck          Senior Partner
Senior Partner               +1-415-627-4230
+49-211-3890-164             dan.lewis@booz.com
Frankfurt                    Chris Manning
Stefan Stroh                 Partner
Partner                      +61-2-9321-1924
+49-69-97167-423             chris.manning@booz.com
Hong Kong                    Shigeo Kizaki
Edward Tse                   Partner
Senior Partner               +81-3-3436-8647
+852-3650-6100               shigeo.kizaki@booz.com

Adrian Foster

                                                              Booz & Company
EXECUTIVE        Over the past 30 years, profitability in the airline industry
                 has rarely exceeded the average cost of capital employed
                 despite steady increases in passenger traffic and destinations.
                 In the coming years, it is likely that airline profits will be
                 throttled further by the global economic downturn, high fuel
                 costs, and the prospect of ever more stringent environmental

                 In order to survive and prosper in these conditions, airlines
                 must rationalize their processes and increase asset utiliza-
                 tion to a greater degree than ever before. This will require
                 business-driven IT transformation—that is, the fundamental
                 redesign and integration of business systems and processes
                 within and across airline functions.

                 Accomplishing this task will not be easy. Airlines will have to
                 carefully manage the internal demand for IT services, imple-
                 ment project delivery methodologies that focus on business
                 process design and change management, and adopt a sourcing
                 strategy that enables them to match suppliers to project goals
                 on the basis of the capabilities and degree of collaboration
                 required. Those that do will be able to significantly raise their
                 business performance and earn improved returns on their IT

Booz & Company                                                                     1
Airlines’                                  have deployed to radically streamline
                                           and integrate their processes. Instead,
                                                                                                              The price will get higher yet as the
                                                                                                              coming wave of airline mergers
Complexity                                 airlines have mostly custom-built                                  exacerbates the costs of inefficient
Challenge                                  their applications to conform to their
                                           processes and have not changed this
                                                                                                              processes and legacy systems. As
                                                                                                              airlines seek the cost savings and other
                                           approach with new applications (see                                synergies that these mergers promise,
                                           Exhibit 1).                                                        their CIOs and IT organizations will
                                                                                                              need to integrate disparate legacy IT
                                           The typical airline pays a steep price                             systems. This is a costly and high-risk
Typically, airlines feature highly         for maintaining its process complexity                             undertaking, which explains why
complex business processes, supported      and IT legacy systems. For example,                                many merged airlines are still saddled
by specialized IT systems that reside      an airline that has not renovated                                  with a portfolio of business models
in functional silos and lack cross-        its processes and systems for flight                               and IT systems operating in paral-
functional integration. In fact, more      planning and dispatching requires                                  lel, while the synergies they targeted
than 60 percent of airlines’ software is   up to five times as much staff time                                remain only partially realized.
custom-built, versus less than 40 per-     to dispatch its fleet as an airline that
cent in other industries. By and large,    has redesigned and automated these
airlines have not adopted the ERP          processes using state-of-the-art IT
systems that other industries, such as     systems.
automotive and consumer products,

                                           Exhibit 1
                                           Airlines Can Capture Productivity Gains by Using IT to Standardize and Integrate

                                             Productivity                                            Process Innovation by IT


                                                                                                                       Automotive   Industry

                                              Low                                                                                                     Mode of
                                                            Semi-Manual                Information                Fully              Standardized     Production
                                                                                       Silos                      Automated          and Integrated

                                           Source: Booz & Company

 2                                                                                                                                          Booz & Company
                                        The                                       ily biased toward the current way
                                                                                  of doing things and don’t include
- Airlines can no longer afford the
  steep price they have been paying
                                        Opportunity:                              changes in processes and organization
  to maintain process complexity and    Business-Driven                           to improve business performance.
                                                                                  The effects of this approach include
  legacy IT systems.
                                        IT Transfor-                              inflated project costs (because new
- Business-driven IT transformation
  delivers outsized performance gains
                                        mation                                    systems must be reprogrammed to
                                                                                  fit existing processes), poorly defined
  because it redesigns and integrates                                             system integration requirements,
  processes and systems.                                                          and a notable lack of enthusiasm for
- Demand management, process-                                                     project ownership among business
  oriented and change-focused                                                     managers. The result is poor imple-
  project management, and savvy         Simply cutting IT costs will not save     mentations and project failures.
  sourcing practices are the three      an airline. Instead, airlines need to     It is not until airlines use new technol-
  key ingredients of successful         consider how to use IT to improve         ogy to dramatically restructure their
  transformation.                       their business performance. A simple      current processes and streamline the
                                        example illustrates why this is so:       complexity of their overall systems,
                                        Using IT systems to improve flight        as well as complete their integration
                                        planning and scheduling can achieve a     effort, that system transformations
                                        2 percent reduction in fuel consump-      can significantly improve business
                                        tion—which has the same bottom-line       performance and contribute more to
                                        impact as a 20 percent reduction in       the airline’s bottom line than pure IT
                                        IT spending. Further, the net present     cost reduction. But business-driven
                                        value of the reduction in fuel con-       technology transformation programs
                                        sumption is much higher because the       require a diligent planning and mobi-
                                        reduction requires far less effort to     lization phase, in which the business
                                        implement than does the 20 percent        makes the most of IT’s ability to
                                        cut in IT costs.                          improve and simplify its operating
                                                                                  model. Such programs also require
                                        A focus on business performance           critical skills that are often missing in
                                        should be a given in IT initiatives—      IT departments, including the capac-
                                        but it is not. Many airlines are          ity to engage in an effective dialogue
                                        currently pursuing major systems-         with the business to ensure a focus on
                                        replacement initiatives. Too often,       business improvement. These discus-
                                        however, the business cases for these     sions should focus on the priorities
                                        initiatives rely heavily on IT cost       and options available, project-delivery
                                        reductions and ignore opportuni-          capabilities, and mechanisms for
                                        ties to create tangible business value.   demand management (e.g., prioriti-
                                        Further, the functional specifica-        zation processes, rewards for joint
                                        tions for the new systems are heav-       business/IT success).

Booz & Company                                                                                                            3
Significant                                            Pricing and Revenue Management:
                                                       In quest of fast revenue gains, many
                                                                                                                for planning, execution, and deci-
                                                                                                                sion making. This leads to inefficien-
Productivity                                           airlines have implemented pricing and                    cies caused by numerous handoffs
Gains through                                          revenue management (RM) systems
                                                       that are either managed poorly or not
                                                                                                                and poorly integrated aircraft, crew,
                                                                                                                slot, and MRO scheduling. Today,
Better IT                                              supported by properly tailored busi-                     advanced planning tools and inte-
                                                       ness processes and data. The result is                   grated processes can be used to
                                                       inaccurate forecasting and incorrect                     combine network planning, flight and
                                                       decision parameters. In extreme cases,                   crew scheduling, operations control,
                                                       such RM systems can actually reduce                      and flight dispatch. The resulting
                                                       margins and seat load factors.                           improvements in asset utilization,
The reward for airlines that can                       Conversely, the successful introduc-                     fuel consumption, and overall process
muster the will and skill needed to                    tion or improvement of a revenue                         cost, as well as the faster, smoother
successfully undertake business-driven                 management system can generate                           reactions to service disruptions, yield
IT restructurings is a substantial                     additional revenues of 2 to 4 percent.                   significant operating cost reductions.
reduction in operating cost, as well                   To capture these gains, airlines must
as enhanced asset utilization in fleet,                first develop their RM capabilities and                  Flight Planning:
crew, and slots. There are also revenue                align their RM processes and tools.                      Modern flight planning and dispatch
gains to be found along the entire                     Only then can they evaluate and get                      systems can help airlines capture fuel
value chain of an airline, includ-                     full value from more sophisticated                       savings of as much as 2 percent of
ing pricing, sales, and distribution;                  optimization models (e.g., O&D,                          total fuel costs and improve staff pro-
planning, scheduling, and operations;                  O&D/PNR, Hybrid) and more com-                           ductivity. These sophisticated systems
passenger services; maintenance; and                   plex steering methods (e.g., intraday                    allow the automatic recalculation
the back office (see Exhibit 2).                       price steering vectors), which enable                    of the optimal route and fuel intake
                                                       more granular approaches to revenue                      for individual flights prior to their
Initiatives in certain areas of the value              management.                                              departure. A number of airlines have
chain, however, offer more potential                                                                            already introduced the tools featured
than others. These include pricing                     Network Planning, Scheduling, and                        in these systems to improve their
and revenue management; network                        Operations Control:                                      flight planning and create a platform
planning, scheduling, and operations                   Typically, airlines manage these                         that can support interactive paperless
control; flight planning; and passenger                functions separately, using different                    flight plans. But again, leveraging the
services.                                              processes, databases, and IT systems                     benefits of new flight planning and

Exhibit 2
Key Improvement Areas and Potential Areas for Advanced IT Solutions

                   Planning, Pricing,            Planning and                  Passenger                   Maintenance                   Back Office
                   and Distribution              Scheduling, Ops               Services

Potential       - Better demand                - Advanced flight planning    - Automated proactive       - Align maintenance           - Automation and
Improvement       forecasting                  - Integrated planning           disruption handling         forecasting with              replacement of legacy
Areas           - Optimal revenue                processes (fleet, crew,     - Customer-centric view       scheduling and ops            systems by standard
                  management                     MRO)                        - Advanced CRM and          - Reduce rotational             solutions
                - Integrated fares             - Automated schedule            loyalty                     inefficiency through        - Advanced revenue
                  management                     recovery                    - Integrated e-ticketing      integrated maintenance        accounting (e.g., first
                - Multi-channel distribution   - Real-time synchronization                                 scheduling                    and final billing)
                                                                             - Easy interlining and
                - Dynamic pricing/product        with partners                 codesharing               - Real-time optimization in   - Tracking/monitoring of
                  unbundling                   - Route/fuel optimization                                   reacting to daily ops         CO2 emissions
                                                                             - Advanced revenue
                - Dynamic packaging/non-       - Electronic flight bags        integrity functions
                  air products                                                 (revalidation, reissue,
                - Key account                                                  refund)


                   More revenues and             Improved utilization          Process efficiency and      Better integration,           Cost reduction based
                   up-sell                       of fleet and staff            increased customer          forecasting, and MRO          on automation and
                                                                               satisfaction                planning                      standardization

Source: Booz & Company

 4                                                                                                                                              Booz & Company
dispatch systems requires more than
the technology. It requires a wealth of
near-real-time information, including
aeronautical data, aircraft perfor-
mance data, and current weather
reports, as well as changes in the
behaviors of users, particularly pilots.

Passenger Services:
Most airlines are still working with
reservations, inventory, and departure
control systems that were designed
during the 1960s and ’70s. In addition
to incurring operational costs that are
rising as much as 10 percent per year,
these outdated legacy systems do not
meet their airlines’ present-day needs
or their future aspirations.               Taking on the Scheduling Conundrum

Modern passenger service system            Network planning, scheduling, and operations control are the cornerstones of
(PSS) solutions provide true customer-     an airline’s on-time performance and major determinants of its cost efficiency.
centricity and enable increased            But airlines typically experience major problems in this area that stem from
business benefits, including cost          inefficiencies in schedule design and the difficulties of irregular operations (bad
reductions, thanks to leaner, zero-        weather, unplanned maintenance, aircraft-on-ground, etc.).
touch processes and automated              Schedule designs for critical processes such as rotation/slot planning,
disruption handling. They also             maintenance, and crew planning are often inherently flawed because long- and
protect and enhance revenue thanks         medium-term planning mechanisms are based on data that is too high-level
to improved revenue integrity, sales       or is inaccurate. This creates the need to replan operations in the short term,
channel integration, and inventory         typically three days before departure. (At some airlines, more than 70 percent of
functionality.                             operations require short-term replanning.)

An increasing number of airlines—          These unaligned short-term plans make operations control extremely difficult,
large and small—are starting to            especially when the daily challenge of schedule disruptions is added to the mix.
replace their old PSS solutions with       During disruptions, operations control staff must pull together information from
newer software. And some alliance          multiple sources and systems and make fast decisions in order to deliver on the
carriers are jointly implementing such     airline’s promise of service quality and punctuality. Each of these decisions has
systems to capture the additional          a direct impact on the airline’s efficiency, effectiveness, and resilience, as well as
benefits inherent in the provision of      the overall performance and profits of the airline and its network.
seamless service across airlines.
                                           Modern IT systems, featuring decision support and other tools, allow airlines
                                           to integrate dispersed planning processes, ensuring that all departments work
The most important lesson gleaned
                                           from consistent planning data and automating operations control processes
from these recent PSS replacement ini-
                                           and decision making. These systems enable airlines to find the most efficient
tiatives is that IT-led programs often
                                           scheduling solutions, improve performance, and significantly lower process
fail. New passenger service systems
are not “technology replacements”
as much as “technological revolu-          Capturing these benefits requires more than a new IT system—it also requires
tions.” They require a shift from a        radical process change and strong change management. And it demands the
transaction-based design built on pas-     involvement, experience, and support of staff in all business functions from
senger name records (a “PNR-centric”       long-term planning to flight-event control. When all of these conditions are met,
design) to a more flexible, customer-      then integrated, centralized planning data can be combined with decentralized
centered design. Such a shift requires     decision making to solve scheduling problems in ways that provide optimal
a great deal of insight into the core of   benefits locally and to the business as a whole.
an airline’s everyday business. Thus,
PSS replacement programs need to be
jointly managed by IT and business

Booz & Company                                                                                                                   5
Three                                                   Because state-of-the-art software plays           the most important link between an
Ingredients of                                          a critical role in airline productiv-             airline’s business managers and their
                                                        ity improvement, unlocking its full               IT department. It is a two-way link:
Business-Driven                                         value requires expert IT departments              Airline business managers must under-
IT Transfor-                                            capable of collaborating with busi-               stand that they have to play a strong
                                                        ness managers to shape technologi-                role in ensuring that the future IT
mation                                                  cal transformations. To successfully              application’s landscape and processes
                                                        implement business-driven IT trans-               are suitable for their business needs,
                                                        formation, three elements are needed:             just as they take care of, for example,
                                                        effective demand management, a new                selecting aircraft types; at the same
                                                        project delivery approach and skill set,          time, IT needs to develop a stronger
                                                        and advanced supplier management                  business understanding and become
                                                        (see Exhibit 3).                                  a partner in both process innovation
                                                                                                          and standardization.
                                                        Building a Strong Demand
                                                        Management Capability:                            It is essential that demand manage-
                                                        Demand management, as the central                 ment be properly regulated. When it
                                                        process for managing internal demand              is unregulated, IT projects are funded
                                                        for IT services and capabilities, is              whether or not they have a clearly

Exhibit 3
Improvement Levers of Business-Driven Transformation

                FROM IT-DRIVEN TRANSFORMATION                                     TO BUSINESS-DRIVEN TRANSFORMATION

Demand          - IT reacting to short- and medium-term business needs            - Long-term IT architecture vision closely aligned with business
Management      - Project pipeline driven by availability of budget                 goals
                  and affordability                                               - Business and IT collaboration at project screening, prioritization,
                - Frequent escalations regarding resource allocation                and delivery
                  and service quality                                             - Transparency in projects, service levels, cost, and resource

                - Custom development of software against business                 - Retooling toward a package implementation approach (leverage best
                  requirements                                                      practices embedded in COTS software)
                - Focus on functional specification and programming of specific   - Focus on process redesign, systems integration, and change
                  business requirements as add-ons to existing systems              management capabilties
                - Development within functional silos                             - Use of IT to break down silos and implement cross-functional

Strategic       - In-house resources dominated by technical skills,               - Strategic sourcing capability being built
Sourcing          often with outdated skill set                                   - Ensuring strong internal core, but leveraging external supplier
                - Selective sourcing, trying to cut best deals driven by            market to gain access to critical skills
                  procurement (or directly by the business departments)           - Use of incentive-based, performance-driven model to capture
                                                                                    ongoing value, recognizing that external suppliers need to be
                                                                                    strategic partners

Source: Booz & Company

 6                                                                                                                                           Booz & Company
defined business case and scope—            ments is fed into a software develop-      were based mainly on its current
with the result that priorities are         ment engine, which must deliver the        processes, rather than taking a fresh
scrambled, high-potential projects          software exactly to specification. This    new look and considering a change
are delayed, and IT is perceived as         approach is not only costly and geared     in its processes in order to take full
slow and misaligned. When demand            toward serving existing processes; it is   advantage of the new software. The
is poorly regulated, multiple gover-        also inadequate in light of the growing    outcome was a huge budget overrun
nance forums and steering commit-           number of commercial off-the-shelf         caused by the reprogramming needed
tees impede IT decision making, and         (COTS) solutions for nearly all airline    to make the software conform to exis-
the function is perceived as overly         processes.                                 ting processes and less-than-optimal
bureaucratic.                                                                          results from the new system.
                                            Mature COTS systems come with
A strong demand management capa-            efficient standard processes that          Implementing this new project deliv-
bility is supported by four pillars:        largely eliminate the need to build        ery approach requires a different skill
(1) a long-term, business-driven IT         core systems from scratch. In non-         mix in both the IT and the business
application architecture vision; (2)        differentiating processes—those used       departments. The focus must be much
alignment processes that allow the          by almost all non-customer-facing          more on business process redesign and
business and IT functions to effec-         functions in airlines—these standard-      change management than on func-
tively collaborate during project           ized processes are more efficient          tional specification and programming.
screening, prioritization, and delivery;    and cost-effective than customized         Also, the selection of the preferred
(3) performance measures that create        processes. Airlines need to retool         systems provider becomes a strategic
transparency in projects, service levels,   their project delivery methodologies       decision requiring careful elabora-
costs, and resource consumption; and        toward a package implementation            tion, because the choice of the product
(4) the ability to effectively make dif-    approach that takes full advantage of      defines, to a large degree, the viability
ficult trade-offs.                          these systems. Rather than defining        of the future processes of the airline.
                                            detailed business requirements from
Deploying a New Project Delivery            scratch and expecting the IT system to     Leveraging the External Supplier
Approach and Skill Set:                     deliver them one-to-one, project teams     Market through Strategic Sourcing:
At the core of any systems renewal          should focus on the management of          There are three reasons that strategic
project, the project delivery meth-         the required change and, whenever          sourcing capabilities have become so
odology plays a critical but often          feasible, adapt legacy business pro-       important in airline IT. First, because
unheralded role. In airlines, this meth-    cesses to standard processes embedded      the choice of a software system defines
odology too often focuses on func-          in COTS solutions.                         the viability of the future processes
tional specifications and programming                                                  of the airline to such a large degree,
instead of business process redesign        Not following this approach can have       the selection of the system’s pro-
and change management.                      dire consequences, as one large carrier    vider becomes a strategic decision
                                            discovered after it selected a standard    that requires careful consideration.
Many airlines use a custom software         package system to replace the old          Second, airline IT departments have
development approach to implement           legacy systems in the areas of opera-      lost many critically skilled employees
and renovate their IT infrastructures.      tions management. The airline insisted     in the turbulence and cost cutting that
In this approach, a long list of detailed   that the software provider comply          have occurred since 9/11. As a result,
and carrier-specific business require-      with a long list of requirements that      airlines need to leverage external

Booz & Company                                                                                                                7
                                                                                       and Profit-
                                                                                       ability for
                                                                                       Airline Success

                                                                                       The airline industry was one of the
                                                                                       first to adopt and benefit from the
                                                                                       promise of IT, and IT remains a criti-
                                                                                       cal business enabler for optimizing
                                                                                       airline productivity and profitability.
                                                                                       Achieving this optimization requires
sources to gain access to critical skills   term view in mind. Effective depart-       business-driven IT transformation,
at competitive rates. Third, by gaining     ments recognize that external service      which depends on a combination
access to vendor expertise, IT depart-      providers need to be strategic part-       of process redesign and technology.
ments can concentrate their focus           ners, not just body shops, and use an      Although business-driven IT trans-
on the core competencies of demand          incentive-based, performance-driven        formations are not easy to achieve, a
management and project delivery and         model to capture ongoing value.            clear focus on the fundamentals—a
better drive improvements in quality                                                   close dialogue between business and
and efficiency.                             These IT organizations are adroit          IT, the leveraging of standard solu-
                                            when it comes to changes in the            tions for non-differentiating processes,
One size does not fit all in sourcing       overall business environment. They         an understanding of the capabilities
strategies. The right strategy mixes        can effectively dial down (by plugging     required, and savvy supply man-
strong internal talent with the capa-       in a vendor for low-cost commod-           agement—will greatly increase the
bilities of providers. And although the     ity services, for example), dial up        chances for airline success.
strategic sourcing of IT services is a      (by partnering opportunistically for
proven cost-reduction and capability-       access to innovation or global talent),
building play, understanding which          or just say “no” when prudent. This
service providers to use and for what,      finesse provides tremendous flexibility,
where to drive for value, and how to        but also requires strong capabilities
manage the relationship is a necessity      in demand management and vendor
if the play is going to pay. IT organi-     governance in order to both oversee
zations have a tendency to miss these       the pipeline of work and match it to
nuances. They outsource in order to         the appropriate supply resources.
cut costs quickly, but struggle to find
value beyond the initial deal. Worse,       Building a strategic sourcing capabil-
if they find themselves locked into         ity requires a different type of vendor
an inflexible sourcing contract, they       manager. Such a manager realizes the
can lose the agility needed to react to     strategic nature of selection decisions
changing business requirements and          and the importance of collaboration
economic conditions.                        with business managers. The vendor
                                            manager also must understand how
Airline IT departments seeking to           to utilize service providers to attain
improve their application portfolios,       the right balance of cost and capabil-
build new business capabilities, and        ity, and how to see the big picture in
reduce costs need to structure their        order to leverage innovation when
sourcing relationships with the long-       and where it counts.

8                                                                                                             Booz & Company
About the Authors

Stefan Stroh is a partner in        Daniel Röska is a senior
Booz & Company’s Frankfurt          associate in Booz & Company’s
office. He leads the global         Frankfurt office. He specializes
transportation technology           in business strategies
practice and works for leading      and strategy implementation
players in the international        programs, including process
railway, mass transit, aviation,    and IT programs, for global
travel, and logistics sector.       aviation, tourism, and transpor-
(stefan.stroh@booz.com)             tation organizations.
Dr. Michael Kaib is a principal
in Booz & Company’s Frankfurt
office. He is part of the global
transportation technology
practice and has led major
assignments for international
airlines, railways, and logistics
clients. He also leads Booz
& Company’s ERP Center of

Volkmar Koch is a principal in
Booz & Company’s Frankfurt
office. He consults with play-
ers in the transport/aviation
sector—primarily tour opera-
tors, airlines, and GDSs in the
European region. His recent
projects have been in strategy-
based/IT-enabled transforma-
tion, improving operational
efficiency, IT strategy, control-
ling, and PMI.

Booz & Company                                                         9
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