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Business-Technologist Visions: Continental Pulls Ahead

CIOS need to develop relationships with vendors that understand leading-edge technology, says Continental's Janet Wejman.

![[4"DG? like exercise--the more you do, the more you like it. The amount of change in the airline industry over the past year and a half has been a marathon run. Some of our airline competitors have fallen out of the race; some have dropped far back in the field. Those that are still at the front of the pack have learned to adapt to major shifts in their environment.

The changes the industry has seen in the past 18 months include a 21% decrease in ticket revenue, a significantly more complicated process of passenger boarding, unpredictable travel volume, and a greater need to manage and dramatically reduce cost structure. Airlines need to adapt to these changes or perish as an industry.

As CIO of Continental Airlines, I'm fortunate that I have a head start. Gordon Bethune, Continental's chairman and CEO, has developed a method for focusing the company on a set of clear priorities. It's called the "Go Forward Plan." In clear and concise language, our financial, operational, competitive, and employee-relationship goals are defined for the next year.

When developing for a worldwide airline, no hardware or software implementation is small or inexpensive. Selecting a technology or vendor that's quickly replaced by a better solution means committing the airline to inferior technology and limited vendor support. Selecting the right systems to get information to the right person at the right time can affect the overall competitive advantage of an airline. The CIO must not only be able to predict technologies, such as wireless and data warehousing, that will survive and become mainstream, but also develop relationships with vendors that understand leading-edge technology and how to implement and enable growth.

In addition to providing safe and reliable transportation, Continental Airlines will focus on providing individualized customer service in 2003. We'll enhance the ability for our customers to obtain information and communicate with us through the use of our Web site, We'll continue to provide access to the full feature set of our Internet services for our customers through a variety of wireless devices. No matter where our customers encounter our self-service devices, they'll find a richer and easier-to-understand set of tools and options to support their travel needs.

Janet Wejman is senior VP and CIO of Continental Airlines Inc. and a licensed airplane pilot.

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Columns By Other Business Technology Leaders

Andrea Anania, executive VP and CIO at Cigna Corp. Dave Bent, CIO and VP at Acterna LLC
Scott Dinsdale, executive VP of Digital Strategy at the Motion Picture Association David Guzmán, senior VP and CIO of Owens & Minor
John Halamka, senior VP of I.S. at CareGroup Healthcare System Randy Mott, senior VP and CIO at Dell Computer
Ralph Syzgenda, group VP and CIO at General Motors Pedro Villalba, senior VP of I.T. and chief technology officer at HIP Health Plan of New York
Janet Wejman, senior VP and CIO of Continental Airlines

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