Schiphol Airport Empowers Workforce with Native Mobile Applications

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is one of the busiest airports in Europe. Without the effects of COVID-19 on Schiphol, more than 71 million passengers and 104 airlines flew to over 300 destinations in 2019.

One of the lifelines of Schiphol’s daily operations is its floormanagers. Floormanagers help manage customer flow, maintenance and daily issues at the airport. A day in the life of a floormanager can go from administering CPR to guiding passengers and everything in between. Floormanagers need the best tools to match the high level of service they provide and to ensure the best customer experience.

Lennart Spaans, Mendix developer at Ordina (a Mendix partner) joined Mendix World 2021 to demonstrate how a Mendix Native Mobile app gave floormanagers at Schiphol a new tool designed to make their work more efficient and more enjoyable.

Empowered people, operational excellence

When the team at Schiphol approached Ordina about new technology solutions, a project known as Schiphol Today, the mandates were clear.

The ideal outcome was less of a business-focused native mobile app, and more of one that would feel like a consumer app tailored for the needs of Schiphol and its’ employees.

With those ideas in mind, Ordina settled on three pillars which would drive development. First, according to Spaans, was a “very user-centric approach , asking them for input all the time and really diving into their business processes.” Next was value and efficiency. What features could be built and how would that impact timeline and useability? The third pillar was UX, making the experience as pleasant as possible while still keeping agility and a maintainable code base.

These pillars were represented in each sprint by, respectively, the product owner, the developer, and the UX designer. “You might think these are three separate islands,” Spaans said, but “there is a lot of overlap and this overlap is very important.” He continued, “The interaction between UX and development is very important because decisions should be made based on all information that’s available to the team.”

Defining and adding value

No matter what the team did, they were always pushing towards adding value, which they defined in two ways. First was calculating desired functionality against resources and code cost. Or to look at it in business terms, the assets of the functionality versus the liability of cost.

Because speed and agility were key concerns, the scope of the app needed to be kept extremely focused. As with any development, the team fought scope creep. Continually adding in features means “you’re setting yourself and your app up for failure because you’re going to lose your agility,” Spaans warned. “You’re going to get bogged down in maintenance. You’re not going to be able to reach the same development speed.”

“Another way in which we add value is by improving business processes, making them more efficient,” said Spaans. The team centered on incident reporting, working with Schiphol’s floormanagers to document and time every step of the process. Some of these steps included logging the incident and filing on paper, reporting on the phone, entering into two computer systems, and then passing the information on to the next shift of floormanagers.The new Mendix-built app ‘Schiphol Today’ allows for floor managers to handle all those processes from a mobile device in about 90 seconds. They can add pictures, exact locations, and contact details.

More data, greater job satisfaction

For Schiphol, the new app carries several huge benefits. First, it’s simply much more efficient. Because floormanagers can log incidents from any device, they no longer need to go to different offices or wait on the phone for support. This also keeps managers on the floor and available for other duties. Additionally, all data being captured by the app is analyzed for further improvements.

Because the app has a relatively small code base, Schiphol is also able to be agile when big changes happen. When the first wave of COVID hit, Schiphol lost nearly 90% of their business virtually overnight and faced additional safety guidelines and unpredictable, frequent changes. The team at Ordina “were able to act on the change really quickly and change our app to support the new processes and all of that in one sprint,” Spaans reflected.

The new app also brought several positive changes for employees. Because they didn’t have to do redundant incident logging, they could focus more on delivering world-class service for passengers. “Less administration usually means more joy and acting on change,” said Spaans.

To further increase satisfaction, the team  worked with Schiphol’s floormanagers on a particular part of the UX. “We asked them to send in quotes,” Spaans described. “They can email it to us and we put it in the app. So whenever the app is loading, they see the stuff they say to each other to keep them motivated during the day.”

More efficient and data-driven

For the floormanagers at Schiphol Airport, what was once a repetitive and painstaking process involving paper, phones, and computers is now managed through an efficient and elegant mobile app. From both the business and employee side, the app has been a huge success and there are more low-code projects in the works to further improve Schiphol’s operations. “We have many more projects for Schiphol,” Spaans said. “We hope to provide all the people who work there with a more efficient and data-driven airport operations.”