Shawn Xuewu Wang
Head of Data Labs
China Eastern Airlines
Shawn leads Data Labs, the innovation accelerator and incubator for all of China Eastern Airlines’ business fields. He is currently building a data ecosystem that draws information from customer touchpoints with the help of machine learning, natural language processing and other digital technologies. He won International Data Corporation’s Leader of Information and Data Transformation in China award in 2018.
Years in the industry: 13
Favorite airport: SIN
Hobbies: Reading and visiting art exhibitions
The future of flight will be: Customized
What’s your grand plan for creating China Eastern Airlines’ data ecosystem?
Data Labs’ mission is “digital innovation for everyone,” and in my business model, big data is driven by actual scenarios. Based on this, we are building an innovation ecosystem to help digitalize aviation. But what we’re doing differently is taking ideas from frontline businesspeople as well as professionals in cross-cutting industries. Those ideas may start small, but by forming the right teams, they can be realized into MVPs [minimum viable products] and other projects.
What’s a challenge you’ve encountered in building this data ecosystem so far?
Establishing the data mindset for management and business departments is a great challenge. To overcome this, I’ve implemented initiatives such as creating data alliances across different teams, designing specific solutions that cater to them, establishing the data capability training system, building a big-data analyst community and holding events such as MUDATAx talks and MU Digital Innovation Games.
What are some of the other MU Data Labs projects that are underway?
We provide three major capabilities for each of China Eastern Airlines’ business fields: platform capabilities, which can provide users with storage, computing, data and community; analysis capabilities, which can provide tools for data analysis, exploration, discovery and mining; and solution capabilities, which can provide digital and data-based design and implementation.
You said at FTE APEX ASIA EXPO last year that the core issue around commercializing artificial intelligence is not the technology itself, but the business scenario. Can you elaborate on this thought?
With the advancement of science and technology, consumer behavior and the way companies operate have changed – business models have changed. Most of the time, companies do not know clearly the impact of AI and digital technology on their business, and have not yet integrated a strictly business mindset to a more data-based mindset. In the digital age, an expert who understands both AI and has digital skills and business knowledge is very important. They can fuse the two kinds of thinking and design suitable solutions. Furthermore, they can discover new business opportunities, develop new products or transform data assets into productivity and competitiveness.
What’s unique about how Chinese consumers engage with technology?
Due to the development of 4G and 5G on the ground in China, Chinese consumers are more easily connected, and many digital products that rely on high data transmission are realized. While improving the customer experience and operational intelligence, enterprises can also develop many business opportunities.
What industry should aviation learn from?
The aviation industry should learn from the success of the luxury consumer industry because its customers spend more money, complain less and have higher loyalty.
APEX in Profile: Shawn Xuewu Wang was originally published in the 10.1 February/March issue of APEX Experience magazine