Hi, I am Arielle and I am part of a group of management students from the University of Bath (UoB), in the UK, working with Tigerspike to deliver our final year project (FYP). This article is the first in a series of blogs about the journey we have embarked on with Tigerspike and how we will navigate this partnership. First of all, I want to take this opportunity to give an overview of our project and a short introduction to the team, which will set the tone of the incredible experience ahead.

Who are we?

We are a team of five final year students studying Business Administration, at the University of Bath. Although we all study in the UK, surprisingly none of us are from the UK, and although we all study the same degree, none of us knew each other until we enrolled in an exchange program at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), in Singapore in August. Individually, we each have different aspirations and skills, and an incredibly multicultural background:

Alfonso, our social butterfly, brings a touch of sweetness to the team. He truly cares about the well-being of the others. Such a positive mindset is always comforting during times of high pressure.

Georges, our Stat guy, has a great sense of humour and always has a smile on his face. He’s a huge asset as he helps to diffuse tension within the team. With his great passion for numbers and problem-solving, Georges will be leading the data collection and analysis aspect of our project.

Thea, our primma donna, is an independent, proactive, and persuasive woman. She makes the project move forward when the team encounters any issues and aims to always support other members.

Nils, our German wolf, has significant work experience and is extremely driven. His knowledge of technology and high-level perspective is a great asset to our team.

Finally, as the project manager expert, I appreciate structures and organisation. I ensure that everything is documented and arranged ahead of time using Google Drive and Trello.

(From left to right: Alfonso Marazuela, Georges Boghossian, Thea Pagani, Alex Burke, Nils Weng, and me, Arielle Rolland)

How did it all start

Our university degree requires us to complete a final year project (FYP) in teams of five. This involves writing a research paper on a genuine business issue by March 2019. The paper must be relevant from both a business and academic perspective. This differs from a typical university dissertation because it is sponsored by a company, creating an opportunity for students to collaborate in teams and to develop and maintain a relationship with the company. As a team, we set ourselves a common objective: to find a sponsor with which we shared the same values and visions and a topic that we were ALL passionate about.

As September approached, our deadline to secure a sponsor loomed but we were not completely satisfied with the topics proposed by the different firms we engaged with; we started to consider continuing the project without a sponsor. It wasn’t until the last Friday in August, when we met Alex Burke, that we were convinced that Tigerspike was our ideal sponsor. Alex, as a former BBA student from UoB himself, was very enthusiastic and inspiring. He understood the challenge we were about to embark on and was really encouraging and supportive.

Our Objectives

Aside from the academic requirements, our team set a list of objectives to measure the success of our project. It includes the following:

1) A better understanding of emerging technologies and how they can be adapted to different industries

2) Develop broad analytical skills through interpretation of our research results (surveys and interviews)

3) Develop our stakeholder relationship management skills (with Tigerspike, the University, and external subject matter experts)

4) Hone our project management skills and try to follow an agile methodology

5) Produce a high-quality piece of work of industry standard that enables it to be used by Tigerspike as a project deliverable

Deciding on the topic

When it came to choosing which topic to do our project on, Alex gave us two great options: Smart Cities or Technology in the airline industry, both somewhat technical but original. These are two topics that really interested the team because we are all keen travellers, hence us choosing to live in Singapore for 3 months! On the other hand, Smart Cities is such an up and coming and un-researched topic. Due to the nature of the FYP, we decided to go with the Airline industry because realistically data collection on Smart Cities would have taken more than the 6 months available to complete the whole project. It also fulfilled our own personal criteria as well as the academic one. We had a few days to think about our decision but the topic of technology in the airline industry was a unanimous YES from our side.

Exploring the opportunities of technology in the Airline Industry with the final deadline set for March 2019, it meant that we needed to quickly refine the scope of our research topic. It was crucial to consider the feasibility of the data collection, the time frame available and the actual writing of the report. We initially arranged a Design Thinking Workshop on air travel to identify personas and respective journey maps.

Later on, Tigerspike also supported our topic definition by organising an Innovation day. This is a day where BAU activities stop for the day, and the entire team focuses on developing innovative ideas in relation to a theme. This innovation day was focused on three topics: the lounge experience, in-flight entertainment, and the booking process. I think this is what mainly helped us decide to focus on the following research topic:

‘What factors of the airport lounge user experience enhance customer loyalty and what technology could be implemented in the airports to strengthen these?’

There is potential to narrow down to a specific piece of technology or category of technology and to focus on lounges with similar features.

Our Challenges

The key challenge is the fact that we are only based in Singapore for the first 4 months of the project meaning we do not have much time to work directly with Tigerspike. We needed to complete a significant amount of preparatory work such as the literature review and design research methods to allow Tigerspike time to validate our assumptions. Having only reached a decision on the topic a month ago, the pressure was on. We also knew that it would become more challenging to work in partnership with Tigerspike when we returned to Bath due to the time difference.

This challenge is unique to our team because our peers who have remained in Bath for the duration of their FYP would be able to find local sponsors. Moreover, in contrast to Bath, NTU required us to complete many more assignments and coursework throughout the semester, and as final year students, some of us had assessment centres and interviews to secure a graduate job. It has been really imperative for us to have clear and up to date meeting minutes, and from the moment we started this partnership, Tigerspike were really hands on which put us at ease. Ultimately, we were aware of the challenges underpinned by the project but it will be such a rewarding experience.

As our time in Singapore is coming to an end, some of us have already returned to Europe while others take the time to travel and experience the surrounding countries. For this, we also need to manage expectations in terms of workload during this two-month break, until we are all back in Bath for the final semester during which we expect more challenges to arise. I’m confident that our team will overcome these through the collaboration and support of everyone!

Moving Forward

With our topic defined, we are gradually progressing on the literature review, which looks at the existing knowledge and research (theoretical and methodological) on this topic. It includes analysing in-depth the in-lounge user experience, looking into the factors behind customer loyalty and service quality, and also understanding the adoption model of new technology. This will help us identify opportunities to conduct new research and inform our research method design in line with our objectives.

Our partnership with Tigerspike doesn’t stop now that we have left Singapore. We will continue to nurture our relationship with regular calls and leverage Tigerspike connections to reach out to subject matter experts and access a wide and diverse population to conduct our survey on. Moreover, Tigerspike will validate our findings and final recommendations. We are also looking forward to hosting Alex Burke in Bath in March. Although our academic deadline is set to March, we are hoping to continue this partnership for longer with the publication of a white paper.

Words: Arielle Rolland, part of management students group, University of Bath