Ryanair’s CTO on why he is still confused by the marketing department

Mobile World Congress 2018: Ryanair’s chief technology officer says digital has transformed the business over the past four years, but he admits there is a disconnect between tech and marketing.

Ryanair wants to become the “Amazon of travel”, but its chief technology officer admits there are hurdles the budget airline must overcome before it gets there – starting with the marketing department.

Echoing a challenge that a number of businesses face, John Hurley says there is a disconnect between Ryanair’s technology and marketing teams, as marketers “fall in love with technology and rush for the holy grail”.

“What are we still confused by?” Hurley asks. “The marketing department. That’s the biggest challenge we have.

“Marketing want perfection, they want a beautiful product that’s shiny. Technology wants to go quickly, learn, iterate and improve and use that for feedback, as opposed to picking the perfect solutions. All that matters is the bit at the bottom, two to three days of work; get it live, react and respond and keep it going.”

Hurley was speaking at Mobile World Congress 2018, where he explained how Ryanair has used digital over the past four years to transform it from being a brand that “people hated” to one that has learned through its mistakes to put the consumer first.

This has meant being more agile, embracing data and hiring new talent to bring fresh thinking, as well as moving to a cloud-first strategy and getting customer feedback much faster in order to “close the loop”.

What that looks like in 2018 is a team of over 400 developers working at Ryanair Labs, the airline’s digital innovation hubs based in Dublin, Madrid, Spain and Wroclaw in Poland, which Hurley oversees.

READ MORE: Ryanair CMO: Brands don’t need to be loved to win over consumers

Ryanair claims it now has 2.5 million visitors to its website every day, while it says its app has been downloaded 29 million times on iOS and Android devices, with 6 million active monthly users.

But Hurley admits it hasn’t been easy getting there.

Between 2000, when Ryainair’s first website launched, and 2014, when he joined the business from educational publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hurley says very little investment went into digital, resulting in an “appalling” mobile app and website. He also described the IT department as a “warzone”.

One positive outcome from being so late to the digital race, Hurley says, is that Ryanair “missed all the car crashes along the way and landed smack bang in the middle of the third generation of all the latest technologies”.

However, while Hurley says Ryanair is open to embracing new tech and interested in current trends such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, he feels they are “yet to live up to the hype”.

READ MORE: How marketing is working with finance to shake off the ‘us versus them’ attitude

Latest from Marketing Week

NOT REGISTERED? IT'S FREE, QUICK AND EASY!

Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now

THE BEST CONTENT

Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.

THE BIGGEST ISSUES

From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.

PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email customerservices@marketingweek.com

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here