Skip to Main Content
Skip to main content

Melbourne Airport is driving innovation across operations with Microsoft Fabric for data analytics and reporting

A single international flight in or out of Melbourne Airport is estimated to contribute as much as $109 million to the Victorian economy and support over 1,000 jobs annually. With over 2.2. million passengers passing through the airport every month, the company is dedicated to exploring how technology can improve the efficiency, reliability and safety of its operations.

Melbourne Airport recently built a cutting-edge Azure data analytics solution that allows staff to conduct real-time data analysis with the power to transform how the airport responds to passenger needs by proactively anticipating and solving problems.

The Data and Analytics platform (called the ‘the DnA Platform’) is built on a modern data lakehouse architecture that can ingest data from a vast range of existing sources. These include parking airport operational systems, management systems, customer portals, sales data and more.

However, the tremendous business intelligence that this solution unlocks could only be accessed by the Data & Analytics team, or tech-savvy users, who would share insights with the relevant business units.

The company wanted to expand its data analytics capability and make data sets available to other business units, including property, retail, and ground transport, to enable them to use real-time insights to optimise operations.

This presented the Data & Analytics team with a challenge. They needed to find a way to give all business users – including those with limited IT knowledge and skills – the ability to draw insights from their data seamlessly and conveniently.

“We had provided some channels for our business users to connect to the data analytics platform through apps like Excel, but for a layperson with no understanding of SQL or data warehousing, getting there comfortably within their own work process was still a lot of work,” explains Head of Data & Analytics, Irfan Khan.

When Microsoft launched Fabric, Melbourne Airport knew it was the solution it had been waiting for.

“Amazingly, Microsoft came to us about Fabric just as we were grappling with this challenge. It has proved the perfect tool for bringing data analytics and Power BI into a unified platform that’s easy to use,” says Khan.

Seamless integration for business users

Previously, the Data & Analytics team had to assist non-technical users wishing to run their own data analytics by writing long explanatory emails or creating special information resources for requests like creating a simple table. This made it a time-consuming process for all involved.

Today, the organisation is on its way to fully migrate onto Fabric. The Data & Analytics team intend to use Fabric’s strong ecosystem integration with Office 365 through Copilot to create a user-friendly experience.

Melbourne Airport has already taken its first steps in deploying Fabric. Xianping Wu, Cloud Data & AI Solution Architect at Melbourne Airport, started deploying Fabric workloads during its public preview stages and has been streamlining the packaging process to automate deployment across the various business domains within the airport. This includes setting up individual workspaces, assigning capacity and creating specific artifacts tailored to each business user group.

“Having Microsoft’s support as we experimented and began implementing Fabric has given us the confidence to move forward with a robust deployment and rollout roadmap,” says Wu. “We’re ready to integrate Fabric into the workflow of users in other business units and are excited to see how the self-service analytics capabilities will empower them.”

These units will include aviation, ground transport and facility management, as well as the airport’s Integrated Operations Centre (IOC) and property and retail businesses.

In anticipation of this rollout, the team recently demonstrated to business users how to access its data analytics platform in Fabric, run analytics and generate reports. It is receiving overwhelmingly positive responses from non-technical users who are surprised at how simple and familiar Fabric looks when integrated into their workspace.

Empowering people with data

A powerful example of how real-time data analytics can help other business units leverage deeper insights to optimise operations arose during the Taylor Swift ‘Eras’ Tour that recently took place in Melbourne and Sydney.

“While we expected the airport and aviation teams to experience a surge in demand over the weekend that Swift was performing, what we didn’t predict was the sudden increase in ground transport business the week after,” says Khan.

“There was a huge uptick in passengers using our long-term parking facilities or renting cars to drive back home or to Sydney for the next concert. Yet all we needed to do was synchronise two disparate data sets – the flight bookings and the online ground transport bookings – to see that pattern.”

In future, the ground transport team will be able to use semantic models from the aviation business unit to forecast the week ahead and optimise resources for surge periods.

The DnA Platform will enable users to analyse large data sets directly in OneLake without importing or duplicating data in Fabric. This reduces time to success and puts powerful real-time data analytics capabilities in the hands of more people, improving operations not just on-site for passengers but across the airport for overall efficiency.

A comfortable, intelligent solution

Melbourne Airport is working closely with Microsoft as it builds Fabric into its infrastructure. This includes collaborating on upskilling initiatives for the Data & Analytics team through bi-weekly ‘cadence’ and technical knowledge transfer meetings. Microsoft is also supporting Melbourne Airport’s developers as they work towards Microsoft certifications.

Since building its DnA platform, the Data & Analytics team has achieved a 30 per cent increase in performance efficiency in pipeline creation, retrievals, storing, throughput and dashboard creation. It also expects this increased backend efficiency to translate to tangible benefits for other business users, who can access insights with greater ease and speed.

“The highlight of Fabric for me is that it helps non-technical people feel comfortable when they use our data platform and it also brings incredibly advanced capabilities. It’s a radical new technology that can feel just like using Excel, Power BI or Windows Explorer. But once in the hands of the user, it doesn’t feel like a new, complex technology at all,” says Khan.

Looking ahead, the company plans to deploy Copilot to give users an even better self-service data analytics capability and drive efficiency, productivity and an enhanced employee experience.