Christchurch International Airport is fundamentally an analogue business and culturally is driven by safety and operational processes which have not been challenged for some time, says Todd Cassie, digital development and ICT manager.
Challenging the status quo through business technology is part of the work remit of Cassie.
Our CEO actively encourages innovations and consideration of new ways to improve outcomes, he says.
“The digital and IT teams have innovation baked into their annual targets as stretch goals.”
As digital leader, Cassie says his role includes a “satellite” team that works from outside the business. The goal of this team is to identify innovations and disruptors in such a way as to avoid the inevitable immune system of our business kicking in before we have worked through the possibilities.
“We are tasked with bringing innovations into the business once we have moved beyond just an idea. This (newly formed) team includes outsiders as well.”
But taking on this innovative mindset required a platform to make it happen, as well as the trust of the business units to support these new endeavours.
Cassie says they approached this in two ways:
First was the successful delivery of a large ERP project two years ago. “This has been a great reference for business users as to the power of integrated data and engendered trust in the capabilities of our ICT team.”
The team also took on a customer-centric approach. “We ensure our users are getting what they need or want whilst ensuring that we are still delivering a consistent methodology across all works.”
With this, they were able to take on a different set of programmes with support from the rest of the organisation.
At the start of the year, the airport was involved the first on-road research trial of an autonomous electric vehicle in New Zealand.
Cassie was involved in managing logistics, locations – including testing sites and venues, event planning and accommodation for the project team, as we moved into the first phase of actual testing.
They also implemented a License Plate Recognition (LPR) Solution to manage the vehicles using the drop off and pick up lanes at the airport during high peak demands.
We have contractual licensing commitments to our existing transportation providers such as taxi, shuttle and courtesy coaches, he explains.
We knew that there were a number of unlicensed operators using our drop off lanes either intentionally or otherwise flouting the commercial rules and local bylaws.
We implemented an automated LPR solution which reads vehicles as they enter and exit our drop off/pickup areas. The data is automatically analysed to identify unapproved high use vehicles. Approaches are then made to the owners to discuss their usage of the facility.
The outcomes, he says, included improved revenue through new commercial agreements and reduced usage at peak times of commercial operators who have a dedicated space. “We have vastly simplified operational procedures in managing this busy public space.”
The team is also piloting RFID based passenger tracking through passenger processing journeys. This is being expanded to work with other technologies.
Cassie is also working with the University of Canterbury to further develop their joint research development programme.
The digital and IT team is in the midst of a business process digitisation programme.
The programme aims, among others, to remove manual error prone business process, improve data capture and reporting, provide consistent delivery of business process, integrate with their business process management from ProMapp and improve.
“Our business plan calls for greater use of data in supporting decision-making and identification of opportunities,” he says.
“By taking a data focused approach to this initiative, we have engaged the business in better understanding the value of their data and gained their support in moving data management to the company’s centralised repositories. This has led to the removal of data silos and improved business reporting generally.”
Their top projects are the autonomous vehicle trials, digital passenger experience office 36, public website and mobile site refresh and upgrading the CCTV solution with analytics.
He has also started two “semi-formal groups in Christchurch where his business technology peers share ideas challenges and knowledge under a Chatham House rules (off the record) model.
Balancing ‘utility’ and ‘value’ work
Cassie explains the organisation’s ICT strategy addresses two work types:
The first is ‘utility’ or work that could be completed by any IT team. These include existing documented processes exist and are proven and scheduled works like preventive maintenance.
The second is ‘value’ which provides genuine value to the business and requires expertise or industry knowledge.
In the past two years, the team has focused on identifying opportunities for working with external providers to manage their day to day needs and maintaining operations or ‘utility’ work.
“This approach ensures that we are freeing up time for our internal team to focus on higher value work,” he states.
“We also have assurance now that tasks are completed on time, previously it was easy for our teams to defer operational works whilst they worked on a ‘value’ initiative,” he states. “This placed us at risk as essential maintenance may have been missed.”
He estimates a third of the work of his team are on new value initiatives.
He expects this to increase over time as other work programmes, such as Office 365, are completed.
“Our plan is to logically separate our core operational systems further and place an enterprise bus or similar in between to ensure that we can maintain integrity of critical systems but still have an ability to rapidly innovate with the associated information/data.”