Planning for the long haul

Cameron Brill and Greg Chisholm jointly lead the business technology team at Auckland International Airport, a diverse environment incorporating property, retail, car parking and tourism.

“Many other airports don’t have the extended land which means their focus is entirely on the terminal and aeronautical operations and commercial opportunities,” says Brill, manager, business technology.

“We also focus on what we call ‘The District’ – which is effectively a business district comparable to the CBD, Newmarket or Greenlane.”

The airport owns and develops the 1500 hectares of land. “We are a shopping mall, property development, and a car parking business on top of our aeronautical side of the business,” says Brill.

The airport also owns 24.99 per cent of Queenstown Airport and has a 24.55 per cent stake in North Queensland Airports.

Business and IT delivery

Chisholm delivers the business projects and Cameron Brill looks after the IT operations.

Chisholm explains the motto is these projects are primarily business led but will still have some software and hardware “hygiene” business technology- led backend initiatives.

We focus on ‘The District’ – which is effectively a business district comparable to the CBD, Newmarket or Greenlane. Cameron Brill, Auckland International Airport

So how does this setup work?

“A good way of looking at it is there are three areas of IT services that we provide,” says Brill. One is staff and corporate, the second is the terminal which contains flight information and gate allocation, and the third area is the tenants on airport land (12,000 people).

“We have internal customers (staff) and external customers (passengers and tenants). We provide IT services to all three”, says Brill.

Brill explains over the past 24 months, the airport has finalised a BI platform that moved them from “static monthly paper reporting” to “more dynamic dashboard real time weekly and daily reporting.”

To do this, they had to replace Oracle and Cognos products with a system that includes Microsoft SQL Server 2012 and SharePoint Server 2010.

“Now we have most areas of the business working from dashboards,” says Brill.

The carpark area first came to the platform and the growth of this business over the past three years is linked in part to the introduction of an online booking system. “The insights they gained from a BI perspective there is segmentation of the different customer markets,” says Chisholm.

“They have the ability dynamically to change the offering and what they are offering from a dollar value perspective on the fly based on the potential number of car parks available,” he says. “The analyst can utilise the insights to much better manage the product.”

The supply chain

One of the nuances of their work is the need to partner with a range of organisations - both within the aviation sector and outside.

“We have quite a focus on who we should be partnering with and making sure that relationship is a productive and working relationship,” says Brill.

Chisholm points out like everywhere else, Auckland Airport is seeing an increase in data in their systems. An area where the airport is unique is a lot of the source data is derived externally from third parties like Airways Corporation, airlines and retailers in the duty free shops.

This means they have a number of data supply agreements which include prescriptions around the use of data.

“Philosophically, we are a supply chain,” says Chisholm. “We approach things from an end to end perspective.”

“In the context of our aeronautical business, there is a whole supply chain for the passengers, the aircraft and cargo, with different milestones and checkpoints.

“A win-win scenario to the airlines is if it leaves on time, as every minute delay impacts further in their network,” says Chisholm. “A win-win scenario for us is the investment in improving on those milestones or bottlenecks ultimately making for a better customer experience.”

But in order to do any of this, he says, “You need to have visibility end to end rather than looking at a silo approach and the challenge with having end to end visibility is the different stakeholders, they have different information.”

“The art or the science is working with them collaboratively so that you get past the commercial concerns but you are able to mutually agree this is what the supply chain looks like,” says Chisholm. “You each have a beneficial stake in sharing the information.”

Next: Easing into BYOD, saying farewell to the department of 'no'

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Easing into BYOD

Like their counterparts in organisations across sectors, consumerisation of technology - particularly users who want to bring and use their own devices at work - is an area they are working on.

Brill explains currently Auckland Airport provides the devices to staff and these are centrally managed through their mobile device management software. “So there is governance around them and security,” he adds.

There are “low risk areas” where staff who want to bring their own mobile phones will be managed through their centralised software on AirWatch. “That is how we are easing into the process.”

Gone are the days where you are a department of ‘no’. Greg Chisholm, Auckland International Airport

“We want to get to a place where we are enabling [users], which means that we are empowering users. They can bring their own device, we will manage it.”

The first phase, he says, will be to limit the device to a couple of models or operating systems. “We are not focused so much on devices, but [on] bring your own app. That is a lot scarier. We do see it coming and we are preparing ourselves for it,” says Brill. “We are mobilising a line of business apps, preparing these apps for access via touch screen mobile devices.”

Farewell to the department of ‘no’

Chisholm says the philosophy for the business technology team is “business led, and enabled by IT”.

“One of the risks of being led by an IT project is that that business perceives it to be IT pushing something. If you are business-led and listen to the business challenges and we partner with the business and potential vendor, you have a better outcome. They have a vested interest [in the project’s success]”.

Related:Essential partnerships

Line of business executives are now making more technology decisions – with or without IT’s imprimatur. CIOs and analysts share pointers on how to develop and nurture a working relationship with these business leaders.

“Sometimes the challenges are resolved through an education process,” says Brill. “Unless you analyse the root cause, it may be a business process problem. Technology is not going to solve it. We often see solutions looking for a problem.

“Our solution to that is to work with business units,” and spend more time with them understanding their pain points and opportunities, says Chisholm. “We deliver with three way partnership - vendor, business technology and business unit.

“We have no intention of trying to stop that. We want to become a lot more integrated with the business,” says Chisholm. “Gone are the days where you are a department of ‘no’.”

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

6 digital transformation success stories