Manchester Airport CIO Martin Smith on building the group's IT backbone

Dr Martin Smith’s office in Olympic­ House looks over the taxiways at Manchester Airport’s Terminal Three. From here he could, should he choose, spend his day observing the hundreds of aircraft movements that take place every day at this, the largest airport in the UK outside the London region.

The airport’s owner, Manchester Airports Group (MAG), is now the largest UK-owned airport group. It is jointly owned by the 10 authorities of Greater Manchester and consists of four airports — Manchester Airport itself as well as Humberside, East Midlands and Bournemouth. The company­ serves over 29 million passengers a year of which the vast majority, some 19 million last year, pass through Manchester Airport. Critically, the group has remained profitable in the last three challenging years.

In excess of 20,000 people work on site in Manchester, but MAG’s entire employee count is around 2,600, of which a few hundred are in core management roles. A further 50,000 or so jobs are in associated or dependant businesses in the region, so a lot of what Smith and his team does impacts on companies and people well beyond­ the company’s own payroll.

Smith is MAG’s director of group technology and innovation, and reports to the company’s group finance director Ken Duncan. In his role Smith wears several­ hats, the most important one being as the effective CIO of the organisation. A service-managed structure underpins Smith’s department and responsibilities, and his key reports take responsibility for change facilitation and service management res­pectively.

Smith sees the role of his dep­artment as being to facilitate change in line with MAG’s business objectives. To this aim, he believes technology should be seen as no more than the tool to achieve these objectives. It therefore follows that he and his team need be the ones asking the awkward questions of vendors and service providers to ensure the best possible solutions are implemented.

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