Airservices eyes data to boost falling revenues

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Airservices eyes data to boost falling revenues

New CIO lays out roadmap to transformation.

The new IT chief at Australia’s air navigation service provider is pitching data as a potential way to help lift falling profits as part of a sweeping transformation at Airservices' IT shop.

Former Westpac, Qantas and Jetstar IT chief Christopher Seller was formally appointed into the reinstated CIO role at Airservices in September.

He has been thrown immediately into a transformation of the agency’s use and application of technology in the aftermath of Airservices’ first-ever full-year financial loss.

Seller is overseeing an IT function that is newly combined with the organisation’s air traffic network management team as part of Airservices’ Accelerate program, a cost reduction and operating model overhaul initiative launched in response to its revenue woes.

The teams were joined to help Airservices enhance its service delivery and “mobilise strategic partners and vendors”, a core tenet of the technology systems and infrastructure element of the transformation program.

The program also identified a need to 'build and deliver foundation technology capabilities, embed governance, and update standard operating procedures'.

As part of the effort, Seller’s team has started to look at how Airservices can better utilise the aviation industry's vast data holdings to deliver more valuable services to airlines and airports.

“If we could help Qantas, for instance, have a predictable landing from Melbourne into Sydney without disruption, that would be really valuable, from a fuel, customer, and efficiency perspective,” Seller told iTnews.

“Airservices sees the information that it manages and controls as a commercial asset going forward. How can we use that data in different ways to make the services we deliver today more valuable to customers?”

This could present itself as a portal of some sort, a model under which Airservices would be the host of a platform that industry would provide data for, and have access to, so they could “see what’s happening at any time, anywhere” for “situational awareness they don’t have today”.

Such a platform would offer data on things like weather and real-time information about what is happening on the ground at airports.

“[Airservices customers] don’t get access to that data at the moment, they find out en route or when they get to their destination and they’re told there’s a disruption,” Seller said.

“Today the information is quite siloed; the airlines, airports and Airservices all have their own information. This is a way of putting that together and improving the flow through the airspace.”

His team is currently undertaking a review of information management across the organisation and the industry more broadly to work out exactly how to best utilise data.

It is simultaneously undertaking a separate, but linked, review into Airservices’ enterprise architecture.

Seller wants the organisation to adopt new capabilities when it comes to infrastructure and IT services, specifically “elastic, scalable compute and storage” from which it can deliver 'any time, anywhere' services.

His review is intended to provide a “much more strategic” approach to Airservices’ architecture; while the organisation has introduced some software-as-a-service products to date, they have not been implemented in a strategic way, Seller said.

He will need to meet a hard deadline for delivery of his information management strategic plan and enterprise architecture framework and governance structure of June next year, as part of the wider Accelerate program.

Seller will also have his hands full overseeing the OneSky overhaul of Australia’s civil and military air traffic management systems, a $600 million contract expected to be awarded to Thales.

Airservices and the Defence department are currently working through the requirements of the new system, which will be implemented in a staged rollout from 2018 to 2021. A contract is expected to be signed early next year.

New blood

Seller leads a new-look IT team after a round of voluntary redundancies saw 100 IT and air traffic management workers leave the organisation earlier this year.

The creation of 70 new jobs intended to propel the information management and enterprise architecture initiatives meant the net reduction of roles sat at 30 positions.

The now-defunct jobs centred mainly on classic infrastructure, applications and support skills, while many of the new roles involve functions that previously didn’t exist or are substantially different, Seller said.

“We’ve created a whole new enterprise architecture team, a whole new information management team, and the applications and infrastructure teams look very different capability-wise, but probably the biggest impact was the service integration team,” Seller said.

“We’re building a lot of capability around the classic ITIL discipline and strategic partnerships: how do we onboard partners to get more elastic and dynamic capability.”

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