Michael Ibbitson's technology initiatives have allowed Gatwick to increase its runway capacity by 13% in two successive years. His dashboards and performance monitoring improvements have slashed passenger processing times. His development of a flight connection and single-ticket booking service has redefined the meaning of a hub airport. His commercialisation of IT has doubled IT revenue while providing services that customers want. And his airport community app takes data feeds from across the airport environment, highway and railways as well as the global baggage tracing service to provide all airport staff with the information needed to help passengers whatever the query. This is an IT function that has achieved business lift-off and is cruising comfortably at commercial heights.
Your name and job title
Michael Ibbitson, CIO, Gatwick Airport.
How are you influencing the products, experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
Gatwick has multiple layers of customers, starting with the airlines and ground handlers, moving through the retail and food and beverage concessions, and ultimately the travelling passengers. Gatwick IT has transformed itself into a provider of technology services to all these customers groups.
For airlines and ground handlers we have developed a range of infrastructure and data services that allows them to focus on improving performance and serving the passengers better. These services include integration and performance dashboards that have been developed as SaaS tools to enable ease of access and use while maintaining security and performance. For concessions we now provide reports and insight from our EPoS integration and data warehouse that assists them in providing the right products and services at the right time to maximise revenue.
For both these groups we also now provide an airport community app that ensures all their staff are kept up to date on all aspects of the airport from travel disruption to and from the airport to helping passengers with information, right up to and including searching for progress of an individual passengers bag.
For the passengers we have transformed both security and bag drop by bringing in the latest in automation and efficiency. This ensures the passengers don’t have to queue in these two critical airport process steps. As well as that we are offering real-time airport information and maps to our key partners such as easyJet and BA so that passengers get a consistent, high-quality experience whichever airline or app they use.
How as CIO have you affected cultural change and behaviour in your organisation and to what extent?
The culture of the technology team and the business approach to technology have changed significantly over the past few years.
The technology team has led the way with a new workplace strategy. This required a paperless and mobility approach to files, data, monitoring systems and dashboards. It also reinforced the BYOD and cloud strategy, and delivered significant space savings, enabling a whole building to be turned into a new easyJet training centre.
The airport operations team have now implemented similar changes to their workspace, and across the airport the dashboards and monitoring tools are driving competition and performance, especially the ones published to airlines and ground handlers, which have led to weekly competitor reviews by those organisations.
Beyond the physical changes the technology team has adopted a communication style and teamwork development toolset called Insights, which is used to ensure all hierarchy and project teams are aware of the strengths, weaknesses and communication styles of all the members. This has led to great understanding, harmony and teamwork across the technology team.
Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the past 12 months and their impact on your organisation’s performance
The airport collaborative decision-making (ACDM) initiative was predominantly a technology and process implementation that enable Gatwick to declare an increase in runway capacity for both the 2014 and 2015 summer seasons. This has enabled rapid growth of the business, adding 2.7 million and 2.0 million additional passengers in those years, taking Gatwick from 35.4 million to 40.1 million in only two years.
This increase in traffic has required new dashboards and more detailed performance monitoring. The development of real-time dashboards for all stakeholders has led to on-time turn achievement increasing from 12% at the start of summer 2016 to nearly 50% at the end.
The sharp rise in traffic has been matched with improved performance in passenger processing – specifically of bag drop (check-in) and security in both terminals. Queue times for easyJet bag drop have improved from 27% of passengers getting through in under five minutes to over 75% in South Terminal and over 98% in North Terminal. South Terminal security has had a large technology overhaul, taking the average throughput per lane from 325 passengers an hour to over 600 an hour at peak times; North Terminal security is getting the same upgrade for the summer of 2016.
The increase in throughput and reduction of space needed for security in South Terminal has led to the creation of two new restaurants that are improving passenger experience and increasing revenue. As part of this business and technology transformation we have also looked to commercialise IT as much as possible. In 2015 we have doubled the IT revenue while providing services that customers really want.
Describe how you have used organisational and third-party information to provide insight that has benefited your organisation, its customers and products or services
There are three areas that stand out in the last 12 months.
First is the consolidation of retailer EPoS data to provide insight to both Gatwick and its partners following two years of effort to integrate with 95% of transaction value across all the various retailers and F&B outlets. Gatwick has now been able to provide clear metrics to its partners for product mix and dwell time impact, and deliver insight reports to drive performance. This has contributed to retail performance increasing faster than passenger growth, accelerating overall EBITDA performance.
Second is using Gatwick self-service transfer data along with Skyscanner search data to develop the Gatwick Connect product. This is now providing a flight connection and single-ticket booking service for 55% of Gatwick routes. It will be adding WestJet and others in 2016, competing directly with transfers through Heathrow and other large European airports, redefining the meaning of a hub airport.
Third, the Gatwick Airport community app is taking data feeds from across the airport environment, highway and rail data as well as a feed from the global baggage tracing service to provide all airport staff with the information needed to help passengers no matter what the query. The app also predicts traffic for the next three hours and alerts staff to disruption events in real time.
Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
Gatwick’s technology group has to operate as a small service provider as well as an internal IT team. This has led to an innovative organisation that focuses on delivering technology services that provide value and growth to the business, while commodity services are delivered through SaaS or other third parties. This gives the best blend and ensures we stay lean and are able to react quickly to business needs or changes in technology and regulation.
The team is made up of one group that focuses on IT services for partners and passengers, one for internal business units, one for infrastructure, one for 24x7 operations and customer service, and the final team takes care of all risk management and chairs the architecture board.
As a single-campus business we perform architecture and product development as community rather than a hierarchy. This means that airlines and ground handlers and other partners get to suggest and prioritise new products through our customer forum, and the operations teams have a seat at the design and architecture table to ensure products meet the needs of all teams and continuously improve services.
The internal business systems team has a lead for each major business area; most them are originally from the business and have moved into IT to drive the programme in line with business needs. To ensure we don’t get stale, each direct report to the CIO comes from a different industry to bring in new ideas and concepts so that we can take the best of each industry as we plan our development.
Describe your role in the development of digital strategy in your organisation
The technology group works closely with all aspects of the business, but very closely with operations and the commercial divisions. The CIO role now sits on the passenger experience board to drive the strategy for passenger services, as well as co-chairing the asset stewardship and business continuity board with the COO to ensure technology investments are strategic and in line with an always-on airport.
The CIO also sits on the capital expenditure committee, ensuring that the major projects (around £10m-£150m) are aligned with technology strategy. Examples of this close collaboration are the Gatwick website and MyGatwick CRM platform, which now has over 1.5 million registered users and provides real-time offers to passengers using the airport everyday, as well as Gatwick Connect and its search and transaction platform all being tested and developed with support and guidance from the technology team. This influence has also led to significant investment in power and IT service stability; this has shown significant results, with IT service failures reducing 30-fold over the last two years.
Describe how you use and promote technology to redesign the processes, services and structures of your organisation to enable it to become more efficient and customer-focused
I lead by example. The CEO and I were the first to sign up for BYOD and convert our offices and teams to Box. Executive meetings often start with a 10 to 15-minute training session on technology, so we all lead from the top.
I and my team spend as much time in the terminals and on the airfield as possible, because that is where the customers are and where we can learn the most about what the organisation and the staff need to do their jobs more effectively. Everybody in IT spends a couple of shifts in security each year, and we get involved at Christmas, summer peak and special events with terminal operations. We go out to meet the staff in all departments and solicit their feedback on all aspects of technology.
There is also a bi-annual technology prioritisation event for the CIO, CEO, COO, CFO and CCO only. The five us get together and agree the focus for technology for the next season. We have to be ruthless, and often only half the initiatives are cleared for progress. We have come to realise that we are a technology-dependent business and many of our processes only work at 50% in the event of automation failures. Recently our COO said that technology can make or break our projects, so we have to ensure those precious resources are focused on providing the maximum value. All major projects have technology senior leadership on their programme boards to ensure technology strategy and requirements are understood and adhered to.
How do you engage regularly with your organisation about your team and the role of technology in the organization, and what impact is this having?
There are two main communication channels we use. First, our internal social network, Yammer, is used to inform, engage and educate all the teams about technology. This is the most important channel as it reaches all levels of the organisation and, importantly, directly to their mobile device regardless of their location or shift pattern. We can embed videos, pictures, training guides and links on a wide range of subjects via this channel.
Second and more traditionally, we use our intranet. However, since we moved this to our external applications portal, it has become the most used application in the business, so we know it is getting the attention it needs to be effective.
After that we use a variety of other channels such as canteen roadshows, email, department visits and talks. There is no single way to engage the range of staff we have, so it's important to put the information out on a variety of channels. We know this is working as our BYOD rollout connected over 600 devices in the first three weeks and is now at over 2,000, our staff app reached 1,000 smartphone installs in the first month. For a company with 2,800 staff, this is good adoption.
How do you use social networks to engage in conversations across the industry about the opportunities and challenges technology is creating?
LinkedIn has proved to be a great resource for creating and sustaining connections as well as reading the occasional thread. There are aviation industry bodies such as ACI and IATA that we also get involved in. We regularly host or visit technology teams from other aviation entities and many other industries, sharing what we have learnt openly as there is a lot to be gained for both organisations from such events.
How do you bring the organisation together to explore and discuss technology and its challenges and to develop stronger alignment of the technology function with the full business?
We have a service review structure where each department has a monthly IT service review. This covers many topics, from looking back at IT performance to looking forward to the pipeline of needs of each department, and the challenges and opportunities of delivery. These sessions create the pipeline that comes up to the executive review for prioritisation.
Describe how you keep up to date with developments in technology and IT management
There are always more events that one person can attend, so I encourage my team to get involved in attending industry events and bringing the knowledge back to the team. Personally I get involved in customer advisory boards of Box, Okta and SITA as well as attending the Airports Council's international IT committee when the travel schedule allows. Other events are attended as and when time allows, especially those on cyber security and identity management – a particularly interesting and fast-developing part of our industry. We also share our story and progress at such events.
Provide an example of how you have developed the diversity and improved the culture of your team
It's fair to say that Gatwick, previously BAA, had a challenge with diversity a few years ago. Over the past three years we have developed an industrial placement scheme and a graduate scheme, and brought on board five new manpower service companies to diversify our team and the resource pools we are looking in.
The industrial placement scheme is a partnership with Brighton University and is now in its third year. The students love the experience of working at a major airport and we get fantastic new ideas and energy into the team. It's great to see that some of those placement students have gone on to return as employees as well.
Our graduate scheme is starting to produce our future leaders, with a pipeline beginning to develop. As well as the introduction of graduate talent we have had a focus on improving gender balance. I have given talks at Women in IT events and was a judge for the Women in IT awards in 2015.
Describe how you collaborate and influence the organisation and its leadership team
Beyond the structured organisational committees, such as the passenger experience board, capital expenditure committee and technology initiatives review board. I spend time with the senior leadership in other teams to provide advice and guidance on the business and how technology can assist. This is particularly evident in the commercial areas such as MyGatwick, Gatwick Connect, e-commerce, car parking and digital media as well as the operations teams involved in airside and terminals management.
With my career history in construction, I also spend time advising the second runway and airport development teams on how they should be considering technology in their plans both for internal IT and airport design. I have often given future-gazing presentations to airport development to ensure they are thinking about everything from flexible screens to LED lights with beacons and electric vehicles.
Tell us how you have developed your own management, leadership and personal skills
Developing management and leadership skills is a constant journey of discovery. Recently I have taken to watching and learning from the exceptional executive team around me at Gatwick as well as engaging in an external CIO development forum, where I get the chance to share my experiences as well as hear from others.
Over the last 24 months I have been working closely with an organisation development specialist who has been helping me improve my people leadership skills and develop greater personal understanding across the technology team. More recently I have started working with an executive coach to prepare me for a future beyond the CIO role; technology leaders are becoming the next generation of CEOs as every business becomes more and more dependent on its technology.
What new technologies are you investigating, tracking or experimenting with?
We are currently working with or investigating a range of technologies. They include data analytics for retail and Gatwick Connect. We also have a programme of developing dashboards that are compatible with Apple Watches to provide real-time data. The airport community app is our first true enterprise mobile app developed just for Gatwick and it already works with Apple Watch and Android equivalents. The internet of things is something we feel we have been doing for a long time, with our queue measurement systems, baggage systems and beacon infrastructure all providing real-time data on passenger flow and airport performance. Our use of Splunk for real-time data analytics across the technology estate and the business performance is industry-leading from an aviation perspective.
How do you decide where to apply the best technological approach?
Such decisions are made on the basis of numerous technology and non-technology factors.
First we assess whether the service is something that has been commoditised and can be provided as SaaS. If the answer is yes, then as long as there is no bandwidth or latency restriction we would always go to the SaaS solution assuming the SaaS provider can meet our cyber security and business continuity needs.
If the product could be SaaS but doesn’t exist in the market, we run a tender process that includes seed investment to encourage suppliers to develop it for us. This approach has been very successful for us in transforming our airport ID centre and pass application process as well as our airport community app and flight information systems.
We only perform bespoke work on top of existing platforms, such as Splunk or Business Objects, where the result is specific to Gatwick and provides significant value to our business. We invest heavily in integration platforms and risk management to ensure we can share data easily across airport business partners, as this drives the most value and performance.
Do you give yourself and your team time each month to assess or learn about technology vendors outside of the established providers?
The Gatwick technology team has an established supplier management process. An important part of that process is a supplier forum event that takes place at the airport once every six months. The entire technology leadership team attends and presents their strategy and priorities to existing and new suppliers. The presentations are followed by a speed networking lunch where suppliers get one-to-ones with each member of the leadership team to explain how they can support the strategy and priorities. Following lunch the new suppliers are invited to an additional session where we explain how they should work with us and our procurement process.
This approach has enabled us to find many new suppliers and learn about the new capabilities of existing suppliers. This is a very time-efficient approach that also gives all suppliers an equal chance to understand our needs and pitch their capabilities. On top of this, Gatwick is supporting technology startups by sponsoring the London and Partners startup offices in London, where we make regular visits to see if any of the companies are developing products that might meet our needs.
Describe your sourcing strategy and your strategic suppliers
As with all technology teams we have more projects and requests for initiatives than we can deliver. To allow us to meet the needs of the organisation we source commodity services from SaaS providers and focus heavily on the cyber security and business continuity aspects of the solution. This led to the selection of tools like Box and Okta.
Commodity infrastructure such as the airport campus network management is outsourced to Xchanging, as it is large-scale and repeatable. It is critical but it is the data and applications that drive the business value.
We have secondment agreements with Getronics, NiiT and Hexaware to provide the flexible resources we need for the array of technologies that are used across the airport and projects that we have to deliver. We focus internal resources on customer service, integration, security and platform development.
Describe the technology innovations that you have introduced in the last year and what they have enabled
Xovis Queue Measurement system uses height recognition sensors to count every person through bag drop and check-in and their queue time. This helps us drive performance and ensure that our investment in bag-drop technology is driving the results. This has shown us that we are overachieving on our target of getting 95% of passengers through bag-drop in under five minutes.
Centralised security screening and redesigned security lanes have enabled us to increase security lane throughput from 325 passengers an hour to 600 an hour per lane. The airport community app allows all airport employees from any partner or tenant to get detailed and exact airport information and disruption information in real time – a first in the aviation industry.
What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom? What uniquely do they bring?
We have worked closely with a company called DoHop and Skyscanner to bring a unique ticketing and connecting platform to market. It allows Gatwick passengers to connect together flights from Norwegian, easyJet and Wow Air without interline agreements, saving passengers money and providing more choice. By using Skyscanner to enable passengers to search the flights we can display them alongside results from the traditional suppliers such as BA and Lufthansa via Heathrow and Frankfurt.
DoHop was a critical partner as it already had a search engine that could help passengers find the itinerary but required a fulfilment partner to take on the transfer guarantee, insurance provider and on-the-ground customer support. The partnership of the three organisations enables market reach, search and fulfilment with a single transaction, ensuring a seamless journey for the passenger.
Next year the plan is for Gatwick to grow this with WestJet and other airlines as well as the next critical step of adding rail fares to the system. This would enable passengers to search Brighton to Istanbul via Gatwick on a single ticket with one protected transfer, also adding 130 rail destinations to Gatwick’s existing 200+ aviation destinations network.
Rank in order of importance your sources for innovative technology suppliers
1 CIO peers. 2 Media. 3 Industry body. 4 Consultants. 5 Analyst houses.
Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months?
Is cyber-security led and discussed by senior management?
When did you start your current role?
What is your reporting line?
Are you a member of the board of directors?
What is the annual IT budget?
How much of your IT budget is capital and how much revenue?
£24m capital, £16m opex.
What is your operational/development budget split?
80% operational, 20% innovation.
How many users does your department supply services to?
2,800 internal; 2,2000 external.
Are you finding it difficult to recruit the talent you need to drive transformation?
Has recruitment and retention risen up your agenda as a CIO?
Does your IT organisation operate an apprenticeship scheme?
How many employees are there in your IT team?
Are you increasing your headcount to bring skills and the ability to react to needs in-house?
What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff?
65 in-house, 70 outsourced.