BAA, the airport operator that owns Heathrow, has revealed how the implementation of a centralised data management tool has helped it save millions of pounds.

It has been using EMC’s enterprise content management system Documentum since it started building Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5 13 years ago, and is about to upgrade from version 5.3 to 6.7 of the tool. BAA uses the system to manage all the data relating to the construction and refurbishment of the airport, as well as all critical building information such as the location of underground hot water pipes.

“By improving information management, we found a document last year that meant we could defend against a claim that saved us £40 million to £50 million,” said Tina Burgess, information management leader at BAA.

However this was not the main driver for implementing the data management system. BAA initially decided on a single solution to resolve a situation whereby masses of information about the airport was being held in multiple forms, which meant that documents could not be found easily, if at all, when required.

The requirement became important when the public inquiry into the new Terminal 5 began, which meant that BAA had to be able to search and easily find data to respond to any objections in the inquiry.

Prior to Documentum, each airport project would buy their own solution, and data would be delivered to BAA on disks and on paper. Duplication of data was also a significant problem.

“The quantity of information relating to the build of Terminal 5 needed something quite powerful to control it all.

“Bringing in the [Documentum] solution reduced the amount of information going around, and provides one place where to find the latest information, with better version control,” said Andrew Manington, document process manager at BAA.

“We operate in a regulated environment, and with the health and safety issue [for example], you have to have some control over the quantity of information.”

BAA uses about 80 percent of the five terabytes of storage provided by its Documentum system, and the information is mirrored and stored twice. The system currently holds around two million documents relating to all five of its terminals, roads and runway infrastructure, which is more than 80 percent of all the airport’s building information. It is also needs to take out the information related to the recently knocked down Terminal 2, and is collecting information as it builds the new Terminal 2.

The system runs on an Oracle database on Sun Solaris server units, although BAA aims to retire these boxes at end-of-life due to the high maintenance costs, and will move to a Linux HP environment with virtualisation. Users access the system through Citrix, although this is also being phased out as BAA migrates from Windows XP to Windows 7 and runs Internet Explorer 8. It has also moved from Lotus Office to Microsoft Outlook, and from Microsoft Office 2003 to Microsoft Office 2010.

In the new version of Documentum, BAA hopes to reduce the level of customisations it currently has on the system. However it will continue some customisations, such as the transmission process, which allows it to track when a piece of information has been received.

“The less customisation there is, the easier it is to make use of services like cloud and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS),” Manington said.

Now, BAA’s users can find documents all in one place, and also know that the information they access is the most up-to-date version available.

Furthermore, information is filed according to the terminal it relates to, rather than on a project basis.

“We spent a lot of money resurveying things because no-one knew if it was the latest information. We will always do some surveying to make sure, but you can now do the original planning of the change [to the airport] without having to do all [the surveying] up front. You can push it down the chain to the confidence level, just to make sure it is what it is,” said Manington.

In terms of the value added to the business, he added: “Rather than speed, we want reliability, we want people logging in and knowing they can find things. The value comes out of what people do with the information.”