British Airways CIO Paul Coby is to step down, it has been reported today. Coby is one of the most well respected and liked CIOs on the UK scene.
According to reports Coby has decided that there is no suitable role for him in the merged International Airlines Group that will result from the completed deal between British Airways (BA) and Spain's Iberia. Coby joined the airline in 2000 and has been an instrumental IT leader both in the wider British IT world and for BA, steering its IT strategy through the most important IT decade for airlines and the most challenging decade air travel has been through since it really took after the Second World War.
That decade at BA as CIO proves that CIO can have a good stint of tenure, especially at national corporations that are world brands. In his time BA has had to cope with the airline downturn brought about by the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US and the recent downturn as a result of a banking caused credit crisis. Recently the airline has also been troubled by snow, volcano eruptions and strike action.
Personally I believe Coby and BA should be given a large salute of respect for sticking with it during this last decade. When things go wrong the CIO role is often equated to running a Premiership football club and the resignation of the CIO is demanded. BA and Coby flew a straight path and sensibly learnt from mistakes and will no doubt as a result not make them again.
I first met Coby at the Forrester conference in Lisbon, not long after the unsuccessful opening of the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow airport, home to BA. Not once did he wish to move blame to BAA, the airport operator or the various IT vendors both he and BAA used. He took the blame on the chin, he was the CIO, the buck stopped with him and he reassured anyone who cared to listen that they were analysing why there were problems with the move and how to learn from them.
Considering his role, as CIO of arguably Great Britain's biggest brand, he doesn't have an ego that sours like the airline's beloved and now defunct Concorde supersonic jet. In fact just the opposite, he has time and an ear for all. That goes a long way with anyone, be they staff, senior management, vendor or partner
Paul Coby's 50 things I wish I'd known before becoming a CIO
Where-ever I go as part of the CIO editorial team Coby is talked of with well held respect. I've met management consultants that respect his use of analysis, fellow CIOs have valued his opinion or enjoyed his natural ability to speak plainly and publically about the role IT plays in business and travel.
BA CIO Coby apologises for T5 in Keynote speech
The hard thing will be being the CIO that steps into his shoes, it is a hard act to follow.