Last month, I helped coordinate a BCS London seminar about the role of IT in the airport and air travel industry, and as you might imagine it proved a very popular topic, complete with sold out venue and 4 expert IT practitioners from one of the world’s busiest hub airport. Read on for highlights…
- Airport Operations – Heathrow operates 98% runway capacity which roughly translates to a take-off or landing event occurring every 45 seconds, thereby making it one of the most efficient 2 runway airports in the world. Speaker, Brent Reed (Airport Ops Lead Designer), described how Heathrow introduced a world’s first Time Based Seperation (TBS) system to further maintain / improve on this efficiency, particularly on windy days – every second counts!
- The Automated Passenger Journey – Heathrow is actively implementing the IATA Fast Travel Program strategy which aims to provide 80% of global passengers with a complete and relevant self-service suite by 2020. According to Capgemini’s Don Grose (Lead Solution Architect), this program will deliver multiple benefits for: passengers, airlines and airports, and Heathrow has already delivered or trialled several self service capabilities, including: Self Boarding, Automatic Ticket Presentation and Kiosk self service bag tags, Self Service Bag Drop trials, as well as biometric enrolment & verification.
- Shadow IT at Heathrow – Andrew Isenman (Passenger Experience Design Lead), described how Heathrow employees are starting to engage their colleagues and digitally enabled passengers in different ways, sometimes even bypassing the IT departments. As a result, the latter have proactively started encouraging and shaping how this engagement happens, at the same time they’re addressing the usual questions around: support provision, reduced Total-Cost-of-Ownership (TCO), increased security and minimal technical debt.
- Airport Innovation – Heathrow has embraced the drive for innovation with various initiatives, some of which were presented by Richard Harding, (Head of strategy and innovation at Heathrow). They included: the Heathrow innovation Process, Crowd dynamics (detecting / measuring / alerting via CCTV), WiFi digital finger printing, Airfield Asset inspection, Mobile Display units and treasure hunts. Key insights gleaned from Heathrow innovation highlight the need for: open innovation, active promotion, new governance processes, skills enablement and innovative culture / process metrics.
“This house believes that academic education will never satisfy the skills needs of the IT Profession” was the title of last week’s Oxford Union style debate, jointly hosted by BCS Chartered Institute for IT (via Learning Development Specialist Group) and the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists, at Armourer’s Hall in the City of London.
In this historical and fully weaponised environment, (with apparently enough arms and armour to record an episode of The Game of Thrones), the scene was set for a pitched battle between two teams, for and against the house position, with limited audience participation and a final vote to decide the winners. Some key observations from the debate include:
- Academic education provides a foundation for the skills needed to work in IT, and much like a building’s foundation, “you can’t live in it but you can build great structures upon it”
- Academic education only teaches the core skills (e.g. how to think) for working in IT, but education also happens through out life, and not just during periods of formal education
- Academic education is insufficient for working in IT because it is purposely designed to cater for more cerebral, rather than hands-on, skills training.
- Apprenticeships may be necessary but universities and other educational institutions are not best suited for apprenticeships. The IT industry should play its part too.
- In no other profession would you trust a fresh graduate with key responsibilities. Academic education provides the live ware, but it’s the employer’s job to configure them.
- Both sides seemed almost in violent agreement that academic education in itself wasn’t sufficient for the IT profession, however the opposition felt this was more a design feature rather than outright flaw.
Overall, I got the impression that attendees may have expected something a tad more passionate than the well argued but mostly polite points and counterpoints from both sides.
Furthermore, some interesting slants were omitted in the debate, e.g. digital entrepreneurship as a viable option for freshly minted graduates. According to one attendee, academic education could do more to encourage and equip students to create, or seek to work, in new start-ups after graduation. This could pay off in many ways e.g. by providing graduates with: practical on-the-job training; immediate employment; business relevant skills and unfettered creativity (which are not always available within a rigid corporate environment), besides – fresh graduates likely have ‘nothing to lose’ and everything to gain by doing this at this stage in their careers. Even more to the point, corporates will also benefit by recruiting seasoned and experienced entrepreneurs with more practical and immediately deployable skills.
That said, I thoroughly enjoyed this particular event; the topic / debate, the excellent venue and networking opportunities all made for a brilliant evening, and I feel very fortunate to be able to participate in, and sometimes contribute to, events such as these that help move the industry forward. Next week, we’ve scheduled an event featuring Andy Mulholland (Capgemini’s ex-Global CTO), who will speak about the emerging digital enterprise. Do register and try to attend if at all possible – it promises to be another excellent event, courtesy of the BCS North London and BCS Elite groups.
This was the title of an event that I helped organize for my British Computer Society (BCS) branch last week in Central London, and which, as perhaps might be expected given the current economic climate, generated a fair amount of interest and suggestions from the excellent speakers and a highly vocal audience (see event flyer). However, it also left me wondering if there really was much that IT could do, on its own, to bring about any sort of lasting change to the current economic situation; especially in light of the fact that IT was not directly responsible for the recession in the first place (Ok, IT may have played a role in the dot com bubble / crash, but the Financial Services industry is probably the main culprit this time around -not pointing any fingers).
Anyway, this event covered, among other things, the following points and perspectives from the speakers:
- Crunch Insulators – Kenny MacIver, Editor of Information Age, gave an overview of some of the more effective strategies in the IT industry e.g.: Unified IP Network Architectures, Virtualisation (Servers and Storage), and Remote / Mobile Working. Key Message – Simple cost cutting without innovation will not, *ahem*, cut it in this recession
- IT Governance – Sue Milton, Vice President of ISACA, pointed out that short term savings (e.g IT cost cutting and staff redundancies) may not be in the long term interests of most organizations. Key message – valuable and highly-skilled staff lost to cost cutting will be in demand again at the first sign of a recovery
- Risk Assurance – Graeme Fleming, Senior Manager at PWC, focused on the IT Risk Landscape, and greater dependence on the efficient use of IT, particularly in a downturn. Key Message – focus on projects (rationalisation), Information Security Risk and better controls for Outsourcing
- China’s Opening – Ting Zhang and Dr. Paul Irwin Crookes, from China Business Solutions, discussed the major opportunities and challenges posed by China to the global software industry. Key Message – you’ll need an effective strategy to engage with a resurgent Chinese market, and it’s renewed focus / investment in technology and innovation.
For me, the overall message was that there is no real indication of if / when we might expect to see an end to this current recession, therefore IT and related industries must learn to adapt and cope with an increasingly challenging landscape, whilst delivering critical benefits to their internal and external clients. It makes me wonder if a protracted global recession will also bring about a fundamental change in the engagement models used by existing (or surviving) technology advisory and consulting organizations. For example, are we likely to see an increase in joint ventures, and risk-reward-partnerships, between advisors and client, as opposed to the relatively more straightforward fees-on-delivery type models that currently dominate our business?
Note: Originally posted on Capgemini’s Technology blog. You can see the original post, including comments, at: http://www.capgemini.com/technology-blog/2009/03/crunch_it_the_role_of_it_in_a.php