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21 April 2017 RogierDoffegnies

Don’t let yourself be distracted: how to move along on your strategic roadmap

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Airport development is a long-term business. The lumpiness and increased complexity of infrastructure at airports demands operators to think well ahead. Sometimes over 30 years. However, most airport projects run out of control as a result of short-term focused, bottom-up discussions that will inevitably occur while executing projects. As a result, project organizations are often forced to take decisions which are contradicting to the objectives of your overall strategy. How can you prevent this from happening such that you can move along your strategic roadmap?

How the common management practices at airports is holding back progression  

Most airport organizations are built upon a very typical structure: they have a strategy and finance department situated close to the board and several business units including operations and asset management. Different units and departments are linked via typical control instruments like business plans and budget. The question one can raise if these control measures really give you the ability to control your strategic progress?

Aviation markets are changing constantly. Today, passengers have a choice of going literally anywhere and may choose out of an array of several airlines. Many new airline business models where introduced, resulting in a non-traditional landscape of airlines. The differentiation between business and leisure hardly exists anymore; hybrid business models have emerged, resulting in a a-typical use of airports. But airports did not change very much. This may seem like a controversial statement, but if you take a closer look you see change arising on the micro level but stagnation on the macro level. Yes, new technology is arising in the various processes at airports, but most airports remain in the essence common use facilities with price mechanisms based on an all-in service charge, while we see a diverging use of the airport by airlines.

Uncontrolled decision making is the number one cause of failure costs

Information in today’s airport organizations passed through tremendous times. The increasing amount of decision makers being involved in projects make the project vulnerable to change. Although most project managers are averse to change – since they think change is bringing risk to their project –  change is an intrinsic element of doing projects. Certainly, at airports. In fact, the scope, timing and costs of big projects are changing all the time: all the way from board room until the very last bit of execution. Our challenge is to organize projects such that they fulfill both your strategic demands as well as that of your stakeholders. Taking care of changes is therefore one of our top priorities.

The market needs a systematic top-down approach to organize complex decision making

Taking the right decisions by the right persons and at the right time is what will improve your ability to leverage the success of projects. To organize this, airport operators need to find a way to organize discussions such that all information, decisions and contextual information is linked to each other, independent on the hierarchical structure of the physical structure of the organization.

We introduce an interdisciplinary, layered and top-down approach to organize the goals and objectives of projects such that one can explain the added value of bits and pieces to the project, and the value of the project to the organization. Your people and stakeholders should all be aware of this top down structured organization of objectives in order to be able to manage their responsibilities for the greater good. As an example: different (type of) airports need different type of baggage handling systems. And different baggage handling systems need different tyoe of assets, such as robots.

So, ask a project manager to build an airport and you will get a terminal and a runway. Ask a pilot to what he needs for a safe and timely take-off and you need people and organized processes as well. We advise you to start thinking in terms of interdisciplinary systems instead of assets at all stages of your project will help you to focus on the overall accomplishment of useable products.

Road to success

Airports who want to improve their strategic decision making process and their ability to do successful projects are advised to:

  • Organize your objectives top down. Strategy, objectives, concept of operations, project specifications
  • Think systems, not assets. What do you need in order to develop successful systems. People, Assets, Procedures.
  • Stuck in discussion? Move one level up in your hierarchical plan of objectives
  • Involve your stakeholders on all levels. Administrate requirements and whishes
  • Incorporate contextual information into your project. Manage your interfaces right from the very first beginning.

Inspired by this perspective? Please share your thoughts and ideas. Need to know more, don’t hesitate to contact us!