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Gatwick Airport takes major step in breaking away from BAA IT

Airport awards multi-million pound ERP contracts to SAP and Siemens

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Gatwick Airport has signed a multi-million pound deal with SAP and Siemens IT Solutions and Services to overhaul its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

The new SAP ERP system will replace the existing Oracle-based solution that Gatwick inherited from its previous owner, airport operator BAA. The project will contribute to Gatwick’s plans to replace and reduce the 140 legacy IT systems that were being operated under BAA.

BAA sold Gatwick, the UK’s second largest airport, to investment fund Global Infrastructure Partners for £1.5 billion December 2009.

As systems integrator, Siemens will install a broader ERP system, compared to the existing Oracle solution, which Michael Buckley, back office transformation lead at Gatwick Airport, described as “limited”.

The new ERP solution will include back office systems such as finance, HR, payroll and invoicing, as was available with Oracle. But the SAP ERP solution will have more modules, including an aerobilling solution, called SKY-Billing from SAP’s partner ISO Software Systems, which captures passenger numbers of aircraft landing at the airport and automatically produces an invoice of charges to the airline.

“Previously we had a very clunky system - we needed manual intervention. The new system is more streamlined and integrated,” said Buckley.

Other modules that Gatwick will integrate into the ERP system are ones to help the airport with retail and property management, as well as a scheduling tool, called Primavera, for capital projects.

“By increasing the footprint of ERP we are de facto retiring a number of legacy systems,” said Buckley. “It has contributed significantly to legacy system reduction, retiring quite a number of small systems.”

He added: “It also breaks the link with BAA.”

According to Buckley, the new ERP system will also help the airport to improve its processes, controls and business intelligence.

“We are going to be able to plan much better because we now have much better data and much better management information around that. We are going to be also supporting other systems, such as operations,” he said.

Buckley stressed that the back office transformation will be significant, with additional modules to be added and more integration to take place.

“With this ERP platform we will go further. This is not a six-month project, we have a two to three-year roadmap,” he said.

The new ERP system is expected to be fully specified and ready for a phased rollout by December. Completion of the installation is planned for summer 2012.

The back office transformation project is one of four major projects to overhaul the airport. The other projects will be around operations, commercial and IT.

Stuart Birrell, CIO at Gatwick Airport, said that it hopes to become more customer-focused.

“We’re striving to be more customer-focused and to boost annual passenger numbers [from 33 million a year] to at least 40 million over the next decade by delivering great service, attracting new airlines and increasing the efficiency of our operations. Having the right IT system in place is critical to achieving our goals.”

Gatwick is investing £1 billion into improving the airport, which involves a range of projects. These include a £156 million project to replace pier one [one of the walkways between the departure lounge and gates] and deliver a new baggage handling system in the South Terminal, and a £76 million project to extend the size of the North Terminal building.

Meanwhile, Gatwick’s former owner BAA said in its Capital Investment Plan for 2010, said it was planning to invest £121 million overhauling IT at Heathrow between April 2010 and 2013. As well as upgrading the baggage system, the IT programme includes the vanilla implementation of Oracle E-Business Suite.

The extensive IT changes at Heathrow Airport are part of a £600 million technology transformation programme that also covers its other airports, Stansted, Aberdeen, Southampton, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

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