Research Projects

A Primer and Guidebook on Airport Digital Transformation and Assessment of Your Organization's Readiness

The development of a Primer and Guidebook to assist Airport's with assessing their readiness for digital transformation. The results of this research would support Airport's to understand exactly where they are on the transformation continuum and provide guidance and direction on the next steps of the journey.

Background (Describe the current situation or problem in the industry, and how your idea would address it.)

How do airports define Information Technology (IT) success? Success is typically characterized as how well they can react to technology trends and/or find ways to use technology to meet increasing passenger expectations and evolving airport operational goals. When an airport reacts and "meets" up with this expectation, it is considered successful. However, digital technologies are changing the way organizations do business and the change is accelerating faster than organizations are transforming. Airports are experiencing ever increasing demands to proactively provide not just an efficient and effective mode of transportation, but equally to provide a dazzling, hassle-free and entertaining experience no longer having the luxury of being able to just "react" to their customer and business partner needs.

Digital allows businesses to more easily jump industry sectors and offer their services in sectors that were previously impermeable, like airports. Digital Transformation is sometimes referred to as Digital Business Transformation because it truly is a transformation of the business. Conducting business will become more difficult for those that lag in making their transformation jumps. Digital helps airports achieve much of the strategic objectives they are trying to achieve: increase non-aeronautical revenue, increase passenger journey experience, improve timely and data informed decisions, become more agile in its operations and so on. Digital will help airports expand the boundaries of business beyond the traditional, just as it is helping others to expand into the airports'. Well executed transformations can increase organizational performance and health. A paradigm shift where the airport is leading the way in this digital transformation for its customers, partners and its own employees is needed, and it is needed now.

All airports are conducting some form of digital transformation. The challenge is to understand exactly where a given airport is in its transformation continuum and to identify and include direction from the airport's Strategic Plan to align with its vision and mission. Passenger demands, increasing airline partner requirements, disruptive technologies and the drive for not just efficiency in the airport environment, but optimization, has thrust airports into a new game with new rules in which airports modernize not just the tools and functions, but actually modernize the processes and culture of the organization in order to support the means of doing business. The IT modernization needed in an airport today is more than an upgrade or the addition of a system or two. Where does an airport turn to even figure out what processes, behaviors and technology systems are needed or wanted to support the many functions across the organization? How does one assess the ability to engage in digital transformation and proactively take the lead?

Understanding a holistic approach to the functionality of IT in the airport environment in order to reach strategic goals is essential; and knowing how to plan, sequence, invest, design and engage the many teams that encompass the airport metro-plex around technological modernization is equally important.

Airports are at the fore-front of global challenges and as seen in the Airport Model progression below, an airport can be at varying stages of IT innovation. By understanding the existing conditions for the airport, and the future path, steps can be identified to support the airport organization in its realization of process and culture change and thus have an efficient and effective impact on the many functionalities within the airport footprint. Functionalities such as processing and connecting aircraft, passengers and bags, ground transportation, and all the while providing an amazing experience to those using the airport infrastructure.


Airport Models
Airport 1.0 - Manual and analogic processes; Long lag-time between resource solicitation and the airport answer; Public service infrastructure; IT is used to run basic services of the airport
Airport 2.0 - Implementation of common use (CUTE and CUSS) deployed for some airline users and self-service kiosk; Development of communication centers
Airport 3.0 - Advanced implementation of self-service to address key flow processing such as bag-drop, TSA check-points and passport check; Smart tablets are employee for flexibility
Airport 4.0 -Airside digitalization of data to optimize flow monitoring of aircraft; Using some data sharing to analyze passenger profiles and generate some additional revenue
Airport 5.0 - Full-connected/integrated with all key stakeholders; Real-time operations; Real-time passenger connections; Contribute to aviation industry sustainability goals; Digital Ready Airport

Objective (What is the desired product or result that will help the airport industry?)

"Research is needed to develop a Primer for airports to better understand what digital transformation is and what it looks like for an airport organization. Secondly, a guide to provide a general self-assessment of the current state of the airport in its digital transformation journey. Together the primer and assessment will impart understanding of the organizational commitment, breadth of organizational change and magnitude of the impact, effort and cost across the organization and in terms of IT. As with any business strategy, digital transformation is facing a large set of challenges which have to be understood upfront with a corresponding mitigation plan. While each airport's business context and strategy will be different, the key challenges will essentially be comparable and should include focus in the following areas:

Be Customer Centric: Whether it is the passenger using your facility or the many airport partners that call your airport home, putting the passenger and airport partners first is key with IT transformation. Our research must ask questions like: Why do we need to enhance or transform our airport's technology right now? What problems will we solve? How will this deliver value to our passengers and airport partners? How can we use Design Thinking – Human Centered problem-solving?

Increase Non-aeronautical revenue: Information is key to understanding new financial value streams. Establishing a digital framework, to where new information is analyzed will help you, the airport operator take full advantage of the ever-changing climate of passenger expectations and the journey various passengers take, traveling through your airport.

Maximize and Optimize Data Integrations, Sharing and Decision Making: Deliver flexibility and speed to enable optimization of our airport systems. Address questions such as: What aspects of the airports existing systems are constraining our optimization and speed? Are there better ways to change direction while managing risks? What kinds of challenges have we dealt with in the past? What do we expect with future system designs? Provide airport-wide communication and coordination processes for shared situational awareness that simplify our technology systems environment. Deliver modularity in our current system environment and provide agility to enable integration across many technology platforms.

Maximize Efficiencies and Automation: Many airports today are experiencing unprecedented growth, having to manage greater numbers of passengers, pushing facility capacities to a maximum. How to measure passenger flows and make quick decisions rely on having the right information when you need it.

Engagement: Engage with airport staff and key stakeholders to determine what is needed from the Information Technology Communication (ITC) plan. How technologically capable is the airport workforce considering the multi-generations? What skills do they already have and what do they need to develop (re-skilling, upskilling and retraining)? Bottom line, what does staff need from new ITC system to be efficient and effective and amazing.

System-wide Adoption vs. Department Silos Mindset: Determine the essential technology services we provide to our airport. Are we organized and funded according to the outcomes an airport can provide rather than managing just the asset? What new innovations or new services could an airport offer in a cost-effective way if we had an integrated approach?

Implementation Roadmap: Identify the critical steps in migrating to a new system. Pinpoint needed Project Champions with collaborative team building components. Include growth plans (4-6 years) for major functional areas (airside – terminal – landside).

Invest in Change Management Processes: Include resources to support the transformation process while optimizing airport operations. What skills will be needed with the new systems and how does an airport build them?

Partnering for Success: What does partnering and teaming within, and external to, the airport organization look like in this environment? What are the requirements for a partnering agreement (LOA or MOA)? What values are important to the airport? How do you establish mutual trust and transparency?

As proposed, these elements will address benefits in the airport environment in the following areas:

  1. Improved airport operational planning an execution
  2. Better performance monitoring
  3. Improved capacity management
  4. Improved staff morale and functionality
  5. Improved customer satisfaction – passenger services
  6. Stakeholder management"
Approach (Describe in general terms the steps you think are needed to achieve the objective.)
  1. Kickoff web meeting with ACRP project panel

  2. Research
    a. Identify organizations, government and private, that have been identified as having successfully made (or are making) this transformation.
    i. Interview a set of organizations regarding the transformation elements.
    ii. Develop Case Studies
    b. Review articles speaking to organizations that have (and are) being recognized for having successfully made this transformation.
    c. Customer/Airport Partner survey of needs
    d. Case Studies including hierarchy of CEO needs from IT and the organization (see graphic below)

  3. Development of Primer document, including identification of key Strategic Plan elements to provide a framework for the airport

  4. Development of a current state and general gap analysis tool(s) to assess current business processes and correlation to conditions in the airport environment

  5. Final Deliverable: ITC Guidebook/Playbook

Cost Estimate and Backup (Provide a cost estimate and support for how you arrived at the estimate.)




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Idea No. 187