For an airline like ours, the basic fundamental is to keep the business moving ahead in a safe and secure way. So there is no getting away from the fact that we have to spend money on the business and the IT needs to keep systems in support and maintain them on a continuous basis.
After 9/11, we have invested a lot in our website (ba.com) and in customer systems. We also put huge money for airport operational systems at Terminal 5 of the Heathrow airport.
When we look at key priorities, the primary objective is to keep things going. However, we also looked at specific projects and their returns in the current year and how our customers accepted it. If the acceptance was poor, we canned several key projects.
For example, we had a strong need to buy an ERP system to replace the existing legacy ones. I convinced the airline management, but when we gathered in September last year to look at this initiative, we realised that it would cost us a huge amount of money. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that we had to postpone this deployment because it was a long-term investment that would not pay us back immediately.
Making priorities is a key tool for CIOs during these times. We made a choice of investing in capabilities that would go live in ba.com that would help us in selling hotel rooms, car rentals and stuff like these, that would deliver quick money into the top and bottom line.
I am also a member of the companys external spend challenge group that looks at the overall airline expenditure and monitors whether any penny going out of the door is necessary or not. And we talk to all our suppliers on this issue and it doesnt matter if its a Boeing or Airbus or Rolls Royce or Oracle or whoever.
As told to Ashwani Mishra