CXO

BA goes Dragons' Den on the hunt for fresh IT ideas

Airline staff have their own Eureka moment

When British Airways was looking for clever new IT projects to green-light, it turned to Dragon's Den for its inspiration.

Earlier this year, the airline launched Eureka - an internal campaign aimed at helping the airline's IT department meet its business objective of fostering innovation.

The Eureka campaign picked the brains of staff from within BA's services unit - which includes IT, property and shared services - asking them to come up with technology-backed projects aimed at helping passengers.

British airways plane

British Airways is asking staff which tech projects should get support from the IT department
(Photo credit: Shutterstock)

The ideas were whittled down with a selection picked to go forward to be pitched to a number of BA executives, including the company's CIO Paul Coby, its CTO Gordon Penfold and Chris Davies, the airline's head of digital marketing.

Trudie Lee, Eureka's organiser, told silicon.com: "The BA Services Leadership Team were keen to have a Dragon's Den-style panel and [Paul Coby] had done something similar for silicon.com. We felt it was a great way to create dialogue between the decision-makers and the people with ideas about the innovations."

The execs considered the merits of the projects before deciding which would be green-lighted and receive support from the tech team to help the idea become reality.

Four projects were pitched during the Eureka session, Coby told silicon.com at the recent Sita Airline IT Summit, with one of the pitches chosen for development.

The idea that got the approval of BA's dragons "entailed moving rich media assets to the cloud ourselves instead of having an agency do it for us, removing any bandwidth issues and reducing costs for the company whilst enhancing the customer experience", according to Lee. "This was green-lighted immediately and has already borne fruit."

After the success of the first Dragons' Den-style call for IT projects which took place in February, the company had initially planned to repeat the project in subsequent months.

While this year's industrial action and the volcanic ash disrupted those plans, Coby said BA is still aiming to run another Eureka session in the future which will be filmed and put on the company's intranet.

The call for ideas is also likely to be opened up in phases to the entire company in future, Lee added.

The airline has something of a history of backing spontaneous IT projects dreamt up by staff.

BA's original iPhone app was built by members of staff after one BA worker said he had heard Apple was about to release its software development kit and suggested he could create an application for the airline to run on the device.

"It was a bit of an authorised skunkworks and that's what you're trying to do with innovation in some ways," Coby told silicon.com.

About

Jo Best has been covering IT for the best part of a decade for publications including silicon.com, Guardian Government Computing and ZDNet in both London and Sydney.

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