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Birmingham Airport tech on flexible flight path

Head of information services Wayne Smith talks virtualisation and consolidation...

IT is sometimes viewed by other departments as an obstacle to getting things done. That's the main reason Birmingham International Airport's head of information services Wayne Smith rebranded the IT department when he assumed the role in 2009.

"I instigated a transformation programme where I wanted to change the department from being a policing and necessary evil to being a more service-led department," he told silicon.com.

"If you implement technology, it's thought of as implementing something techie, something a bit geeky, something that other people might not understand. Whereas if you're delivering services I think that's a softer set of skills. It implies [being] more [approachable]. It implies more of a complete package," he added.

As part of the transformation, Smith changed the name of the department to information services (IS), to show people inside and outside the department that a change had taken place heralding a new and fresh approach.

Birmingham Airport's IS department focuses on services as well as supporting hardware

Birmingham Airport's IS department focuses on services as well as supporting hardware, such as flight information screensPhoto: Birmingham Airport

He explained that the department doesn't just provide hardware such as the latest phone, but also services such as internet access and email - a "subtle distinction" reflected in the rebranding.

Smith started at the airport as an analyst programmer 23 years ago and has seen significant changes in terms of the scale of the airport's operations and also the technology priorities and challenges, which he discussed with silicon.com.

Technology fit for an expanding airport

Birmingham Airport opened in 1939 and is currently the sixth-largest UK international airport in terms of passenger numbers. Some 9.8 million travellers passed through the airport in 2008.

It is undergoing further expansion with the construction of a £45m state-of-the-art terminal extension, which started in June 2007.

The IS department currently has just nine full-time staff to support the airport's 500-plus employees as well as staff from more than 100 other companies that also operate in the airport, including airlines, handling agents and shops.

The IS team provides systems and services to these other companies that choose to use them - from phone lines to flat-screen flight information displays and "everything in between", according to Smith.

In contrast to when Smith first started working at the airport, the IS department now does little internal technology development, and its workforce consists of...

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