Indian software vendors can aspire for more: British Airways CIO

Chennai: "Our pie is large and Indian software companies can bid for more," says Paul Coby, chief information officer, British Airways.

He was in Chennai visiting Tata Consultancy Services Limited's (TCS) travel and hospitality lab.

According to him British Airways annually spends around £250 million on information technology (IT).

"Around 100 million pounds sterling is spent on new systems and the balance is for running the existing systems," Coby says.

Declining to reveal the value of software services British Airways sources from India, he adds, "From 2001 to 2006 the amount spent in India showed an increase. But it has levelled."

According to Coby, the reason British Airway's IT spend in India is levelling is the completion of Terminal 5 built by it and the subsequent reduction in the need for services.

Around 30 million passengers are expected to enter/exit the new terminal. Last Saturday around 500 passengers had used the terminal with all the systems like online checking, security and baggage clearance having been put to use. TCS had developed the solution that integrates the systems of different vendors.

He says the airline did the business process model for Terminal 5.

The terminal has around 9000 connected devises and needed lot of IT services. He expects 40 per cent of the passengers to check in online.

In India, British Airways uses the services TCS and NIIT for some of its software needs in the area of desktop services.

The airline will be sourcing a solution from TCS for managing its cabin crew requirements. Elaborating on the importance of cabin crew solution, Coby says "British Airways flies to 700 destinations. There are strict rules relating to cabin-crew work conditions."

The airline has around 13,000 cabin crew and monitoring them is difficult. Adding complexity is that nearly 40 per cent of the crew works part time.

With this system, a part of the roster management is done manually and the rest is computerised.

The TCS solution will automate the entire process and offer various permutation and combinations for workforce deployment. The solution is expected to go live next year.

British Airways, Coby adds, will not go in for full scale outsourcing of its software needs, as IT is too important an area of operation for an airline.

British Airways retains key suppliers in Europe, the US and India, while having under its control the critical areas.

The airline's IT team comprises around 1500 people and Coby is responsible for IT vision, architecture.