Technical innovation breeds enthusiasm

Staff at BAA's Terminal 5 project make large projects happen fast.

Staff at BAA's Terminal 5 project make large projects happen fast.

For Nick Gaines, head of IT at BAA's Terminal 5, the reason why it is a great place to work in IT is because the department offers the buzz and excitement of working on a major project with aggressive timescales.

"At T5 we are doing IT faster than if we were BAA," he said. "For example, instead of taking six months to plan and six months to execute the rolling out of thousands of PCs and hundreds of servers, here it just happens.

"We have moved thousands of people and reconfigured networks over a weekend - it can be made to happen. We are very effective at managing change. We are always asking how we can take time out of the process.

"On a project the attitude is 'nothing will stop us'."

In contrast, in the BAA IT department, where there is a service-oriented environment, Gaines said staff can be worn down by having to save money and cut costs and keep going with yet another person down from the team.

What has also helped Gaines and his team is that IT is an equal part of the T5 project - there is no "us and them" between IT and the business.

Gaines said his team building the IT for T5 are seen as just as important and integral to the project as the builders erecting the terminal building. And the IT they are creating is varied and stimulating.

"It is a unique IT environment. We are building engineering systems, process control and monitoring systems, plus conventional IT such as billing systems and flight information systems," said Gaines.

"It all goes to make a rich, complex IT environment that challenges people and brings out the best in them."

As well as building the IT for T5, Gaines' team also has to support the construction side of the project and use IT to shorten the building processes.

"For example, there is a large number of computer-aided design operators whose productivity was a bottleneck on the entire project," said Gaines.

"This meant that we threw everything at the problem and at first we thought it was down to the technology. However, when we saw how Cad operators worked, we realised it was a mix of people, processes and technology, so we attacked it on all fronts. That 'can do' attitude is generated by the right level of enthusiasm."

That kind of working environment requires high-calibre staff, said Gaines.

"We can cherry-pick because people want to be a part of T5 - it is exciting and we challenge them to think of a better way of doing things. It is very much a culture of improvement, and by making it personal, everyone attempts to excel themselves and go that extra mile," he said.

Gaines also ensures that everyone plays hard as well as works hard. There are regular sports and social events, milestone completion parties, open door management and a "no-blame" culture. "We also have a weekly "cuddly duck" award ceremony," said Gaines, which is presented to the person who has made the most outstanding contribution that week. "It makes people feel good," he said.

The BAA Terminal 5 project won the Construction and Agriculture category in Computer Weekly's Best Places to Work in IT 2003 Awards

This was last published in April 2004

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