The National Academies

ACRP 01-12 [Completed]

A Primer for Information Technology Systems at Airports

  Project Data
Funds: $350,000
Research Agency: Faith Group, LLC
Principal Investigator: John Purnell
Effective Date: 7/7/2009
Completion Date: 9/6/2010
Comments: Results published in ACRP Report 59.


Many executive managers at airports do not fully understand how to place a value on information systems and technology. At the same time, information technology (IT) professionals have a difficult time communicating and justifying the business benefits of newer technologies to executive management. As a result, airports tend to lag behind private industry in the strategic use of technology to improve business operations and financial performance. In addition, airports sometimes experience problems such as cost overruns, under-performance, implementation delays, internal disputes, poor reliability, unanticipated collateral impacts, and failure to consider integration. A change is occurring in the business model at airports, where the airport is becoming a fully involved service provider in the daily operation of all airport activities, including tenant activities. Airports do not always know how to tailor information systems and technology to best support their operations and thereby increase the value they can offer their staff, tenants, and passengers. As such, guidance in this area would be helpful to airport staff.

The objective of this research is to develop an easy-to-read primer that speaks to two distinct audiences, the airport’s executive manager and the information technology (IT) professional, in order to facilitate mutual understanding of each other’s perspective of the fundamental considerations for IT at the airport. Fundamental considerations include functional architectural concepts, functional and strategic objectives, mutual and disparate expectations, total costs (i.e., life-cycle, acquisition, implementation, activation, operation, and maintenance), benefits, consequences, priorities, risks, and other relevant considerations. The primer will also (a) describe steps and approaches to acquire, implement, and maintain IT at the airport; (b) include a description of guiding technical principles; (c) present applicable standards and recommended practices (e.g., ACI, ICAO, ATA, IATA); (d) provide a list of considerations for making informed “go–no-go” acquisition, implementation, and commissioning decisions; (e) describe different approaches for placing the IT function within the airport organization; (f) present and define relevant terminology; and (g) be scalable to large, medium, and small airports.   The primer should be concise, creative, visual, and straightforward in its discussion of (a) the considerations that are important to the executive manager, (b) the considerations that are important to the IT professional, (c) what the executive manager would like the IT professional to understand, (d) what the IT professional would like the executive manager to understand, and (e) issues that are common to both perspectives.

Status:  Research is complete, the project has been published as ACRP Report 59.

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