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Airports that work

On programme! Driving the best outcomes in airport development

Airport thinking - Getting with the programme

Airport redevelopment projects have the potential to significantly affect operations and profits at any given time.


John Mason and James Bennett outline why a programme management approach to works will ensure the optimal outcome for all project deliverables involved.

What makes airport development so challenging to undertake?


• John Mason - Capital infrastructure and maintenance works at airports are particularly challenging because they have to be undertaken within a safety and operationally critical environment, which is usually heavily regulated and constrained. This campus development environment has particular attributes and drivers which influence how they are developed.

The development works are also normally in the public eye, and the consequences of non-performance can have huge impacts on the multitude of stakeholders who use the airport.

Why is programme management so important for airport-related developments?


• James Bennett - The proximity of airport-related projects to each other and the high-level of interface created as a result, means that the access and space required to undertake construction are usually at a premium.

This, combined with the critical safety and security issues, as well as the multitude of trades that need to be utilised, means that a high degree of planning is required to ensure that delivery is carefully thought through before it commences. Programme management plays a critical role in managing these numerous interfaces.

Why is programme management different from project management?


• John - Programme management looks at all of the projects within the programme and assesses the way they have to be delivered. A critical consideration is how projects need to work together, or interface, to meet the overarching outcomes being sought by the owner and the stakeholders who may be impacted by the programme.

This could mean adopting a common logistics strategy, it could mean having common project controls, reporting or BIM platform across all projects, or it could mean having an overarching delivery culture when it comes to supply chain engagement, risk allocation or safety management.

A programme level perspective means the owner is able to make strategic decisions on best for programme outcomes rather than best for project objectives. For example, this could mean delaying one project because other projects are more critical to the achievement of the overall programme.

Programme-wide activities can also achieve economies of scale and project efficiencies through, for example, a consolidated logistics strategy.

What are the main considerations in setting up a programme for success?


• John - Clarity around the outcomes being sought is, of course, vital. A well-designed organisational structure for delivery is also crucial, including defining the roles the owner wants to retain and those where a supply chain partner would add value.

The owner’s approach to matters such as delivery culture, safety and risk are also important, as are the more obvious drivers such as budget, cashflow and schedule milestones. Safety should always be a major priority; and the structures and behaviours introduced as a consequence often have secondary benefits in other areas such as interface management and construction planning.

In this regard, owners are increasingly recognising the benefits that construction management, operational and asset management thinking plays in the development of a programme’s delivery strategy and baseline schedule, with a whole-of-life perspective often driving programme requirements and timings.

Are there particular issues that need to be considered, in relation to airports?


• James - Every programme is unique, but some of the issues we considered when I was working on Terminal T5 at Heathrow, London are likely to be pertinent to any major airport development programme. These included BAA’s industry changing delivery strategy which was underpinned by the T5 Agreement and set out their overarching approach to matters such as risk, organisation, performance expectations and cultural behaviour.

A programme-wide procurement strategy, combined with a robust supply chain engagement and contracting strategy, was also critically important, as was the owner’s approach to communication and commercial management which were structured around transparency and trust to incentivise positive behaviours that would facilitate rather than impede the achievement of programme outcomes.

An important tool in the successful delivery of an airport programme is the “one-model environment”. On T5, this allowed all designers to work together in a collaborative manner striving to achieve common objectives.

A programme-wide approach also has considerable benefits in streamlining the effects the projects have on aviation operations, border control agencies, landside traffic management and so on. Importantly, it also has the potential to make the interfaces among the project teams and the airport’s operational staff much more efficient.

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