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Getting off the Ground

Tucson International Airport makes a radical change in tech operations.

The Tucson Airport Authority (TAA), a nonprofit organization that manages the Tucson International Airport, faced obstacles in its efforts to upgrade its aging IT infrastructure with a new Integrated Airport Management System (IAMS). The approximately US$3.5 million project needed to be managed with a strict budget that didn't include money for change management. The TAA needed to find a way to work with employees who didn't want to change and who struggled with limited computer literacy.

 

The TAA hired Solbourne in 2004 to implement IAMS. The system uses Oracle Enterprise Asset Management, Oracle Financials, Oracle Purchasing, and Oracle HR/Payroll to decrease costs and enhance operations. In addition, IAMS includes Oracle iProcurement to support enterprise procurement and self-service applications for service requests and time entry. Solbourne worked with the TAA to create a unique "train-the-trainer" procedure that identified respected employees who could be trained on the new system and then return to their departments to help their coworkers. This approach successfully leveraged the TAA workplace culture where employees often have long tenure and strong bonds with each other.

The TAA is already seeing positive results. Since going live in January 2006, IAMS has improved information management availability, saved labor and time accessing data, and enhanced teamwork within the TAA.

It takes more than a village to run an airport—in the case of Tucson International Airport, it takes a mini-city. The residents of that metropolis comprise the Tucson Airport Authority (TAA), a private, nonprofit organization that oversees everything from the police and fire departments to the custodial staff. After 53 years, the TAA decided it was time to bring its aging IT infrastructure into the twenty-first century with a new Integrated Airport Management System (IAMS). More than a system change, the upgrade would revolutionize the way the organization tracks business operations—and would affect every employee.

But the TAA faced issues beyond those of IT implementation. Management had to work within the confines of a highly scrutinized budget and with a change-averse, technologically inexperienced workforce. The TAA's experience provides universal lessons for companies looking to implement radical change without spending radical amounts of money.

The Problem: Find the Paper

"Patience is important," says Jim Liebeskind, director of procurement and contracts management for the TAA. Liebeskind and his colleagues had been doing much of their business on paper, with employees submitting handwritten time sheets, purchase orders, and maintenance requests. "If you needed something, you'd have to find the piece of paper it was written on," says Liebeskind. "You also didn't know whether that paper was the original or a copy. After 53 years, you can imagine the amount of paper we've garnered."

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