Qantas equates e-nablement with efficiency

A four-month study of the ageing IT infrastructure at Qantas is under way as part of the airline's ambitious plans to start to fully e-enable the organisation in 2003.

Qantas chief information officer (CIO) Fiona Balfour said project implementation should begin in January and take two years to complete.

The airline's strategy, on the back of a strong profit forecast and flat IT costs, is aimed at simplifying IT infrastructure to drive further savings within the organisation, Balfour said.

Plans for the project, dubbed eQ, include the replacement of eight different systems covering some homegrown and out-dated technology.

Balfour and her team manage and support 600 applications across 30 different platforms in-house and have an annual IT spend of around $400 million. Although IT costs have been flat for the past four years, Balfour said the eQ project is about reducing the complexity of older systems and infrastructure.

"Current systems are pretty old in technology terms; some of the homegrown systems have been in place for 20 years," she said.

Balfour said Qantas expects to spend $200 million on the new e-business platform over the life of the 10-year project and anticipates cost savings of up to 15 per cent in the areas targeted.

Qantas has enlisted PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting and technology services group IBM Global Services to plan, manage and maintain the project for 10 years, while Oracle's E-Business Suite will deliver the future platform for Qantas.

As well as the eQ initiative, Qantas is also two and a half years into a project to outsource its reservation, inventory and departure control system (DCS) to global distribution system provider Amadeus. Balfour likened the reservation migration to a "heart and lung bypass".

In March, Qantas Airways' group general manager, managed services, Michael Dodd told Computerworld that the carrier is moving away from having hundreds of applications to a "small number" of managed service software suppliers, and is "determined" not to customise applications. Balfour said there were some IT outsourcing projects on the horizon, but she is "not even going to begin to worry about it" until the switch is flicked on the reservation migration, scheduled for November.

"At the moment we are not planning to move anything out in the near future. We'll be keeping systems in until the reservation system is migrated," Balfour said.

Under the terms of the Qantas proposal, Amadeus will absorb much of the carrier's IT operation, such as the development and maintenance of the QUBE (Qantas's proprietary reservation, inventory and departure control systems).

In addition, Qantas has charged Amadeus with developing and operating a new-generation inventory system and departure control system; Amadeus will establish a separate base of operations in Sydney, staffed by Qantas and Amadeus employees, to work on new IT ventures.

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