In Summary

Heathrow Airport is the UK’s largest airport, handling 80 million international passengers annually pre-pandemic. In 2019 the airport was ranked the third busiest in the world by international passenger traffic, with a sprawling complex spanning 1,227 hectares, four operating terminals, two runways and home to over 80 airlines flying to 185 destinations in 84 countries (status pre-pandemic 2019.)

The Situation

Heathrow contacted BIE to seek assistance with the largest transformation programme in the airport’s 75 year history: An organisational redesign and upgrade of their entire aging ERP on-premise infrastructure to the cloud. Heathrow needed an appropriately experienced Transformation Director to support in the replacement and modernisation of the infrastructure for all the back office functions of the airport - Finance, Revenue, Income, Asset Management, HR and payroll and Aeronautical Billing.

Heathrow needed BIE to recruit quickly as the project was against the clock with a burning platform deadline with the data centre. The successful candidate would have to join, setup from scratch and deliver a vast programme at pace with business critical deadlines and needed the skills and temperament to take on the challenges this brought to the role. The successful candidate was expected to ensure that there was appropriate ownership and buy-in to the solutions, together with a strong change management background.


As the programme progressed, the global pandemic was declared which added logistical challenges, significant resource and budget constraints but still no movement to the burning platform deadline. The requirement for remote working at the height of the lockdown presented unprecedented challenges, requiring the creation of an innovative agile-remote digital methodology for coordinating the vast, globally distributed team.

The pandemic decimated the travel sector, as Heathrow and other airports faced substantial loss of revenue and personnel. Such losses greatly impacted the programme which still needed to deliver the transformation despite restricted resources and business capacity.

In addition to the typical ERP functionality, Heathrow required a high volume aeronautical billing solution to accommodate the high frequency of planes landing on the airports runways. Further industry-specific functionality needed to be delivered in areas such as HR to accommodate complex employment contracts, and finance to address various regulatory and accountancy requirements.

The Solution

BIE’s Transformation Division worked with Heathrow to understand the specific requirements of the project and the skills and attributes needed to ensure the appropriate candidate was identified.

Given the time constraints of the project, Heathrow required the fast appointment of an experienced Transformation Director. BIE suggested an interim solution. Good interim personnel are functional experts, capable of managing themselves and stakeholders, focused on delivering to the task in hand and able to inject energy and add value from day one. The appointed transformation specialist, Stephen Williams, ensured a benefits of realisation workstream was implemented from the start of the project and that his team, the Board and the wider business understood the benefits of and reasoning behind the programme.

The Outcome

The replacement and modernisation of the on-site infrastructure and its transfer to the cloud was completed successfully ahead of the deadline and under the original budget. The programme successfully overcame a myriad of unprecedented challenges and all functions were consolidated and streamlined, enabling Heathrow to continue operating with improved efficiency.

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