Hands-on airport delivery from home
After seven years at SITA, I have handled a variety of technical projects for our customers across the globe. I’m based in Atlanta and, for the last year, I have been focused on deploying our airport platform in the USA, having just completed delivery of our platform SITA Flex for a major West Coast airport. This last project was a big challenge as COVID-19 began to spread to the USA, grinding industry and society to a halt.
On Monday, March 16 we were busy starting day one of our onsite week, with an already challenging delivery deadline looming over us. Just after lunch, the ‘Shelter in Place’ order was given by state government officials, effectively telling everyone to stay home. There was confusion around what to do next. We entered a series of emergency talks with contractors and with further travel restrictions likely, we were told to return home while we could.
Determined to complete the project, I spent the six-hour red-eye flight back to Atlanta and the next morning devising a way to remotely deliver and test 31 workstations including, 23 check-in counters, seven curbside check-ins, and four baggage service operations (BSO) units.
Our team normally has six people on the ground, including team members from SITA Global Services, PSE (test and system integration), implementation engineers, a GEO project manager and myself. Instead, with our team working remotely, we had to work with local support staff, train them on the fly, and guide them through the steps. On the previous implementation project for this airport, I had been very hands-on, even pulling cables under gates and check-in counters. So it was a big mental shift to operate remotely.
Microsoft Teams became an essential tool for us. We had to quickly build rapport with new workers. Therefore, being able to see facial expressions, enjoy coffee breaks virtually and develop a sense of trust with our eyes, ears and hands on the ground was crucial.
There were no training materials prepared for this scenario, we had to make it up as we went. Working together as a remote team, we managed to successfully deliver the solution on time.
Despite some long nights we’re all very proud of the result. I think we can streamline our approach going forward and we will be using Teams more often for sure.