MARKET | Dec 29, 2016

The Digital Transformation of the air sector: the ENAV case

A three-year development plan for company information systems for ENAV, with the aim of maximizing operational efficiencies and standardizing the development of application platforms on a functional and technological level in order to optimize IT services resources, costs and governance and also enabling new business models and services. The company manages civil air traffic in Italy and guarantees 24/7 safety and punctuality for approximately 1.8 million flights per year from the control towers at 44 airports via 4 Area Control Centers and has been one of the European “big five” for operational performance and innovation for some years now in the sector. Mauro Giancaspro, Chief Information Officer, told us the digital transformation path the company has taken.

How can efficient data analysis support the company business?

Today when we refer to data and optimization in terms of business, not all companies have progressed as far in data management, in spite of the implications and impact that they can have on business. For example, we can talk about the experimental remote towers project, an experiment on the Malpensa control tower for managing traffic at Linate.  A few months ago, a demonstration of RACOON (Remote Airport Concept of OperationN), a project that is part of SESAR (Single European Sky), and which is coordinated by Enav, was held in one of the Milano Malpensa tower operation rooms. This was the first trial worldwide of remote management of an airport with high traffic density. During the experimental phases, more than 100 take-off and landing movements at Linate were managed from the Malpensa tower, with high operational performance and high security levels. This was possible thanks to the integration of the video system with the radar data and the remote control of all the equipment in the Linate control tower. Enav has proven the tangible possibility of managing an airport’s air traffic remotely, with benefits in terms of performance and security.

Malpensa was the first real application of this technology – which is still in the experimental stage – at a large commercial airport. The possibility of managing airports remotely and from a distance has already found some operational solutions: Sweden manages the small Örnsköldsvik airport from a remote control tower in Sundsvall 123 km away.  A control tower is being built in Australia that will manage landings and take-offs in Alice Springs from Adelaide (950 km away). Norway has approved a plan to bring together the supervision of 15 airports in one single structure, while the service is being experimented in regional airports such as Leesburg in Virgina and Fort Collins in the United States.

Why draw up a digital strategy?

In order to achieve the goals of innovation and optimization of our management processes and enable new services, we started up a real digital strategy 3 years ago that the current digital transformation path has integrated with perfectly. There were three main outputs for the plan’s goals: innovating, simplifying and optimizing not just internal digital processes but also hypothesizing new digital service models to offer new opportunities for the business units It is therefore a path that becomes active over a period of time.

The strategic path that was defined in 2014 in close connection with business and operations is now in the implementation phase and in the last 18 months several new digital services have been created to support the Group’s management processes, including: Info Mobility service, the Unified Communications & Collaboration system and the integrated dematerialization platform with Office Cloud services. All the new implemented digital services have been designed to create an innovative ENAV Digital Workplace i.e. A new simple, efficient digital workplace, guaranteeing strict adhesion to the security and privacy policies.

Two concrete examples of the digital transformation path taken

We can certainly refer to the digital workplace and to dematerialization. For the first one, in the realm of mobility, we have created a service that allows all applications to be used by any device used by workers. We then dematerialized all procedures and operational documents in the 44 airports and the 4 air control centers. All paperwork has been fully digitalized and managed through a single ECM (Enterprise Content Management), which also has other functions such as the possibility of sending updated information to operators in real time.

What are the benefits that you have obtained?

Nel piano prospettico abbiamo ridotto i costi di esercizio negli ultimi 3 anni di oltre il 30% del totale virtualizzando il data center, attivando e spostando il 20% dei servizi in cloud e customizzando su prodotti standard e open source. In effetti abbiamo riscontrato nella virtualizzazione, standardizzazione e passaggio a nuove tecnologie open dei fattori abilitanti soprattutto nel settore di test e sviluppo che hanno avuto un enorme impatto in termini di efficienza. Ci sono altri processi che stiamo migliorando e implementando, ma la riduzione dei costi sulla esecuzione delle attività e l’efficientamento del settore sviluppo e collaudo, che da solo cuba circa il 60% delle risorse dell’IT, sono ottimi risultati. La dematerializzazione ha contribuito anche all’innalzamento della safety awareness garantendo possibilità di accesso ai materiali di lavoro in tempo reale, anche da remoto.

What will future developments be?

The expected efficacy and benefits from the ENAV group’s Digital Transformation path most certainly come through the innovation of technology and ICT services, but also requires a new corporate mentality, a strategic vision and synergy between IT and business management. Although the specific potential of big data in the realm of data science still needs to be optimized further. The fundamental role that the User Experience plays in a company’s digital transformation and the desire to promote and favor the use of new company digital services will produce added value and the expected benefits of cost rationalization and optimization of the group’s organization and processes as set out in the 2016-2019 Industrial Plan.

What are the critical factors that still need to be overcome?

Several types of critical factors can be considered in Italy, regarding the development of digitalization, which undoubtedly differ in the public and private sector. However, there are two aspects that penalize the competitiveness of our companies on the market: the first is the technological infrastructure, i.e. Connectivity in general as it is necessary to have connectivity in order to create and offer advanced digital services.  Another aspect that we are behind with is the cultural digital gap, especially when it is accompanied by certain paradigms that are linked to security and privacy. We need to culturally accept the phenomenon of change in order to embrace progress and innovation.