National Air Traffic Services Enterprise Architecture: Opportunity In Challenging Times

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During even the most challenging times such as the Covid-19 pandemic, effective use of Enterprise Architecture (EA) can guide sound strategy, planning, and refining of processes within an organisation can maximise value and present opportunities.

Ben Beeching, EMEA Marketing Manager, MEGA International
MEGA International sponsored the IRM UK Enterprise Architecture & Business Process Management Conference Europe co-located with Business Change & Transformation Conference Europe 26-29 October 2020, London.
This article was previously published here.

With an Enterprise Architecture platform built on MEGA International’s leading HOPEX platform, National Air Traffic Services’ (NATS) EA team has helped to manage this extremely difficult year, and even identify opportunities for strategic growth.

How NATS has rebooted its EA practice in the Covid-19 crisis and has become more resilient

The NATS group provides air traffic control services through two principle operating subsidiaries:

NATS En-Route plc (NERL), operating under license issued by the UK Government to manage UK upper airspace; and NATS Services (NSL), which competes in the commercial marketplace. Both are subject to safety regulation by the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

The organisation’s key functions are:

  • Operation of Control Centres to manage UK airspace
  • Provide air traffic control services at airport towers
  • Provide aviation services to Airlines, ANSPs, Governments and the Military in over 30 countries

The challenges that NATS has faced  

When the coronavirus pandemic hit in March, air traffic in the UK and around the world dropped around 90% over a few short weeks – and with it NATS’ revenue.

The business responded by eliminating all non-essential expenditure, letting contractors go, furloughing, and pausing capital investment.

Before this year, NATS had been building their EA function since 2018. This had integrated with a broader Business Change Framework and was being rolled out across £800m of change programmes.

For the EA function, this posed two big questions; how to ensure survival of the team, and how the team could help ensure the survival of the business.

Clearing skies: How Enterprise Architecture has added value

Amidst the cutbacks and furloughing the organisation has faced, the value of a robust EA practice has actually become clearer. Fundamentally, this is because developing strategies in uncertain times requires an ability to understand the impact of change in a complex multitude of interdependencies.

The EA team has sought to add value through strategic re-planning, service orientation, refining processes, legacy programmes, and expanding the EA baseline.

Strategic re-planning: How re-visiting strategic drivers has helped redefined priorities

This step of the process involved looking at plans, and seeing what could be cut. It also involved adjustment of the drivers that shaped the plan, and how they have changed.

From this, a new and better approach has been designed to re-visit the strategic drivers to see how they trace into the change portfolio. This has all been carried out while remaining aware of what impacts the changes will cause, and what can be leveraged from this.

Service orientation: The way EA has helped to tie initiatives all together

Given the need to be more even more adaptable and agile in these uncertain times, service-orientation is critical. With lots of initiatives running, the role of EA takes on even greater importance to tie them all together.

Efforts have been made to understand the service stack, establish a common taxonomy, and organising as required around it.

Refining processes: Enterprise Architecture has stood the investment test

This pause in programmes has given the EA team the time to implement lessons learned. And work on the backlog of refinements that have been identified. The organisation has also sought to maximise cash flow through furloughing, in addition to thoroughly preparing for the re-launch of capital investment programmes.

Ultimately, the decision was made that NATS’ EA and requirements capability merits the organisation’s investment. Programmes and investments will be strictly prioritised, with only essential investments taking place.

Legacy programmes:  Changes that EA has needed to achieve

Before the coronavirus pandemic, NATS’ EA-driven approach and broader Business Change Framework were being rolled out on new programmes in the portfolio. With the revised and trimmed portfolio and extended timescales for legacy programmes, this model makes less sense.

The EA team are now focussed on targeted implementation of elements that will still add value given current programme and project lifecycle stages.

Expanding the Enterprise Architecture baseline to support resilience 

Even in challenging times, there are opportunities. Reduction in traffic levels increases availability of operational resource that was a major constraint on establishing an EA baseline.

The organisation’s experience during the pandemic has emphasized the benefits a more complete and robust EA practice would provide. The challenge is that this still requires significant investment in a heavily cost-constrained environment.

With a bit of vision, flexibility and pragmatism, Enterprise Architecture can help organisations succeed in a climate of change and uncertainty, and improve resilience.

This is what Dan Meadows, Head of EA and Requirements at NATS, presented at the IRM Enterprise Architecture Conference on 27 October 2020. He explained how the business has responded, what this has meant for the EA function, and the additional value the EA function has been able to add during this difficult year.

Find out more

View the video of Dan’s presentation in full.

Founded in 1991, MEGA International have been a global market leader for over ten years. We partner with customers to improve governance and accelerate transformation by leveraging technology. Rooted in our values, we believe that innovation, performance, agility and people are the keys to success – and together accelerate the creation of value.

Copyright Ben Beeching, EMEA Marketing Manager, MEGA International

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