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IT Program Management for Toronto Pearson

“Information Technology must not delay the opening of the new terminal.” This was the challenge issued in 2003 by James Burke, the recently appointed CIO at the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, the organization responsible for operating Toronto Pearson airport. The background to the challenge was that a $4.4 billion project to construct a new passenger terminal was already well under way and the IT department at the GTAA was still in a formative stage.


While the CIO and his management team focused on building an Information Technology & Telecommunications department capable of supporting the significantly expanded airport, the author was enlisted to lead the program to deliver IT&T systems and infrastructure for the new terminal.


There was significant catching up to do. It was important to establish IT&T as an integral part of the overall construction program and to quickly understand the needs of the many stakeholders. Even more critical was to establish a relationship with the construction program and make them aware that the IT&T program was dependant upon certain construction deliverables. As a result of this interaction, the construction schedule was revamped to accelerate an earlier than originally scheduled completion of the backbone cable and telecommunication rooms.


The scope of the IT&T program included over 700 passenger processing systems (combinations of computers, boarding pass printers, baggage tag printers, etc.), 100 self-service kiosks, over 700 electronic display screens, VoIP phones, a WLAN network, radio systems, and resource management systems.


All of these systems were to operate on a brand new infrastructure that included 53 telecommunication rooms and over 2500 kilometers of cabling.


Supplier Management


As all of the systems for the new terminal were procured rather than developed internally, supplier management became a critical function for the project team. In this context, supplier management included a transparent and challenge-proof process to select the best supplier/partner, the development of precise and comprehensive contracts, and the ongoing oversight of the supplier installation project.


A GTAA project manager was appointed to lead every significant project within the program. It was important to have the projects led by someone from the GTAA, not only to oversee the supplier’s performance, but also to manage the GTAA stakeholders, ensuring that the suppliers received clear and concise specifications as well as the ongoing and timely flow of information to the supplier’s project team.


The appointment of a GTAA project manager to oversee a project already staffed with a supplier project manager may appear to be a duplicate capital expense but it proved to be a sound investment with the cost of the project manager being offset by the avoidance of project delays and the management/reduction of change orders, etc.



Program Scheduling


There were absolute and critical dependencies between the stakeholder schedules.


The GTAA adopted a landlord model whereby it owns the entire IT&T infrastructure outside of the tenant spaces. The consequence of this model is that the deployment of IT&T infrastructure became a dependency for all of the operators and retailers moving into the terminal who required the IT&T infrastructure so they could install their own systems, phones, etc.


Schedule coordination between IT&T and the stakeholders became a full-time activity for several people to ensure that all parties could effectively schedule the activities for their workforces and meet their own target dates.





The new terminal was opened in two phases. The first opening in April 2005 was to accommodate those airlines relocating from the old Terminal 1. During the three months prior to the opening, a series of operational trials were run, the most significant of which involved approximately two thousand members of the public acting as arriving and departing passengers. This event designed to test the operational passenger flows through the building also provided the first major test of the IT&T systems.


In January 2007, the second phase of the new Terminal 1 opened to allow the relocation of airlines from Terminal 2. Once again, all IT&T systems were in place and operational to enable this event.


The CIO challenge issued in 2003 had been achieved. The IT&T program was delivered on time and through effective management of the suppliers, the project was completed significantly under budget.


All told, it was an outstanding effort completed by a first-class team of project managers, technicians, and support personnel.




Derek Hyman is founder and president of Premium Technology Inc., a provider of project management consulting and training services since 1986. He can be reached at [email protected] or

Mike Morton

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