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IS flies the quality flag at Aircelle


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Michael Dean talks to Steve Simpson IS Manager at Aircelle, the first engineering company to be accredited to the National Computing Centre’s Standard for IT departments. He finds out why they applied for accreditation and what they got out of the process.

The company

Despite the current economic gloom, the recent Paris Air Show was good news for the aerospace industry and for Airbus in particular. They racked up substantial orders for passenger jets at the show. It was good news too for Burnley based engineering company Aircelle who manufacture nacelles (engine housings) and thrust reversers for Airbus and Rolls Royce. Aircelle which employs approximately 760 staff and has a current turnover of £120m are part of the French conglomerate Safran Group which also has interests in defence and security.

Steve Simpson who heads up IS at Aircelle and manages a team of 8 is currently refining the company’s 2011- 2015 IS strategy document, “There are a lot of parameters to consider, preparing for growth included.” Steve said, “We’re looking to achieve greater alignment and closer integration with the business and have initiated projects to deliver that.” The team are certainly kept very busy. They are consolidating their application portfolio, have virtualised their server estate and are evaluating VDI, are mid-way through a Business Objects data migration project, have implemented a new Siemens Product Lifecycle Management application, and are implementing SAP across the enterprise and using SharePoint to manage both the ERP and PLM applications!

The reasons for accreditation

With so much activity going on, you might be surprised that Aircelle decided to submit themselves to external validation and accreditation from the National Computing Centre. “The fact that we have so much going on is one of the reasons we decided to apply for accreditation.” Said Simpson. “We wanted to validate what we were doing, to make sure we were on the right track and using the right industry best practice. There are challenges ahead, particularly with integration across the group and I wanted to ensure we had the right building blocks in place.”

Simpson also had a number of other reasons he wanted to seek accreditation, “Our department is mature and stable, many of the team have been here for 10 years or more, so I thought it would be useful to get an external view of best practice and at the same time to provide an opportunity for the team to show just how good they are ... and they are!”

Simpson was also keen to position IS as a high performing team with Safran, “We would be recognised for our excellence, the only team to have achieved a national accreditation and that would help us have more influence on IS strategy going forward.”

About the IT department accreditation

The National Computing Centre’s IT Department Accreditation Scheme (ITDA) is a unique business improvement programme with a certification scheme that recognises excellence and effectiveness. The assessment scheme which underpins the NCC ITDA examines an IT department’s performance against 110 common controls (Lines of Enquiry) enabling the department to compare and understand its own strengths and weaknesses and make improvements if necessary. The ITDA is also an accreditation scheme, so those IT departments who demonstrate excellence are awarded with a recognised accreditation to the NCC Standard. The Standard has already been awarded to over 30 organisations and a further 20 are currently going through accreditation.

The process

Simpson introduced the IS team to the accreditation at a strategy away-day. “Initially the team were a bit concerned about extra workload, but when they looked at the NCC Standard they soon realised that they already met a lot of the criteria and undertaking the accreditation would give them independent endorsement that that they are doing the right things well.”

“The accreditation process was slick, and the assessor was very helpful, he clarified any issues we had in interpreting the Lines of Enquiry and advised us on the best approach to gathering the evidence required to back up our claims for compliance.” said Simpson.

“The assessment day wasn’t easy, as you might expect, but it was well structured, and the assessor was supportive, but fair.” Simpson said. He went through all of the Lines of Enquiry with the assessor, using the workbook as the assessment framework.

The assessment also includes a customer perceptions survey and the assessor was pleased to report that users and stakeholders at Aircelle gave IS a good score across a number of criteria. “The business holds us in higher esteem that we thought.” joked Simpson, “That’s good to know and rewarding for the team.”

He was naturally delighted with the outcome, a pass recommendation, subsequently endorsed by the NCC moderator.

Simpson has now been provided with the ITDA Action Plan, which recommends areas for continuous improvement. One area for improvement is self promotion. “Although IS is well thought of, we should be doing a bit more to publicise our achievements. Perhaps we’ve been a bit too humble, we will focus on improving our outbound communications!” said Simpson.

The benefits

Aircelle’s board of directors is very pleased with the award, especially as Aircelle are the first company in the Group to achieve such an accreditation. “They feel re-assured that independent validation has confirmed that our direction of travel is appropriate whilst service quality and governance are excellent. They think it’s a fantastic achievement too.” Enthused Simpson. “Going through the ITDA is a great thing for IS and for the business. Just looking at the Lines of Enquiry stimulates thinking and questioning on how you approach service delivery and if it could be done better – that’s a culture well worth developing.”

Final words go to Simpson, “I’d like to congratulate the IS team. To undertake and pass the ITDA at this busy period is testimony to your professionalism. You should be proud of your achievements, the business is!”

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