Programme recovery to become the World’s Favourite Airline

British Airways are the flag carrier airline for the UK and strive to offer a premium service to their customers. They are a truly global brand, with operations at all major airports across the world and were at one point, the world’s favourite airline.


They are part of the International Airlines Group which also owns brands such as Iberia, Aer Lingus and BA CityFlyer.


Project One was engaged by British Airways to provide a Programme Director to lead the recovery and delivery of a multi-million-pound operational transformation to reconfigure the locations of four of its Global Engagement Centres in India, Hong King, Malaysia and Europe.


Post-pandemic, British Airways had recognised it had two key challenges in Customer Care, improvements required in the delivery of customer service and management of the cost associated with this.


A Market Review programme had been initiated to define a cost reduction strategy to inform which sites were to be rationalised and new locations established to transfer the work to. In parallel, a technical programme named ‘Contact Centre Futures’, which had been upgrading telephony technology from Aspect to Genesys had stalled due to the ongoing Market Review, to avoid rolling out new telephony into global locations which may be closed.


The decision was taken to merge the two programmes into one, to form the Global Footprint Programme, a multi-site, multi-outcome transformation programme. However, as complexity had increased with scope, the new programme had stalled and had a status of Red, with no viable Plan to Green.


This was a large, complex programme covering significant people, process, technology, property, legal and geographical changes to the current operating model.


If the programme did not deliver successfully, British Airways would be left with contact centres costing too much to be viable in house, using different technologies in different geographies and a single view of the customer for all interactions could not be realised.


The initial phase was to identify why the Global Footprint programme had stalled by:


  1. Engaging with decisions makers and key stakeholder to understand their concerns.
  2. Reviewing programme governance structures.
  3. Conducting deep dives on all delivery projects.
  4. Assessing the capabilities, experience, and fit of client colleagues.
  5. Reviewing supplier performance and health of the working relationship.
  6. Understanding the funding position.


Key stakeholders and the Accountable Business Owner were frustrated and were becoming directive as a result, which lead to a reactive team who had become disempowered with low morale.


The governance structure was little more than a communication cascade to senior decision makers, with steering groups being run weekly, the team being more focused on steering packs each week, as opposed to driving delivery and with no meaningful escalation routes for blocking issues and significant risks.


The deep dives revealed there were significant areas of immaturity in approach and capability, which had resulted in below optimal team performance.


The Systems Integrator was underperforming in all areas of delivery and the working relationship between client team and supplier teams had all but broken down. With all communication being in writing, with each party having limited influence on each other, other than by use of the commercial and contractual legal agreements.


Funding was not being tracked effectively and there was no regular engagement with the Finance Business Partner with oversight on the programme. There was no understanding of the rate of spend vs. delivery profile, e.g. was the programme over or under spent for the capabilities delivered to date.


To resolve the issues the Project One Programme Director was facing, they implemented a multi-faceted approach.


  • Stakeholders: An analysis was conducted and individuals within the team were allocated to appropriate stakeholders to meet on a one-to-one basis to develop rapport, deepen levels of trust and increase levels of influence.
  • Governance: Steering Groups were reduced to monthly, with a focus on pre reading of updates and the meeting being focused on decisions making, escalation of issues and flagging of significant risks requiring executive interventions. The membership was reviewed and Directors from Technology and Property were co-opted on to join the Director of Customer Care as the ABO, as a group of key decision makers and escalation points for resolution of blockers.
  • The Team: A new PMO Lead was assigned who implemented and consistently support required levels of structure, communication & collaboration. There was a change at business Project and Programme Manager levels to ensure the required experience and approach was available to the Programme Director.
  • The Lead Supplier: The Programme Director built a strong working relationship with the Account Executive and made use of this to expediate decisions, address blockers and drive supplier delivery which was being slowed by poor relationships at the project level. Together the project level working relationship was also addressed via joint working, starting with Large Scale Planning workshops which all delivery teams attended face to face for two days once a quarter.
  • Finances: Monthly deep dives were held with the Finance Business Partner at programme level and weekly finance reviews were held at project level to ensure spending was understood and managed. This also formed part of the monthly Steering Group Meetings.


The above changes initially caused consternation in the client colleagues originally assigned to the programme, however, after returning to the programme to Green, several requested to be mentored by the Project One Programme Director.


The programme outcomes were that all new Global Engagement Centres were delivered on or ahead of baselined plan, with all sites coming under budget by a minimum of 10% across  a two-year delivery window.


The colleagues at CallBA in the greater Delhi area, have two offices which provide modern office spaces fit for the 21st century ways of working. This has enhanced effectiveness and productivity resulting in increased colleague engagement scores, enhanced levels of customer service, with the associated uplift in CSAT scores.


The Hong Kong site outsourced to Kuala Lumpur and the Bremen site outsourced to Bucharest have consistently hit KPIs set for the third-party operators.


The delivery of the Global Footprint Programme has saved British Airways multiple millions annually in operating costs.


Additionally, Project One has left behind the internal team with higher levels of performance in the delivery of transformation initiatives, along with collateral and approaches in planning, risk management, financial control, stakeholder engagement, governance, and team leadership.




The Project One value add:


The Global Footprint Programme was a key strategic enabler to enhance customer service and to deliver an effective cost base. It has stalled and was in the position of not delivering and overspending. The Project One Programme Director, working entirely with client and supplier colleagues:


  • Quickly applied a structured approach to programme recovery.
  • Built strong working relationships and became a trusted adviser to the Director of Customer Care.
  • Brought extensive experience in not only delivery, but wider business change and transformation.
  • Up skilled client colleagues across multiple departments

“Project One have really helped us to embed better project and programme management capabilities within the team, enabling us to deliver for our customers, for our colleagues and for the business.

They are professional, highly skilled, outcome-focused, and they integrate really well with my team.”

Harriet Hunter - Director of Customer Care
British Airways

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