What's Up With Aviation IT?


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This is the white paper which I wrote for the first issue of the Aircraft IT MRO eJournal in May 2011

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What's Up With Aviation IT?

  1. 1. 28 | WHITE PAPE CONDUCE | AIRCRAFT IIT MRO | APRIL-MAY 2011 WHITE PAPER: CONDUCE AIRCRAFT T MRO APRIL-MA 2011 ITE IT PER: CONDUCE AIRCRAFT NDUC RCRA APRIL-MAY RIL-MAYWhat’s up with aviation IT?Paul Saunders, Operations Director of Conduce Consulting A VIATION IT DEPARTMENTS around the world have an uncertain future. Forthe rst time ever the IT teams are not the only ones “Aviation companies around the world are waking up to the fact thatholding all the cards when it comes to making information technology is now a certain and genuine business enabler. But thisstrategic business decisions regarding InformationTechnology. Also, for the rst time, there is a chance isn’t because they have been told so by the guys down in IT”that managers and workers outside of IT have as Paul Saunders, Operations Director of Conduce Consultingmuch knowledge about the strategic use oftechnology as those inside IT departments. And, for that was the stu of dreams and science ctionthe rst time school leavers, college and university only a few years ago. But they are not seeing it at overtook Microso as the world’s largest technologygraduates do not know a world without the internet. work: ey live with it all around them at home. company.Finally, for the rst time consumer technology is at Apple, Google and Facebook are at the forefront Google has cornered a multi-billion dollar marketthe bleeding edge of the technological world. Could of this technological revolution, not the IBMs, the which simply didn’t exist when I started work in thisthis be the beginning of the end for the aviation IT Microso s, and Oracles of yesteryear.department as we know it today? Neither the iPod, nor the iPhone, nor the iPad “to organize the world’s information and make it Aviation companies around the world are waking was designed for business. All three products by universally accessible and useful”, has arguably beenup to the fact that information technology is now one manufacturer, Apple, are genuine revolutionary achieved through technological means. e waya certain and genuine business enabler. But this devices that have shaped their market sectors since in which a search engine works may not be wellisn’t because they have been told so by the guys their introduction. No company in any industry hasdown in IT. Managers, Executives and other users matched this feat in such a short space of time. One a second, but everyone from the age of ve upwardsare seeing the potential advantages with their own revolutionary product is a fantastic achievement: but knows what Google does and how to use it. Googleeyes. ey are surrounded by dazzling technology, three? In one decade? Regardless of what you think is much more than just a search engine: Googlejaw dropping so ware and remarkable hardware of Apple’s products, they are amongst the most today has an unrivalled portfolio of products and
  2. 2. APRIL-MAY 2011 | AIRCRAFT IT MRO | WHITE PAPER: CONDUCE | 29services which includes the Google Chrome browser; productivity applications inc rather than business enablers. In the past couple of months I have been talkingsuch as Gmail an Google Apps; Social Media platforms YouTube, Picasa and and to a number of airlines and MROs about potential solutions to some of theirOrkut; the Andro mobile operating system; and much, much more. Android problems and it has struck me that there are a number of common threads Mark Zuckerber the founder and CEO of Facebook didn’t invent the concept Zuckerberg, running throughout aviation IT at the moment. To a greater or lesser degreeof social media an social networking. When Facebook rst came on to the and everyone is experiencing exactly the same problems.rival to MySpace, Friendster, Flickr and other social networking platforms thatcropped up around that time. Facebook succeeded where others have faltered aroun Computers are great aren’t they? ey’ve completely revolutionised the way we by doing so many critical things just right. For example the decision to do work. It seems strange to think that only a generation or so ago that more delibera deliberately keep advertising unobtrusive has led to signi cantly lower people didn’t have a computer on their desk at work than did so. In a relatively click through rates (CTRs) than rival advertising platforms, but the short space of time the IT industry has sprung up from a few geeks and shee sheer volume of users who have chosen Facebook as their primary bo ns to a multi-trillion dollar industry. But at the same time computers have social networking channel as a result of this decision counteracts this somehow posed a supposed risk to our businesses. e ect. A de nite case of quantity over quality. d mon What these monolithic 21st Century technology companies have in common(apart from billionaire founders; a seat at the US President’s table; and some billiona REPRESENT A SERIOUS SECURITY RISKawesome technology to show o every couple of months) is that they have each technolo is argument, I believe, is utter nonsense and is driven by fear, lack ofbecome what they are today by focusing on innovative products primarily for the understanding and contempt for the unknown. Rather than being technologyconsumer market. In doing so, they have blazed a trail for thousands of consumer champions in the vanguard of the proliferation of computer use, for sometechnologists, making so ware and applications of their own, which, hooking mak bizarre reason many aviation IT departments have been the ‘nay-sayers’; sti inginto the open architecture of third party so ware and hardware, have driven the arch progress through inexplicable policies and security measures. eir argumentsconsumer technology industry so far ahead of business to business technology that technol o en seem to be driven by common sense, but it doesn’t take a lot of e ort toit is di cult to see a way in which this trend is likely to be reversed. destroy every lazy explanation. Aerospace Exec Executives, I have found, do not need a business case or a cost Let’s take a look at the usual excuses:bene t analysis to understand the value of embracing this new wave ofconsumer technol technology. ey can picture it themselves without any outside employee productivity.help. ose busin businesses that can adopt the new technologies rst have a clear,competitive advantage. But most aviation companies are struggling, not advant vulnerable to attacks from hackers. withrough lack of will or funds, but due to the fact that their IT departments and data leaks. vendotechnology vendors with which they have surrounded themselves for the past slows a company’s internet connection.required today, tomorrow and in the future. to On the surface these seem to be reasonable assertions. In most companies these Aviation IT depa departments have evolved over time to become risk minimisers fears usually manifest themselves into a series of ill-conceived security protocols CLICK HERE FOR FULL SOFTWARE DETAILS AND FOR A DEMO ‘Growing Success’ Commsoft’s OASES MRO system offers comprehensive professional functionality together with a flexible, affordable approach that understands your business’ scaleable growth needs in today’s turbulent market Each OASES module can be offered individually or can be integrated at the engineering centre of your business systems Over 50 current aviation users, including airlines and MROs, spares suppliers, CAMO, corporate and bureau operators have grown their success with us The Professional, Flexible MRO System Whether you are a ‘start up’ or are looking for a more friendly approach to business, contact us at: Tel: +44 1621 817425 | info@commsoft.aero | www.commsoft.aero
  3. 3. 30 | WHITE PAPER: CONDUCE | AIRCRAFT IT MRO | APRIL-MAY 2011and pr information arsenal by blocking access to large portions of the net? Employees whose access to the internet is restricted will miss great ideas and opportunities that emerge from conversation and collaboration. “if you have employees spending two hours or more per day on Social Media websites, then you have a percentage of companies are also active on Twitter. With so many companiesocedures resulting inissue, not an IT security issue. applications. It is fair management blocked access to certain websites and Persistent blocking their employees from engaging, who are they engaging with? Socialtotime wasters should be dealtbear theby theirthe blame. say that nowadays social media sites with brunt of management” networks are a vital and proven tool for marketing, recruiting, customer service and more. Why the resistance?PRODUCTIVITYPlain and simple, if you have employees spending two hours or more per dayon Social Media websites, then you have a management issue, not an IT securityissue. Persistent time wasters should be dealt with by their management andmanagers who are unable to deal with that situation should be dealt with inturn. Blocking access to Facebook or YouTube doesn’t solve the problem either.Employees who don’t want to get their work done don’t need social networks towaste time. Besides, due to the expansiveness of the web and the proliferation ofsmart phones, resistance, as they say, is futile. e internet interprets censorshipas damage and routes around it. Recent civil unrest in the Middle East andNorth Africa has proved this point on a much wider and more signi cant scale.If you take away YouTube, what’s to stop me bringing in a DVD tomorrow? In my line of work, I spend a lot of time thinking. Whether I am writingcode, writing content, or solving a problem I need to get into the ‘zone’ to helpme think. I sometimes do that by taking a wander. Sometimes I’ll go and get adrink. O en my best thoughts occur to me in the morning whilst I’m havinga shave… I think this is because it takes my brain ten minutes to boot up inthe morning and it’s around that time each day that I’m hacking at my face The airline’s marketing team used their cigarette breaks to covertly check what theirwith a razor. But each to their own: some people I know nd horrible music to passengers were saying about them on Twitterbe the answer; others prefer less awful music. I know many people in creative In fact multiple studies now have shown that productivity increases amongindustries who take a walk outside with a camera to seek inspiration. Certainly employees who are able to freely access the internet during work. Besides,it is not inappropriate to seek guidance, inspiration and information online. most employees tend to be more trustworthy than they are given credit for, andCompanies spend a lot of time and e ort to attract the brightest and best talent. it’s a pretty sad state of a airs when we can’t trust our own employees to do theWhy do they then proceed to remove one of the best tools in their employee’s right thing. IT Vendors: want to get your message out? Want to publish your latest news and technology updates where they’ll be seen? Looking for the best place to showcase your best solutions? Are you ready? Why not join AircraftIT MRO? Selecting and implementing an MRO solution True ERP software for airlines? Joined-up thinking: Linking multiple Fast MRO Implementation: the bene solutions ts MRO IT: mapping the future White Papers: Case Studies: Aircraft IT MRO V1.1 April-May 2011.indd 1 Click here to nd out how to join AircraftIT
  4. 4. APRIL-MAY 2011 | AIRCRAFT IT MRO | WHITE PAPER: CONDUCE | 31 CLICK HERE FOR FULL SOFTWARE DETAILS AND FOR A DEMOATTACKS FROM HACKERSApparently social networking is one of the newest and most e ective waysfor hackers to gain entry into peoples’ computers. at might be true fororganisations where their IT departments don’t know what they are doing.It is true that there is malware out there which attacks social networks, butaccording to anti-malware vendors the same malware is plaguing email and AMICOSthe rest of the web. I don’t see any companies doing a blanket shutdown onemails any time soon. So what gives? e US military is able to cope with an open access policy to socialnetworking. Why should it be any harder for any other organisation? e USDepartment of Defence allows every one of their users from agents at thePentagon to soldiers on the front line to access their Social Media hub through Ea series of robust policies and defences. AVAILABL NOW ere is plenty of good advice online about more e ective ways of keepingyour network safe than by blocking social networks. My personal favourite is tokeep an up-to-date web browser, but more on that shortly.DATA LEAKSOpponents to open web access will point to multiple instances of employeescompromising intellectual property using social networks. Like the productivityargument, this is sheer stupidity. Lack of access to social media will do nothingto stop this kind of behaviour. Training, education and enforcement of policiesare far more e ective. A determined or clueless employee will cause such leaksat home or via other means anyway.SLOWING A COMPANY’S INTERNET CONNECTION is is the hardest argument to disagree with. Yes I concede, if everyone is streamingvideo and audio during working hours then this will have a detrimental e ect oninformation age, if you need more bandwidth, get some more. In the ‘paper-age’nobody thought twice about getting more paper when they ran out. But aside from restricted internet access, what else are Aviation IT departmentsdoing (or not doing) that makes little sense?UP TO DATE WEB BROWSERSPC based internet users, under their own free will have essentially ve choicesto make regarding which internet browser they use. In fact since anti-trustforced to make a choice.The options are Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Apple Safari and Microsoft Explorer.would be the worst choice anyone could make based on speed tests, securityusers. It is worse than that though: Many organisations don’t even allow the usekicking in many airlines, OEMs and MROs that I have worked with. Even Microso themselves can’t see the sense in the use of out-dated browsers.the previous year, a signi cant proportion of the World’s population still needs abit more encouragement to migrate. e excuses against an upgrade are lame to say the least. No-one pays forbrowser licenses, the cost of deployment and cross-training is minimal and theage old excuse of application compatibility is just ridiculous with alternativebrowsers o ering compatibility add-ins. Aviation IT departments should bemade to understand that senseless policies that are restrictive and can onlybe explained by saying ‘because we say so’ make users despise you, and don’tgenerate any bene t whatsoever. e real reason can’t be that IT departments don’t realise this. Perhaps it’s justthat they don’t have the time and resources to manage things di erently.
  5. 5. 32 | WHITE PAPER: CONDUICE | AIRCRAFT IT MRO | APRIL-MAY 2011 CLICK HERE FOR FULL SOFTWARE DETAILS AND FOR A DEMO IT RESOURCES ARE A SCARCE COMMODITY Although there are some widely debated theories on this subject, a ratio of one level for most medium sized businesses. e company’s technological dependence; the quantity and type of IT resources deployed; and the level outsourcing arrangements will all have an impact on the suitability of a company’s IT sta ng ratio and the ability of the team to deliver the required service. Well run IT departments should align their own interests solely with the objectives of the business. e person in charge of IT should have a solid business as well as technology mind. e trouble is that most IT departments are bogged down with resetting passwords and plugging in printers for feckless users or squeezing every drop of performance out of groaning IT resources just to keep the Exchange server running. It’s a no-win situation. If they do their job well, no one notices. When they screw up, the website goes down; revenue wearing clogs that his brother-in-law sent him. Consequently everyone comes down on them like a ton of bricks. In one IT department that I worked in, we had a laminated card with ‘YES WE KNOW’ printed on it that we used to pin to our door during times of hardship. When they’re not working on the day to day housekeeping chores, there is the list of projects which is prioritised by the senior management or by whoever can shout the loudest. Many of these projects have been conceived months and years in the past and are out of date before they are even embarked upon. Managers og who appreciate the backlog either don’t bother or seek their own solutions. IT departments therefore monopolise the computer problem rather than pro- actively providing solutions. If an external supplier had behaved this way, they’d have been dropped years ago. Aviation IT departments needs to re-de ne their service level agreements with the rest of the business “IT are asking whether we have tried turning it o and on again” (if they ever had one) and look to provide an improved business service that their ‘customers’ really need. MANAGEMENT INFORMATION SYSTEMS ARE GREAT BUT THEY DON’T DO EVERYTHING. Most airlines and MROs who are using a latest generation enterprise level Management Information System (MIS) seem to be pretty happy with it. ey tend to use it to its full extent as intended with wall-to-wall capability, mission the so ware tool to carry out their operational transactions. A well designed IT functionality is usually lled with le servers crammed full of shared documents, spread sheets and home grown databases all outside of the control of IT with little if any integration with central systems. One client showed me a mission critical, home grown Access Database which their engineering and ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems providing vital operational information to an international eet and inventory technical management operation. is is of course an extreme example that I have seen rst-hand, but the numbers of uncontrolled spread sheets that are outside the control of IT should be a major concern. Maybe if the ERP, Engineering and other information systems that airlines are using were a bit more open and able to communicate with each other using an up to date Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) then integration with external systems would be so much easier negating the requirement for home-grown stop-gap peripheral solutions. Data is being passed from department to department, o en transposed from one bit of paper to a database application and then printed back to paper
  6. 6. What’s coming up in the June/July 2011 edition of AircraftIT MROAvailable 7th June at www.aircraftIT.com The application of W n Wireless Sensor Network Technology in MROs and at Turkish Technic: how the network functions and an analysis of the practical benefits. Dr. Orkun Hasekioglu, CIO, Turkish Technic HeavyEEN GRAB OFand BSITE ea R Maintenance WEIT Systems. How technology can optimise resources, and SCREM GRA HeavyEE GRAB OF WEBSITE SC SCREEN GRAB t minimise costs and hangar time. Phil Bathurst, Partner, Phisha Aviation Consulting LLC n The challenges in capturing man-hours and materials consumed in airframe checks: the practicalities of the IT systems used and the benefits are analyzed. Roberto Asuncion, VP IT, Lufthansa Technik Philippines. C CMS has been an afterthought to M CMS MRO/IT selection…until NOW. Thanos Kaponeridis, President & CEO, Aerosoft Systems. Aerospace Marshall Aerospace’s Power Play; the development of an in-house system: an electrical load analysis (ELA) application that models an aircraft’s distributed power structure. Karl Jones, Head of Avionics & Technical Development, Marshall Aerospace. PLUS: Latest News and Technology Updates, Preview of upcoming Live Software Demonstration Webinars, Latest Industry Vacancies (New Feature), Software Directory... Click here to subscribe for free now to reserve your copy Contact us for further details Visit: www.aircraftIT.com email: ed.haskey@aircraft-commerce.com or call +44 1403 230 700 / +44 1273 700 555
  7. 7. 34 | WHITE PAPER: CONDUICE | AIRCRAFT IT MRO | APRIL-MAY 2011 accomplish your market objectives then you are at a Despite approval as a Class 1 Electronic Flight Bag and the on-going promise strategic and nancial disadvantage over a of the revolution the iPad poses to In Flight Entertainment, the viability of the competitor that operates di erently. iPad as a ‘ready-for-business’ device is less than certainin a slightly di erent format. For some reason, cut a deal and that you know what you are goingcollaboration between departments, information to use your iPads for, you then still have the barriersystems and with external partners is a big problem. of deployment and administration. EnterprisePresumably the solution to the problem is at the end management qualities for iOS devices is sometimes p je y goof a list of projects that was initiated ve years ago. moved Apple devices properly into the business shortcomings over the opposition but largely this lies with the perception within the IT community. “Despite their best e orts, the IT department weren’t able to stop the Chief Exec from using a Mac.” In my opinion lack of familiarity o en breeds contempt. e post-PC era is upon us and aviation IT departments should embrace that.“This new software is superb. The output report looksexactly the same as the form we receive to input the data!”Most tools and application chosen by IT departments PAUL SAUNDERS PAUL SAUNDERS A Aare engineered for IT departments not business. TakeMicroso SharePoint for example. No business, leto its own devices would ever choose SharePoint as asolution to any problem, but steered by IT, they o endo. SharePoint is great at allowing you to do the stuyou used to do, only di erently, but IT departmentslike it, because it allows them to control everything Steve’s launch of the iPad2 triggered enough eye-rolling in the aviation IT community to temporarily knock thefrom one management console. at’s probably Earth o its axis.unfairly over-simplifying the situation, but the factremains that I cannot point you to a single aerospace IS THERE A BETTER WAY?organisation that has implemented SharePoint where Business trends are, in the main, cyclical. I believethe users are happy with the outcome. that we are entering a period of decentralisation for aviation IT. e rise of technologies such asEVERYONE WANTS IPADS BUT NO ONE virtualisation, cloud based applications and XaaSKNOWS WHAT TO DO WITH THEM (Anything as a Service) have facilitated a shi awayIf I had a pound for every airline I know whose from traditional ways of working. OutsourcingChief Executive has decreed that each manager or and department speci c solutions are a realisticaircra or ight crew should be equipped with an proposition. I’m not advocating that aviation should ABOUT CONDUCE CONSULTINGiPad, then I’d probably have enough money for a abandon shared IT services completely. It doesn’tdecent round of drinks. ere are a number of make sense to ditch Exchange servers in favour ofbarriers to achieving this goal, let alone making a hosted Gmail: ere is always going to be a placereturn on that investment. for an IT department in aerospace to some extent, Although the iPad may be deemed to be a mature but a transition has begun.consumer product in terms of the quantity in In the same way that certain procurement andcirculation and the number of available apps, itshould most certainly be considered bleeding edge departments, I foresee more and more autonomy foras an aviation productivity device. Despite approval aviation IT users in the future. Progressive managersas a Class 1 Electronic Flight Bag and the on-going are making some IT decisions for themselves ASK THE EXPERTpromise of the revolution the iPad poses to In Flight through necessity already. is arrangement willEntertainment, the viability of the iPad as a ‘ready- become increasingly formalised, with centralised ITfor-business’ device is less than certain. Of course departments assuming overall control, but delegatingone is able to create, edit and share documents; run speci c administrative functions and applicationa bewildering series of applications and utilities; but management to individual departments. e ITpotential users may be disappointed to learn that access guy or girl of the future will be less technical, withto a mature suite of relevant so ware or interfaces with business domain speci c expertise (more akin toexisting information systems simply do not exist (yet). project managers) equipped to run systems rather Due to the overwhelming success of the iPad and than develop them. As applications become more INTERACTIVEother iOS devices, there is no deal to be struck closely aligned to business requirements o the ASK THE AUTHOR A QUESTION CLICK HERE TO LEAVE YOUR QUESTIONwith Apple Inc. for volume purchases. I know of shelf, it is becoming more important to deliverseveral airlines that, when they approached Apple services and manage supplier contracts than toto procure a large quantity of iPads, were given develop systems. INTERACTIVE JOIN THE DEBATEdirections to the nearest Apple Store. If you are running a company in such a way that a CLICK HERE TO LEAVE YOUR FEEDBACK ABOUT THIS ARTICLE AND START OR JOIN A DISCUSSION Assuming that you have enough buying power to traditional IT department is needed in order to