Aircraft IT Operations – Autumn 2012

Aircraft IT Operations – Autumn 2012 Cover


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Column: The World according to IT and me

Author: Paul Saunders


The Consumerisation of Software

Paul Saunders Column: The World according to IT and me

I was reminded recently about the importance of the consumerisation of software for the flight operations community when I was visiting the cabin services department of an airline to help them review a business case for the deployment of iPads to cabin crew. The senior manager who was sponsoring the project suggested that training would not be a major concern as most cabin crew spent half of their time on Facebook, Skype and FaceTime. I agreed with her sentiment with the caveat that the software being deployed had to feature a user experience on a par with the social applications that were mentioned. In essence their software had to be more like software aimed at consumers rather than workers.

If you convert a form, or deliver charts and manuals to an iPad app by merely adhering to Apple’s human interface guidelines then you are bound to amaze some users and win over a few friends for a while. But ultimately unless you have put the effort into designing your software by focusing on the user’s requirements, human factors and the needs of the user as a consumer then there is a major opportunity going begging. Ultimately a poorly designed form is going to be just as frustrating for a user to fill in on an iPad as on a clipboard. The same goes for any app. If your software or business process sucks as-is, what makes you think putting it on to an iPad is going to make it suck any less?

Take some time to think about why you and your colleagues spend so much time on Skype, Facebook, Pinterest or whatever consumer application floats your boat. Don’t you think that it would great if software and procedures you used at work were this good? Don’t you think you and your colleagues would be more productive if this were the case? Now ask yourself why you’ve been putting up with such rubbish for so long? Don’t you deserve better?

Software designers and project sponsors all too often forget what I call the Magic Triangle.

Really great software and business processes balance three goals:

  • The Technical goals such as the functional aim of the software – capture data, display a manual or a chart;
  • The Business goals such as reasons for developing the software – improved productivity, efficiency or lower costs; and finally;
  • The User goals such as a better user experience or quite simply a better way of working.

All too often the technical and business goals are met, but the user goals are forgotten. Now think about our examples of consumer software again. The reason why we choose to use one rival application over another is because one satisfies our own user goals better than another does. A fax machine is capable of delivering similar technical goals as Facebook, Twitter or iMessage, but you wouldn’t expect your crew to communicate with their friends and colleagues with a fax machine would you? This is a call to action for software designers and project leaders to aim for the sweet spot and make consumerized software for the work place.

What Happened Next?

In the Spring 2012 issue I mentioned the possible dilemma facing airlines that the iPad’s batteries may not conform to the testing standards as stipulated by FAA Advisory Circular AC 120-76B. These fears were allayed on the 24th August when Apple confirmed that the iPad’s batteries do in fact conform.

See here for details

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