Aircraft IT Operations – October / November 2014

Aircraft IT Operations – October / November 2014 Cover


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EFB as a BPI tool, not just a device

Author: Philip J. Benedict, Customer Strategy Development, Closed Loop


EFB as a BPI tool, not just a device

Getting the process right is more important than choosing the delivery device says Phil Benedict of Closed Loop Consulting

It’s the process that matters; not the device

Having been around the EFB world for over 25 years now, I have unfortunately seen too many projects that failed, either because of poor planning, lack of leadership, or the lack of an overarching organizational vision. These days, many airlines have projects called something like ‘The iPad Project’ but, once again, many of these will likely fail because the device is, or has become, the focal point of the project. The iPad, or other devices like it, might very well be a great display head for the functions that flight crews are likely to need. However, Business Process Improvements (BPI) rather than the delivery device should be the real focus of an EFB or eEnablement project (or any project for that matter) and the airlines that understand this reality will reap the greatest benefits from the changes they make.

So, successful technology projects aren’t started or driven by the availability of a specific hardware device. Those devices may create ideas, and even show what is possible. But no technology project has ever been successful without a larger vision, leadership, a strategy and a plan. Ideally, a project should fulfil a set of business requirements identified in the strategy underpinning the need for change; then, based on those requirements, supporting applications should be identified, developed or acquired. This is the piece – along with new process – that supports the change and it is only at this point that the right hardware can be selected to host and support those functions properly. The ‘solution’ can then be deployed but, importantly, by way of a properly managed implementation plan.

The importance of project leadership

These processes will indeed make the introduction of new technology successful, because the whole organization will benefit from the development, not just one department or operational function. It will mean that a business will select the right technology devices and applications to meet their requirements (read ‘needs’), rather than living with the limitations of a device that happened to be the ‘flavor of the day’ when the project was underway. It’s when we don’t improve business processes and don’t have a project properly managed that these technology introductions go off the rails, wasting time and money, which is something no airline can afford. That is why leadership is so important to ensure that projects benefit the operation as a whole, and not just one functional area in the airline. Leadership and proper process equals project success. And leadership also ensures that the right process is identified and maintained.

Replace silos with holistic thinking

Many large airlines have the resources to develop strategies that address business process improvements, as long as they are not constrained by the thick walls of departmental silos. They may have been able to develop the ideas for their individual departments, but often fail to attract stakeholders from other departments who can not only share the cost of the technology but moreover, share in the specification and the benefits. Removing these barriers and considering technology projects in an organizationally holistic manner is the first step, almost a prerequisite, to becoming a truly eEnabled airline.

Taking the wider view and getting outside expertise: the benefits of facilitation

It’s the smaller and generally more agile airlines that don’t have the resources to put towards these types of projects. Some appoint someone to start a project under the guise of their ‘other duties as required’ responsibilities. This approach however, does not provide for the leadership, accountability or expertise necessary to make the project a success. That’s why seeking a facilitated approach to developing that winning strategy and a successful project plan will pay dividends in the end. Interestingly, several smaller airlines are adopting that approach – simply because they see the benefits in facilitation more easily than their larger peers.

Adopting an assisted consultative approach towards a project and asking for a solution that works for the whole of an airline rather than just one department, we find that technology spends are reduced, and in many cases, redundant or competing projects can be identified and eliminated. Again, having shared costs and benefits by multiple stakeholders is the start to truly becoming an eEnabled airline.  Having a consultant who understands airline operations and issues, who knows how to bring people together and who understands the technology marketplace and what is available, and how those products on the market today can be brought together to provide an integrated solution is the key to strategizing and planning a successful project.  As some airlines have said, “using a consultant was the insurance we needed to make our project successful”.

Look at the big picture to avoid duplication and spot the gaps

eEnablement at an airline means the collection, distribution and sharing of data.  This is data which has been published in a number of places; by the aircraft, by flight crews, by ground handling, line maintenance, Engineering, Flight Operations, OEMs, etc. There is so much data around an airline that, all too often, different departments in airlines acquire different tools to do the same job of turning that data into information… or they don’t use it at all. This is why having a facilitated event that breaks down those barriers and develops a Concept of Operations is so critical to a successful eEnablement or EFB project. Identifying where the gaps are between how things are done today and how we want them to work with the new technology in the future is critical to planning a project like this so that there are no costly surprises before, during or after project implementation.  It also puts the airline and the supplier(s) on the same page in terms of expectations, accountability, and performance of the overall solution. This is necessary not just for the initial implementation, but also for the life of the program.

Taking the time to plan each stage of the project makes sense in every case.  Not having the resources makes it more difficult, but the process should still occur to provide for a positive outcome.  This is where the value of a knowledgeable consultant will pay dividends in the end.

Contributor’s details:

Philip J. Benedict: Customer Strategy Development, Closed Loop

Mr. Benedict has over thirty years’ aviation and airline experience, including 15 years at Jeppesen. In 1995, he joined the Aviation Information Systems Business Unit of Computing Devices International becoming Director and General Manager from 1997. Phil became President of Spirent Systems Inc. and then VP of Business and Strategic Development at Teledyne and has worked at Cobham Commercial Systems. Phil has been recognized for his contributions to several industry activities, and is now responsible for Customer Strategic Development for Closed Loop Consulting. 

Closed Loop Consulting

Closed Loop Consulting is a niche global aviation consultancy focused on the successful delivery of financially sound, strategically conceived, business driven and sustainable project and program outcomes for the operational divisions of the aviation industry. They challenge the status-quo and believe in doing things differently. Because doing the same thing over and over – and expecting a different outcome, simply doesn’t work. Closed Loop Consulting exists to make sure customers get their projects and programs done right – the first time.

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