As a child, did you ever play the game where you were shown a part of a photo, or a piece of a puzzle, and asked to guess what the entire picture might be? At first, guessing what the bigger picture might be is fun as the possibilities seem endless. Then more of the picture is shown. And then more. Eventually, you see that an ear, paw and tail (for example) comprise a dog.
For children, guessing games like these are great fun. For airlines, they’re anything but. When a disruption hits, critical and immediate decisions are required based on mere fragments of the big picture. Our disruption management project team thinks you should see the entire landscape when a disruption occurs. What’s more, we think you should have all the tools and data available to turn guesswork into informed decisions that are easily communicated.
The Ripple Effect of Disruption Management
A PhoCusWright/Amedeus Study (Passengers first: Rethinking irregular operations) released in 2014 noted that the direct cost of disruptions to US airlines was $7.2 billion in 2012. While high, that doesn’t include the indirect costs of passenger frustration, diminished brand loyalty and the feeling of commoditization that also erode the razor-thin margins that define the airline industry.
What makes disruption management such a challenge is the dynamic nature of the environmental, economic, social, political, technological and legal factors that make a seemingly ordinary day anything but. And the impact of any disruption (say a thunderstorm over the eastern seaboard) has a ripple effect that’s felt deep inside any operation and reaches passengers who are thousands of miles from the disruption’s epicenter.
"Disruption is the single biggest thing that impacts every part of an airline," explained Andrew Belinky, Enterprise Strategist, Integrated Solutions Portfolio, Boeing Commercial Aviation Services. "Because of this, we spent extra time talking with airlines about what they really need. It was the key point in our product development."
A Bigger Picture Yields Better Disruption Options
Through market research, the project team learned that other suppliers, in their haste to help airline customers find resolutions to disruption management challenges, rushed in with products to develop, compare and analyze possible solutions. These tools were designed to make the critical decisions necessary to minimize the impact of a disruption. Many suppliers then asked, What more would an airline need?
Plenty, as it turns out.
“Airlines are a complex ecosystem,” said Ed Stephens Boeing Lead Flight Operations Modeling & Simulation specialist. “There are up to a half dozen information systems that a person in the ops control center has to monitor to get clear situational awareness.”
Meaningful customer discussions showed the project team that a single source that accumulates and analyzes data, then reports it to a single view, is an essential tool for maintaining schedule integrity and recovering from schedule disruptions. The new and improved data—often referred to as intelligent information—had to be available in real time to allow for collaboration when managing disruptions.
But Wait, There’s More…A Lot More
But the project team didn’t stop with the notion of a single point of data accumulator. Instead, they thought bigger—or perhaps broader—about how to turn big data into intelligent information.
In the graphic below, there are options for airlines that need assistance with steps #3, #4 and #5. However, truly effective disruption management decision-making requires “the bookends” (steps #1, #2 and #6, #7) as well.
Each airline likely knows the costs if a snowstorm temporarily grounds all traffic at a major hub. They can estimate, with a fair bit of accuracy, the costs of delaying passengers, shuffling crew, repositioning aircraft, keeping support staff on extended duty, etc. But very few, if any, can roll them together effectively to weigh one against another, or proportionally weight various costs relative to their values to the airline. And what if that brief snowstorm stalls over the hub, or worse yet, becomes a blizzard? How quickly can an airline reevaluate, resolve and re-communicate new disruption decisions?
According to Jré de Klerk, CAS Digital Aviation, Advanced Analytics Group, “The biggest gain is time. Airlines only have so much time to make a decision because the downline impact of an event can spread fast. Airlines need to determine very quickly what they’re going to do, and how they’re going to stop the impact of the disruption from spreading.”
That’s where a deeper look into key disruption issues and their potential impacts (steps #1 and #2) can help create entirely new levels of informed decision making. But as we all know, a great decision is only half the battle. That’s where steps #6 and #7 come in—Execution Support.
“Oftentimes the communication to all the ops stakeholders is very complex. If airlines can’t communicate the solution to stakeholders in a timely, quick and clear way then they won’t succeed,” Stephens added.
Data + People + Time = Success
Which would you rather have, a good decision clearly and immediately communicated? Or, a great solution that no one hears about in time? You likely chose the former as that’s reality for most airlines today. The project team doesn’t think you should have to choose at all.
In his presentation at the 2014 Berlin, Germany CONNECT event, Saudi Arabian Airlines CIO/CFO Muhammad Albakri noted, “The future is really to deliver intelligent information to decision makers so they can make the proper decisions.” Albakri added that time/timing was also a critical part of the equation. “Our vision is to get the right information to the right person at the right time.”
The project team couldn’t agree more. That’s why they’re unwavering in their desire to develop a configurable, modular, holistic system that paints a clear, accurate and real time picture of any disruption. But they don’t stop there, that information has to appear at a single and easily accessed point; must be accessed instantly by collaborating decision-makers; and provide the tools to ensure seamless execution and effective communication of the preferred solution. And, it needs to work flawlessly every time there is a disruption. “It’s all about providing the tools to aid and enhance decision making by the teams in the operations center”, said Belinky. “We don’t want to remove the decision maker from the loop…..we want to help make them more effective.”
If this sounds good to you, don’t hesitate to contact your Digital Aviation representative to learn about the project team’s vision of the future and how you can participate in driving this vision forward.