The topic of master data management and master data systems has continuously gained attraction for companies —and airlines in particular— over the last years. The chart below shows the frequency “master data management” is searched on Google. The chart perfectly reflects the continuously growing interest in this topic.
Although master data management isn’t a brand-new approach to tackle a company’s vast amount of data, it is still something that isn’t widespread across airlines. However, since the benefits master data management convinces more and more airlines will bring for their processes, it is time to have a closer look at the crucial aspects when it comes to implementing master data management.
I firmly believe that master data management holds considerable potential for airlines. A possibility to improve process efficiency, reduce system implementation efforts, and to get rid of manual and time-consuming tasks. In case you want to find out more how master data management can help your airline, you should check out one of our latest blog posts, where I introduced the 7 main benefits master data management brings to the table for airlines.
With this blog post, I want to go one step further and shed some light on the 5 critical drivers of selecting a master data system and implementing master data management at your airline.
1 – It’s a business project – not an IT
Let us directly start with the essential aspect: Implementing master data management and, subsequently, a master data system at your airline is primarily a business topic. It has to be driven by your business department. They have to understand the concept. They have to understand the benefits. Yes, it’s called Master Data SYSTEM and system implies IT — I know. However, a master data system is just a small part of Master Data Management.
Master Data Management contains so much more than just the system.
So, without your business departments and a project champion from business (side), your master data management project will fail. And fail in this context means you will maybe implement a master data system, but most likely no-one will/wants to use it.
2 – Chose a master data system with ready and maintained airline content
A considerable portion of master data that is required to support your airline’s processes is public available and identical for every airline. Just think about master data about countries, cities, timezones, airport information, or necessary aircraft/subtype information. Accordingly, the master data system of your choice should already contain this information.
Moreover, the master data system provider should offer continuous maintenance of this data. That brings two significant advantages: First, you can reduce the workload for your staff since you don’t have to maintain general public master data, and second your staff can concentrate on adding and managing your specific master data.
3 – Chose a master data system containing a data structure tailored to airlines
Selecting a generic master data system that brings to the table only functionality but no data structure leads —from my experience— to complexity and tremendous efforts on your side.
Without a ready-to-use structure, your colleagues have to define which master data to include in the system, which attributes are available, how attributes and entities are linked, and so on. This is an extensive and complex task.
My advice is to go for a master data system that already provides a ready-to-use airline data structure. That means all possible entities (e.g., aircraft, airport, city, etc.) are already configured, and for each item, the set of possible attributes is available. Accordingly, you can concentrate on filling the structure with life, and you don’t have to waste time thinking about how an airline master data model can be established.
Believe me, that will massively ease the implementation process and lets you concentrate on the aspect that is important: Your master data.
4 – Choose master data (cloud-) services instead of implementing a system
Probably the most important advice I can give. After working in this area for several years and having equipped airlines of all sizes with master data management, I strongly advise against implementing an on-premise solution. Especially in case you are running a small- or mid-sized airlines.
Going for an on-premise solution is always linked to carrying out a rather complex IT project. Additionally, this —most often— is related to higher costs and reduced flexibility.
Since master data management only partially is about an IT system, you should concentrate your efforts on building the required processes, collecting the data, setting up governance structures, etc. And instead of going for an on-premise solution, some providers offer the possibility to subscribe to cloud-based content-services.
What does that mean? Instead of buying a system, you select the data entities you want to use and subscribe to on a monthly/annual base. Besides a positive financial impact, this approach holds two massive advantages:
- You can individually select the data entities you want to use and don’t have to go for a complete solution. Probably you solely need airport and country master data. So you only subscribe to this master data.
- You can step-by-step bring master data management to life — without risk. Based on the flexible structure, you can start —as described above— with airport and country data and continuously add more entities: subtypes, aircraft, cities, and so on.
As mentioned, this approach shows various benefits in terms of costs and flexibility, and you should consider it when deciding to go for master data management and a related system/service.
5 – Chose a master data system that provides access to everybody at your airline
Master data management is not solely about providing master data to your different systems. On the contrary, it is about supporting each of your business processes with the master data — whenever it is needed. Therefore, you should go for a master data system that let’s access everybody at your airline the contained data.
Personally, I prefer master data systems that offer mobile access in order to enable everybody —back office, apron staff, check-in agents, etc.— to access this data which is of so high value. Here are some examples how such a mobile master data solution can look: