When Will U.S. Majors Modernize Maintenance IT?
Henry Canaday, Washington
Maintenance IT vendors and consultants have been drooling for years at the prospect of one of the big-three U.S. majors replacing its 40 year-old, patch-work maintenance system with a thoroughly modern maintenance or Enterprise Resource Planning system. When might that actually happen?
Oliver Wyman Vice President David Marcontell says the majors have needed lots of middle-ware and bolt-on solutions to keep pace with their needs, for example to create repositories for Big Data analysis. The architecture of older systems was not designed for these newer needs. “But the old systems are very good at compliance, they are fantastic at compliance,” Marcontell notes.
In addition, Legacy systems were not designed to support mobility or web interfaces either, two musts for modern maintenance IT systems. “The majors have to do a lot of creative work to add mobility and data collection to systems that are 40 years old,” the Wyman exec notes.
Marcontell says all the IT departments at major airlines are constantly evaluating whether and when they should make the really giant effort to move to a next-generation IT system rather than struggle with aging software and patches. “So far, they have not decided to move.”
Marcontell believes the balance will eventually shift, as the new systems continue to evolve and improve and as the costs of continuing with old systems continues to increase. “At some point, they will conclude that they have to change.”
Part of the delay in making this move traces to the challenges of merging data and systems from the airlines that now make up the three full-service majors. Those merging tasks are now ending. Then, “their leaders are smart leaders and at some point in the future the analysis will turn and say the time has come,” Marcontell predicts. “And when it does, we would like to be involved.”