It’s undisputable: the Cloud has changed our world. From checking your Gmail to backing up your smartphone and listening to music on spotify – we are utterly reliant on the Cloud for our normal, day-to-day activities.
The Cloud and the growth of Software as a Service (SaaS) has also changed the face of the business software industry of course. Microsoft Office 365, Salesforce, Dropbox, GoToMeeting, Zendesk – none of these would exist if it wasn’t for the Cloud.
These days, the idea of downloading software on to individual employees’ computers and paying large license fees upfront seems outdated and restrictive. Even housing a physical server on your premises probably feels alien to most IT managers now.
And so, like many other industries, the airline fuel management world is coming to realize the benefits of the Cloud and SaaS. In response to this trend, we are now offering our Airline.One product as SaaS, hosted in the Cloud.
The benefits of Cloud-based software for airline fuel management
1. Pay only for what you use
The classic SaaS model is to pay for the use of the software. For FuelPlus products this means:
- no upfront license fee
- costs are dependent on the actual use, measured in fuel volume or number of transactions
- businesses just pay for as long as they need the software.
For the highly competitive airline industry where expenditure needs to be tightly controlled, this way of paying for the use of software is an attractive proposition.
2. 24/7 availability
By their nature, airlines are international organizations. They operate from many different physical locations and so software that can be accessed from any location, on any device, offers huge benefits to the business.
For that reason, SaaS is ideal for airlines. It is hosted in the Cloud and can usually be used by any device with an internet connection – desktops, smartphone, tablets etc.
This is particularly useful for fuel management because you might need on-the-ground staff to input data about fuel movements immediately – via a smartphone for instance. In addition, fuel procurement staff are travelling frequently and need access from everywhere.
3. In-house IT expertise isn’t required
SaaS brings potential cost savings in IT infrastructure and support, since there is no physical server on-site to look after and the vendor maintains and upgrades the software. Also, operating the software is left to the vendor and so the internal IT team don’t need to attend training sessions.
This is of particular benefit to smaller airlines and low-cost carriers, which have fewer internal IT resources and which need to protect slim profit margins.
But what about the control and security of your data? This is a common concern but it needn’t be.
Firstly, it’s possible to host software in a ‘private cloud’. This has most of the same advantages as the public Cloud but the difference is that the software vendor has a separate, secure cloud environment that only they have access to.
With FuelPlus, you will be able to subscribe to a SaaS package that includes private cloud hosting and this means we will be managing and maintaining the servers for you rather than a third party.
4. Scale up or down
Software that runs in the Cloud rather than on a business’ physical computers or servers can be easily scaled up or down. Users can quickly add or reduce their services and subscription fees to suit the needs of the business.
To maximize this benefit, we have built our products as modular platforms. By this we mean that the software contains a number of sections (modules) that have been designed to automate specific fuel processes, such as strategic and operations planning, tendering, replenishment, operations monitoring and accounting.
These modules can work independently of one another so you could just subscribe to the Tendering module for example. Alternatively, you could subscribe to multiple modules and these will work together to streamline your airline’s complete fuel management operation.
This means that airlines can stay agile and cost efficient, choosing only the modules they need and at a time when they need them.
5. Get new features faster
Because of the way applications are built for the SaaS model, it’s easier to make changes to the software. This means the vendor will usually issue regular small upgrades rather than one large upgrade perhaps once a year.
We will be doing the same for our SaaS clients. This means you will see new features and improvements faster and, of course, we will handle all of this for you.
By designing the software specifically for the Cloud, development teams can focus better on user interface and user experience. This enables a wide range of people from an organization (many with limited technical ability) to use the software.
This is essential for airline fuel management because the process involves multiple teams right across the business.
Powerful free tools like Google Analytics have set the standard for business intelligence software. Their slick, well-designed user interfaces present key information graphically – through graphs, charts, traffic light systems and more – so that it can be easily understood.
We’re implementing elements of this into our software, providing greater data analysis, dashboards, reporting on KPIs and so on. The aim is to make the FuelPlus products invaluable business intelligence tools that can be used by all teams within a business.
7. Easy to integrate
Cloud-based software is built in a way that allows greater transparency. Vendors often make APIs (Application Program Interfaces) available for their cloud-based software – essentially these allow two software programs to communicate with each other.
This is good news for businesses such as airlines, which use lots of other specialist software systems and need any SaaS to integrate with these.
FuelPlus is releasing APIs for its products and this will enable integration with other common airline systems, including Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems like SAP and Oracle, as well as specific operational or finance systems and other key business software.
8. Easy to collaborate
Due to the accessibility and availability of SaaS (see point 2), it enables much easier collaboration within and between organizations.
Our developing eTender module is an example of this. Using IATA’s data standards for airline fuel tenders together with SaaS and the Cloud, we have been able to create new technology that enables airlines and jet fuel suppliers to collaborate more easily and quickly.
Our eTender module promises to solve some key industry challenges around business efficiency, but this would have been hard to achieve without the Cloud and the SaaS model.
The future of airline fuel management
eTender and the adoption of the Cloud and SaaS model are just some of the ways FuelPlus is innovating. Our other developments include a wider collaboration tool, which will enable all parties involved in airline fuel management to exchange a range of information more easily.
Our long-term vision is to develop the first ‘self-driving’ aviation fuel management system, which will automatically issue tenders, evaluate and award bids, set up contracts and pay suppliers. A form of artificial intelligence, it could take all of these decisions on behalf of the fuel manager, so they could spend their time on more valuable activities.