IBS Software: digital transformation in aviation and travel
IBS Software is a leading provider of software products and services for mission critical and key business operations for the global travel, transportation and logistics industry. The firm powers some of the world's best airlines, busiest airports, leading cruise lines, major hotels, travel distributors, and top oil and gas companies. Established in 1997 in India, the company has since established a global presence with 10 offices across the Asia-Pacific (including Japan), the Middle East, Europe, and North America, with its global headquarters in Singapore. “As our chairman, V K Mathews puts it, the key word that is core to our story is ‘focus’. Domain focus has been key to our success within travel, transportation and logistics. We are also technology-focused – as we choose only to work with modern technology and are determined to take the industry out of the clutches of legacy systems,” reveals Daniel Stecher, Vice President, Airline Operations at IBS.
The company’s products and services are designed to leverage modern technologies to enable its customers to benefit from evolving technology trends such as mobility, big data, blockchain, analytics and cloud computing. “Our vision is centered around building next generation platforms and products to help our customers on their business transformation journeys. Our core values help us translate that vision into reality,” says Stecher. The core values of precision, passion, commitment, integrity and respect for the individual are guiding principles for the organisation.
For an industry that has been resistant to incorporating evolving technology, travel and tourism is ripe for disruption that will touch on every phase of the customer experience. With significant digital disruptions in the market place, consumer behaviour is changing and new business models are evolving. Digital trends that simplify decision making in travel like big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning can help personalise travel services. IBS claims the desire for unique experiences has been the most crucial customer demand this year. “To address the shifting industry landscape, digital business strategies are what travel service providers are looking at. Over time, the value of their enterprise is going to shift more towards digital assets than physical. Travel companies are becoming increasingly aware of the need to build their digital capabilities and to fulfil these requirements, and they will want digital ready infrastructure. IBS is well positioned to help our customers on this journey and serve them as digital enterprises,” Stecher reveals. “In operations control, for example, when it comes to digital Operation Control Centres we like to ask our customers how concepts like big data, IoT, predictive analytics, and the cloud translate to real value in airline operations? How do we effectively conduct the evolution of the digital OCC from legacy systems? How do we facilitate ‘Collaborative Disruption Management’ and help airlines avoid burning money? The key to digital transformation lies in answering such questions”.
IBS’ core technology strategies are based on robust technology selection, scalable and flexible product architecture, and reusable components, with solutions for the travel marketplace, air cargo operations, upstream oil and gas logistics, airline passenger services, loyalty management, and flight and airport operations. The firm also offers services featuring industry-specific, specialized information technology. “We have adopted a unique collaborative approach to developing a product roadmap wherein we gather insights into the future direction and next generation technology needs of the sectors. Our differentiated approach to product development allows us to deepen our industry knowledge, align our software products to our customer’s evolving business needs and identify early adopters for our new software products,” Stecher notes.
IBS has been pursuing strategies to extract the multidimensional value of cloud services: “The benefit is that you can really harmonise data much easier if you have everything in the cloud. Of course, security plays an important role, especially considering GDPR and as a digital company we consider data protection and personal privacy,” adds Stecher. The company’s products are delivered as Software as a Service (SaaS) which is made possible through global custom data centres being equipped with the necessary information technology infrastructure to ensure high levels of security, redundancy and uptime. With minimal investment in technology infrastructure, airline companies and travel service providers are able to make use of volume-based expenditure control.
The company is currently working with a number of the leading airlines in Europe. According to Stecher, some of these airlines use decades old legacy systems. “IBS is currently working with these airlines on huge digitalisation projects, because they have been using the same systems for 3 or 4 decades. Sustaining operations through these high maintenance legacy mainframe systems not only becomes difficult for airlines, but also poses an intolerably high level of risk for the business. In effect, we are not only replacing this one system; we are replacing four others,” Stecher notes.
Overcoming the heavy cost implications of migrating away from legacy systems begins with looking at a cloud-based approach. The company’s new digital platforms are not only cloud native, but are also cloud agnostic. The recently launched iFlight NEO system is an integrated digital platform, which enable carriers to manage their operations, including fleet, hub and crew. The operations control and core management system aims to utilise the firms’ resources and incorporate the latest technologies. “With iFlight NEO, we enable carriers to better work on disruptions, as the system makes use of real time data for proactive disruption management,” says Stecher.
As the company progresses, IBS turns to DELL as a strategic partner for its hardware needs. DELL supplies IBS’ employees’ Enterprise class desktops, such as the DELL OptiPlex series, and DELL Latitude laptops. “With liability being an important factor of airlines giving us data to store in the cloud, we rely on Dell to supply us with hardware that will perform well. There is a train of trust – as we trust Dell, this trust is pushed further into the market as we offer our solutions to customers,” says Stecher. More importantly, the firm also provides Chassis and Blade servers and virtualisation technology for IBS’ private cloud. Its EMC VNX, Unity, and SC series meet IBS’ storage requirement for their SaaS DCs and internal private cloud. “We look at DELL as a strategic supplier, because for us, the first priority for our enterprise requirements is the quality of after-sales support we receive. Their technical know-how and customer service of DELL support engineers are best in class and makes all the difference. The DELL-EMC-VMW Technology alliance also comes to our advantage since DELL is able to act as a single point of contact during any technical issues or failures.”
As IBS continues to expand its services and partners, Stecher reveals the biggest obstacles the company will have going forward. He cites the largest challenge as the objection to change within the airline industry, which he says is “very risk averse”. “It’s a very safety and regulation-oriented industry and will never compromise on safety. Technology has not always provided absolute safety, so very often we have to offer explanations to initiate change. That’s the biggest obstacle with building trust with people when they begin to think about necessity of change.” Despite these obstacles, Stecher and the IBS team will move forward introducing new technologies to aging systems in order to make a real difference to the airline industry and beyond.