Airline Operations Data Warehouse doesn’t sound that fancy – I know. Today’s technological world is highly driven by topics such as big data, AI, blockchain, and machine learning.
However, and interesting enough, when working with airlines all over the world we observe quite often a different world. The challenges airlines face – especially in an airline operations context – are much less buzzword-driven and more down to earth.
More precisely: Within the context of airline operations, many carriers (probably except the large ones) are still trapped in an outdated technological world. Old-fashioned databases, Microsoft Excel, and complex IT landscapes are still very common among airlines. That’s why implementing AI and the other mentioned technologies feel like proceeding to the second step before taking the first.
Learn To Walk Before You Learn To Fly
I share that opinion. From my perspective, you should learn to walk before you learn to fly. Subsequently, the first step in this direction is getting rid of outdated databases and creating a proper data warehouse – which can later serve as a base for the introduction of new technologies.
To get that straight: During the last 15 years, I’ve worked with several airlines all over the world. One thing I can clearly state is that airlines that rely on a thorough operational data warehouse definitely move at a higher pace. Especially when it comes to data analytics, performance reporting, and development of new IT solutions.
Actually, this isn’t surprising. When doing a bit of research one will quickly find the main advantages of a data warehouse. For example, the Data Warehouse Information Center lists the following benefits:
- Delivers enhanced business intelligence
- Saves times through standardization
- Enhances data quality and consistency
- Provides competitive advantage
- Improves the decision-making process
- Enables organizations to forecast with confidence
- Streamlines the flow of information
So, What’s Essential For An Airline Operations Data Warehouse?
That brings me to the point of what is essential when planning to introduce a data warehouse for airline operations data? Or in other words, what are the must-haves a data warehouse should offer. Certainly, some of the aspects aren’t airline-specific and apply to other industries too. However, some of them are tightly linked to the specific needs and requirements of airlines.
Data Warehouse Essential 1: Real-Time Counts
Real-time and data warehouse? Are you serious?
Oh yes, dead serious. Airline operations is a real-time business and is mission-critical. For that reason, you’re leaving a huge option on the table if you are solely focusing on historical data.
Certainly, the real-time aspect isn’t required when it comes to analytics, weekly or monthly reports. But it is super-essential when it comes to real-time reporting, real-time KPIs, real-time benchmarking, and real-time alerting. Each of these topics is getting more and more important in order to gain a competitive edge. So make sure you’re airline data warehouse is up to that!
Data Warehouse Essential 2: It’s All About The Quality
The success of an airline data warehouse stands and falls with data quality. I guess this isn’t very surprising but still sometimes underrated.
Therefore, a data warehouse is completely different from a “simple” data lake. Quite contrary, a professional data warehouse has to offer specific technical layers for improving the quality and cleansing of incoming data.
Especially at airlines where data usually is received from different sources (e. g. timestamps are received from aircraft, ground handler, or disposition systems) a data warehouse must provide mechanisms to identify the “best” data.
Those cleansing layers can be based on so-called master matrixes. Another approach is to establish stage-driven cleansing rules. Usually, this is an XML-driven approach.
Regardless of the approach you chose, data quality is an aspect you should focus on right from the beginning. From experience, I can tell you two things: First, it is a highly complex topic. Second, don’t underestimate it.
Data Warehouse Essential 3: Reach For The Clouds
Despite having the credo that business drives technology, there’s one technological aspect that is essential to consider. By all means, the chosen data warehouse technology has to be “cloud-ready”. I would even go that far and recommend to only chose a cloud-based data warehouse.
Why’s that? Because there are dozens of benefits linked to a cloud-based solution:
- You will be able to apply cloud technology to your data warehouse. Especially when it comes to re-calculating values or loading additional historical data, cloud technologies can massively speed up the processes.
- You will be able to benefit from cloud-based pricing models in terms of scalability and flexibility.
- Only by applying cloud technologies, you’ll be able to make use of all those fancy stuff like AI, machine learning, etc. in a later stage.
Data Warehouse Essential 4: Sharing Means Caring
Since it is all about integration a data warehouse should offer possibilities to easily and swiftly connect to external systems.
This, on the one side, is important in order to enable your analytic teams to access all contained data with state-of-the-art tools, like Tableau or PowerBI.
And on the other side, a data warehouse should also provide the possibility to other systems to access the contained data via a standardized API. I consider this aspect as extremely important. Why? Because it helps your airline to reduce costs and improve the time-to-market of your future IT projects.
Never ever go for a solution that doesn’t offer those possibilities.
It Is NOT About Technology – In A First Step
Besides these 4 essential aspects, here’s one aspect that doesn’t matter when starting an airline data warehouse project. And don’t get me wrong: Of course, technology matters. You’ll have to make decisions whether to go for mariaDB or Oracle, where to use Hadoop cluster, and identify how tools like Kafka, Drools, Nifi, or Talend can help you. But those aspects should never be answered in the first step.
Collect business requirements. Analyze your current system landscape. Assess the goals you want to achieve with an airline data warehouse. Pay attention to the limitations you have.
And once that has all been done, you can start and assess which technology fits best with your results. Sounds trivial I know – but believe me: I’ve seen it too often going the other way around.
A data warehouse is essential and is key to generating competitive advantages. When implementing a data warehouse for your airline operations you should specifically pay attention to these four aspects 1) real-time, 2) data cleansing, 3) cloud-readiness, and 4) integration.