Scheduling: Where Does the Traditional Approach Falls Short?

If you are the operator of a flight school or aviation business, you do not have to be reminded of the importance of scheduling. Yet, scheduling particularly for flight schools and Part 135 operators – generally private charter – Has been a challenge in itself, and in many cases seen as a sideshow rather than being an opportunity for these aviation businesses. When fully understood, scheduling is more than just scheduling for these aviation businesses, it is a core part of the strategic punch.

Key Takeaways 

  1. Scheduling needs to be re-defined: For decades flight schools in aviation businesses have seen scheduling as just another part of the business performing an ancillary role to some other part. In this and a previous article we have re-define what scheduling really is not only ideologically but in its entirety, even going as far as changing its phraseology.
  2. Traditional scheduling shortcomings: The shortcomings of traditional scheduling is an inertia by proxy, where flight schools in aviation businesses operating on an old paradigm of scheduling request software solutions that does not fully satisfy their strategic needs.
  3. Software can aid in managing costs and bolstering profits: When flight schools in aviation businesses operate from a paradigm of the Strategic Nexus, then they can request customized solutions that fit with their unique business model and strategy that allows them to lower cost, boost efficiencies, and increase profitability.

 

In our article ‘Scheduling: The New ‘Strategic Nexus’ we argued that:

For flight schools and aviation businesses to think about scheduling in a way that improves their ability to achieve their growth and profitability goals, then scheduling must be redefined not as an ancillary or supporting function but as the core of the entire business operation. Once scheduling is redefined this way it can be accurately seen as the hub of the entire business with various spokes running off to the other “supporting“ arms of the business. This may seem strange to a lot of aviation business operators, since other parts of the business are sometimes considered the core of the business based on business models, management styles, or just senior leadership or board members’ preferences.

We then advocated for scheduling to be redefined not based on what it is viewed as currently, but for what its true function is. We have proposed a new definition for scheduling as the Strategic Nexus. The Strategic Nexus is defined as:

That unifying part of the flight school or an aviation business that is not ancillary but with which every other part of the business is supporting and is plugged into for the greatest strategic punch and competitive advantage. Put another way, the Strategic Nexus is that functional part of the business without which there would be no real competitive advantage and in some cases no business.

When it’s not fully understood that scheduling is not just a sideshow, but the Strategic Nexus as discussed in our article ‘Scheduling: The New ‘Strategic Nexus’ then flight schools in aviation Businesses will spend a lot of their time trying to find the right tool thinking that the software or tool will help them gain competitive advantages or become better at what they do. Once the Strategic Nexus is understood correctly then flight schools in aviation Businesses understand that there is no software tool that could be the answer to the strategic problem. Only what is unique about the business.

Technology is not the answer, only an accelerator and amplifier of current solutions to a specific problem(s). 

Furthermore, we have argued that the Strategic Nexus is not just another arm of the business, and to leverage it we must think about flight schools and aviation businesses and their core area of operations in a new way. Only then can we have the clarity and strategic insight to reformulate the business not around some homogeneous and generic software or process, but around the core competencies and unique traits of that business that creates the greatest amount of competitive advantage.

Traditional Scheduling ‘Solutions’ Shortcomings

Given what we have argued here in this article and our previous article ‘Scheduling: The New ‘Strategic Nexus’ , it should be now clearer to flight schools, aviation businesses and the reader being familiar with traditional scheduling software that there will be some limitations if scheduling is NOT redefined and treated as the Strategic Nexus, as it should.

The author would like to make it clear, however, that the shortcomings and limitations of the traditional scheduling solutions are not particularly because the providers of these services are nefarious in any way or are deliberately taking advantage of their valued customers and clients – flight schools and aviation businesses. Rather, we are saying that the providers of these software services are also operating on the wrong paradigm. In essence, if flight schools in aviation businesses believe that scheduling is not the Strategic Nexus but something that is ancillary or auxiliary to their overall operations, then this is what the providers of scheduling solutions will interpret from the market and provide the solutions that is perceived to be needed by flight schools in aviation businesses.

Once there’s a paradigm shift on the part of flight schools and aviation businesses then scheduling software providers will hopefully pick up on that shift and begin to provide software solutions that are more suited for the Strategic Nexus rather than an ancillary scheduling function.

Due to being on the old paradigm we’ve identified the following shortcomings and limitations of the traditional scheduling solutions:

Homogeneity – A one-size-fits-all model: It’s very understandable how the traditional software provider would fall into the trap of providing one-size-fits-all scheduling solutions to their clients. If scheduling is seen not as the main part of the business then scheduling for one flight school or aviation business will be viewed as the same as scheduling for another. This is very understandable, because the flight schools and aviation businesses themselves view scheduling as a homogeneous part of their business. Therefore, they see it as an interchangeable part with any other school or aviation business. Thus, scheduling software providers act accordingly by creating solutions that can easily plug and play into any flight school and particular aviation businesses without too much modification. However, what we’ve seen so far is that if scheduling is viewed properly then it will be seen that this is a major challenge for flight schools and aviation business.

The freemium/subscription-based model: This model is related to how flight schools and aviation businesses pay scheduling software providers for these services. This model is adopted from the software as a service (SaaS) that was perfected by companies such as salesforce.com. This model is where providers of software either provide the software for free and gather revenues through alternative means, provide the software for free at some level and then start charging after a certain usage point, provide a subscription base from the start to use the software solution, or a combination of the above. This payment model makes sense when operating on the old paradigm – the paradigm that scheduling is not an integral part of the business but is ancillary to the rest of the business and that it is homogeneous – then this model makes sense. However, as we will see below, this payment model also creates a lot of inertia for software providers to make custom changes to the software that is related to one or a small number of flight schools or aviation businesses needs – essentially is inertia by proxy.1 This is primarily because it would be cost prohibitive to do so given the payment models being used.

Lack of true customizations & integrations throughout the unique capabilities and advantages of the individual flight school or aviation business: As stated above, using a freemium/subscription-based model makes it cost prohibitive for scheduling software providers to make specific and unique changes based on one or a few of their clients needs. Therefore, flight schools in aviation Businesses run into a “brick wall” when trying to get their software providers to make changes to the current solution they’re using. This is very understandable, since the business model that the software providers are operating under do not allow for extreme customization, and in some cases minor customization for one are a few flight schools are aviation businesses. When one puts together the understanding that there is an old paradigm of scheduling is an ancillary function; it’s okay for scheduling solutions to be homogeneous; and that a freemium/subscription-based model is the best way to pay for such solutions; then it’s easy to see where the challenge of lacking customization for specific flight schools or aviation business comes from.

Using software to aid in managing costs and bolstering profitability

Given the limitations outlined in the previous section, it should be clear to the reader that the traditional scheduling software hampers flight schools’ or aviation businesses’ ability to manage cost and shore up profitability. With this understanding, the logical question might be asked; What can schools do to improve their scheduling operation to align with their unique business model? In order for flight schools in aviation businesses to be more successful, given the new paradigm, providing them with greater cost control, improved deficiencies, and boost in profitability, then they will need software solutions that:

  1. Is unique to how they do business.
  2. Is able to be customized in a way that allows them to take full advantage of their unique business model and business strategy.
  3. Can be placed at the center of the business on the new paradigm of a Strategic Nexus for the greatest strategic punch.
  4. Allows  for unique customization that allow the software to help with cost management through greater efficiencies, overall synergy throughout the business, and ultimately bolstering profitability.

 

An important note here is that, the above success factors are not particularly intrinsic in the software itself, it is within the business model of the flight school or aviation business. The software needs to be able to mold itself to those success factors within the business allowing for magnification and acceleration of those factors. As it stands currently, the traditional scheduling software does not allow for this.

A Glimpse Into the Future

With all that is said in this article, we believe that flight schools and aviation businesses will continue to do what they can to survive currently, and many erroneously believe that revamping scheduling is not a top priority. Therefore, the freemium/subscription-based model will be around for some time. Yet, there are many flight schools in aviation businesses that are and will be growing beyond the old paradigm and will be waking up in adopt in the new paradigm of the Strategic Nexus and, therefore, will require software solution that is best suited to this new paradigm, but most importantly to the DNA of their unique business model. Those that are more proactive and far-seeing will begin to adapt this more customized approach as they try to fight through the challenges that are in the market today, and those that they believe are coming in an uncertain future into which they must take flight.

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  1. Rumelt, R. (2011). Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters. United States: Crown. Page 212

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Thank you for reading this week’s On Aviation™ full article. Do you believe that flight schools in aviation businesses face serious limitations with their current scheduling solutions? Please share your thoughts in the comments below and remember to continue the conversation on our Twitter and Instagram.

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