Software Selection

Tips for the aviation professional

As if you don’t have enough hats to wear, now you find yourself in the position of evaluating, procuring, and implementing new software to either replace your outdated software or start up a new enterprise. Either way, here are some tips to consider for any solution you may choose.

Web-based vs. desktop
Software applications can be either web-based or desktop. Web-based software is software that is stored and run entirely on a remote internet server. Desktop software is stored and run on your own internal computer systems. Desktop software can also optionally be accessed via the internet. Arguments can be made for either platform and may ultimately boil down to just a personal preference. If you don’t want to worry about doing backups and maintaining a network file server, web-based systems can be a better solution. However, if you are worried about the performance and stability of your internet connection and data security, desktop applications would be the most preferable.

Adaptability, functionality, and flexibility
Remember, there is never one ‘right’ answer; it will always depend on your organization’s specific needs — make sure the software vendor understands that. You will want the software to adapt to your requirements and not have modules and functions that are not functionally related to your business model. For instance, if you are a repair station, there may be no need for the software to have a component maintenance module. Likewise, if you are a 135 fleet operator, you will probably not need an invoicing module for customers’ aircraft work orders. However, if you are a little of both and need to have a fully integrated application to handle component maintenance and different customer aircraft work orders, be sure the new software can handle it.

Also, it is a big plus if the software vendor can customize the system to give you the information and forms layout you want, and be able to change them if needed in the future. In short, be sure your software vendor is flexible enough to give you the exact configuration of modules and features to meet your organization’s specific needs.

Regarding useability, whether software is “user-friendly” or not is purely subjective. Always preview or obtain a trial version of the software to “test drive” the various entry screens and report options. Remember, you will have to use these screens and reports over and over throughout your workday, as well as show other users how to navigate through them.

Cost considerations
For desktop applications: it is a little known secret that many software vendors will “target” price their software to the size of the organization. That is, they will find a way to charge more for larger companies than smaller companies for software with the same capabilities.

For instance, a software vendor charges by the number of users even though there is no difference in the program code itself. To their defense, sometimes the per-user charge is a result of the underlying database engine. Software that uses some popular database engines (such as MS-SQL or Oracle) is licensed and priced by the number of concurrent users.

Try to look for software that uses powerful multiuser databases such as Visual FoxPro or MYSQL. These databases are very fast and usually not priced by the user. Another cost consideration is ongoing support, training, and program updates. Some companies require it and you must keep paying or the software will shut off. Support should be optional — but in either case it is a very good idea to get at least one year support when purchasing a new system. This will give you a complete annual cycle to make sure all accounting and seasonal issues have been resolved. An ethical software vendor will re-evaluate your support habits and adjust its rates up or down, depending on your usage history.

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