Point of View

What makes Air Cargo Applications Indispensable to Modern Airlines


Having the right kind of product, keeping it updated and abreast with industry requirements and developments is critical to any IT solutions provider. Airline cargo management is no exception. We talk about product management, customer involvement, the role of technology, and the pursuit to adhere to industry regulations for air cargo solutions like IBS Software's iCargo, with Deepu Stephen, General Manager- Product management at IBS Software. He shares his insights on every practical detail of an air cargo software like iCargo 

How does product management of enterprise applications like iCargo help your airline customers achieve their business objectives? 

Every airline is different, and they all work hard to set themselves apart in how they operate. However, the fundamentals of transportation are constant throughout the sector. Additionally, aviation cargo is a heavily regulated industry. Therefore, although unique, every airline must abide by a set of fundamental rules when running its operations, and these rules require several processes to follow.

Our first action as an enterprise product or as an air cargo software is to take care of these foundations. We accomplish this as we host our customers' applications from a software and infrastructure perspective. As a result, we handle the fundamentals, which constitute about 80% of what they do. We enable the airlines to focus on their core competencies while we handle all compliance and technology-related issues, allowing them to achieve their business KPIs.

Second, even though airlines claim to be differentiating themselves, a closer examination reveals a certain level of convergence in all of these efforts. Dynamic pricing, warehouse automation, and upselling are all things that everyone is attempting to implement. Eventually, many synergies exist despite being differentiated. Therefore, as an online cargo management system, we add value by incorporating best practices into their work because we have experience doing so with our other customers. In the end, we expedite their progress towards their goals.

How do you identify market needs and strategize your product management priorities to help your airline and GHA customers achieve their business objectives? 

We have a product roadmap that looks into the future of our product as well as the needs of our customers. Keeping our product updated with industry standards and competitive with the market is one of the main goals of this roadmap. Both our customers and our product stand to gain from this. Our team actively monitors the industry trends, growing challenges, technology upgrades, and participates in many industry events across the globe to get a feel of how the eco system is shaping up. All these inputs go in to defining or redefining our product roadmap. We were first in the industry to launch the first cargo customer forum - the bi-annual IBS Cargo Forum, where we solicit direct feedback from our customers. 

How do you ensure customers' involvement in defining the vision for the future?

IBS Software operates in all the major locations across the globe. Therefore, we have direct access to our customers 24x7. This helps us to be agile and proactive in enabling critical customer requirements on a day-to-day basis. This channel also empowers us with the right set of strategic inputs that our developers can incorporate in to the product roadmap.

The IBS Cargo Forum presents us the opportunity to test waters with active discussions and feedback on our product roadmap. The hands-on sessions allow customers, regardless of their operating size, to deliberate, suggest, and prioritize the features in the roadmap. We also maintain an online community dashboard to discuss the inputs and action items from the cargo forum. Therefore, it is always an ongoing process towards perfecting our solution for our customers. 

What is the role of technology in disrupting the air cargo business and how receptive are customers to innovations?

Well, technology plays a significant role. Many of these revolutionary concepts had their roots in the past and have only become a reality now due to technological improvement. As a technology business, we embrace all these changes, and innovation is one of our primary focus areas in both our product roadmap and our production process. On the other hand, it is not always simple to sell disruptive ideas of this nature.

Historically speaking, the logistics and air cargo management sector has been quite sluggish to adapt to technological advancements. Therefore, to encourage adoption, we attempt to highlight these innovations by setting up experience zones during our cargo forum to display these cutting-edge use cases, and encourage our customers to test these. Instead of showing it off as a piece of technology, we translate these into use cases that consumers can comprehend and relate to their businesses. For interested customers, we transform it into proof of concepts, and further transform it into customer-specific business use cases before putting it into production.

Air cargo is a regulated business, so, how do you adhere to industry regulations?

Operationally, we address it through the product roadmap, and test it with customers through our forum(s). Since the majority of these regulations have deadlines, we prioritize and implement them based on their criticality. As one of the prominent players in the industry, we collaborate with industry organizations like IATA, TIACA and the likes. We work closely with IATA to implement some of their most important initiatives like the Cargo External Initiative, for instance. Because of these interactions with the regulatory organizations, we are continually informed about the new things hitting the market, their deadlines, and their specifications.

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