Overcome budget constraints with cloud deployment, tips for aerospace & defense organizations

Feb. 14, 2014
Breakthrough technology advances in aviation, space exploration, and weaponry are hallmarks of the aerospace & defense (A&D) industry, but the same pioneering attitude doesn’t always show up in the internal IT departments. It’s not uncommon on for an A&D company to still be relying on spreadsheets and manual systems to manage complex regulations and multi-phase government programs. 

Ten tips help you get on board and avoid being left as this trend takes off

By Edward Talerico, Industry Director of Aerospace & Defense, Infor

Breakthrough technology advances in aviation, space exploration, and weaponry are hallmarks of the aerospace & defense (A&D) industry, but the same pioneering attitude doesn’t always show up in the internal IT departments. It’s not uncommon on for an A&D company to still be relying on spreadsheets and manual systems to manage complex regulations and multi-phase government programs.

This technology gap spills over into deployment methods as well. The A&D industry has been notoriously reluctant to adopt cloud solutions. There may be several factors influencing this, from reluctance to change, to slow moving corporate bureaucracy, to a desire to protect the delicate balance of satisfied customers.

As the substantial U.S. budget cuts in A&D force manufacturers, contractors and suppliers to reexamine their business models, the cost savings offered by cloud deployment are bringing these issues to the forefront. The overwhelming growth—and success—the cloud industry has seen is certainly helping to turn the tide and change perceptions—even in the highly cautious A&D industry.

Acceptance of cloud technology is hitting at the opportune time—when cost savings are more important than ever and companies that once focused on Department of Defense (DoD) contracts are turning their attention to the commercial sector. Changes in markets and business models often require changes in ERP systems.

Even the well-established companies in commercial aviation and MRO are affected, as the large DoD suppliers try to stake a claim on a piece of the commercial market. All business is up for grabs in a fiercely competitive battle, and the low-cost bid often wins.

This upheaval is causing a drive to control costs and spending, and influencing a growing acceptance of cloud solutions. As necessity is changing reluctance into acceptance, the cost savings that come with cloud solutions are gaining the attention of cash-strapped A&D companies. Now, as the industry attempts to find a new level of stability, an emphasis on infrastructure and cost-effective IT solutions are driving many decisions, including deployment options.

Capital investments, in this challenging economic state, can be difficult to absorb. This is one of the reasons cloud computing is starting to look more appealing to cost-conscious companies that know they want to upgrade their systems, but are cash-strapped.

For some companies, the early reluctance may have been born out of security fears. After all, the A&D industry industry deals with valuable data, managing propriety specifications of exclusive technology, guarding industrial and federal secrets, and securing safety of individuals—and entire regions. These are not systems that can be taken lightly and left prone to viral attack or breach of firewalls. The stakes are high, of course.

Again, necessity has entered the picture. The IT industry has stepped up to the challenge and met the demand for the most secure and strict technology solutions to protect data—even when it is hosted in a cloud environment.

Cloud computing is safe
When the DoD calls for the use of cloud solutions as part of its plan for modernization of IT systems, even skeptics can see that cloud solutions are part of the future of A&D.

Teri Takai, CIO of the DoD, recognizes this importance. She published the DoD Cloud Computing Strategy in July 2012, where she outlined the importance of establishing and standardizing security criteria so that the federal agencies could fully leverage this important technology.

More recently Takai published The CIO’s 10-Point Plan for IT Modernization, which stresses the critical role the cloud will play in increasing cost-effective solutions.1

The IT industry is responding to the need—and the concerns, working to bring industry-specific advanced ERP solutions to the industry—as well as highly secure cloud deployment options.

Continuing advancement is certainly the priority of ERP vendors and hosting companies, which have built a reputation around offering unimpeachable security. Access to data—but in a controlled fashion –is what modern ERP solutions are all about, and exactly what the emerging A&D industry desperately needs.

In addition, the “stuck in the past” barriers that undoubtedly contributed to the slow adoption of cloud concepts among A&D companies are beginning to erode. The CIOs and IT staffs that fell into a rut of being caretakers of legacy systems are realizing that pushing beyond stagnation is critical to future strategies.

Looking to new solutions and new deployment options is undoubtedly becoming part of the A&D industry’s strategy for surviving the current onslaught of market pressures. Manufacturers and contractors alike are learning that cloud deployment is not only safe and effective, but it also offers a substantial financial benefit, lowering total of cost of ownership.

As A&D companies set their sights on higher objectives and aim for new markets, this efficiency and cost savings will have long-term benefits as well, creating a new, more resilient A&D industry. This means market pressures will remain and likely will continue to escalate as more and more companies get on board with new ultra efficient ERP solutions.

Are you at risk of falling victim to thee paralyzing wait-and-see syndrome?
Where is your company in this continually evolving spectrum of adoption of disruptive technologies, including cloud deployment of IT solutions? Are you on the forefront of progress and seizing new opportunities, or dragging your feet and lagging behind, mired in worry and uncertainty? Here are some steps you can take to help you make sound decisions concerning your deployment options.

1. Educate yourself on the facts. Don’t settle for anecdotal tales.

2. Make sure the research you collect is current. Outdated information is still out there, so look for dates on the materials you read. This is a fast changing industry with fast changing issues and even faster changing solutions.

3. Seek relevance. There are many verticals and micro-verticals in this industry. Look for examples that are relevant to you. Depending on your niche in the A&D industry, your ERP—and cloud security –needs differ greatly.

4. Be flexible. Understand that IT solutions have changed substantially in recent years. What you thought you wanted may no longer be the best option.

5. Allow time. Don’t let a compressed schedule force you to make hasty decisions. Give your organization, and yourself, sufficient time to research your options thoroughly.

6. Involve a team. Choosing new IT solutions—and deployment options—is a major undertaking. Bring in team members to share the workload and to share ideas.

7. See the total picture. Consider many factors, including the total cost of ownership, flexibility and functionality. Consider long-term growth as well as short-term needs.

8. Choose suppliers with A&D expertise. Your industry is complex. Work with vendors who understand it, inside and out.

9. Be prepared for the unknown. We don’t know what next disruptive technology is around the corner. Innovations in IT happen at an astounding rate. Your best option is to choice vendors and solutions which are flexible, forward-thinking and investing in product innovation.

10. Move. Delaying action is a mistake. Indecision costs money—and may cost you your position within the market. Your competition is hungry and eager. They are waiting. If you are slow to react to the changing market pressures hitting A&D today, you run the risk of being left in the dust.

Venturing into new spheres certainly beats being left behind as the industry soars by to achieve higher levels of profits and efficiency. For many in the industry, cloud deployment is the logical choice for A&D companies looking to reinvent their processes, target new markets and better use their limited resources. Cloud deployment is here to stay.

About Infor

Infor is fundamentally changing the way information is published and consumed in the enterprise, helping 70,000 customers in more than 200 countries and territories improve operations, drive growth, and quickly adapt to changes in business demands. Infor offers deep industry-specific applications and suites, engineered for speed, and with an innovative user experience design that is simple, transparent, and elegant. Infor provides flexible deployment options that give customers a choice to run their businesses in the cloud, on-premises, or both. To learn more about Infor, please visit www.infor.com.

About Edward Talerico

Prior to joining Baan in 1996, Edward worked at Lockheed Martin implementing MRPII systems and selecting ERP solutions for implementation for more than10 years where he gained valuable experience in the Aerospace and Defense Industry. For the past 16 years, Edward has held positions in solutions management and consulting services at Infor working with Infor’s A&D customers before taking his current role as Industry Director for Aerospace and Defense and High-Tech at Infor.

1 Teri Takai, “The CIO’s 10-Point Plan for IT Modernization,” (http://dodcio.defense.gov/).

Cloud computing images courtesy of Shutterstock.

About the Author

Courtney E. Howard | Chief Editor, Intelligent Aerospace

Courtney enjoys writing about all things high-tech in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Intelligent Aerospace and Military & Aerospace Electronics. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics and space geek. Connect with Courtney at [email protected], @coho on Twitter, on LinkedIn, and on Google+.

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