Switching Fixed Route data management suppliers – in 8 easy stepsThe Trapeze Team | November 11, 2015
If you are considering transitioning from one fixed route data management system to another, you may have concerns about the amount of data and work involved. Fortunately by following these steps you can ensure a simple and smooth process.
1. Fail to prepare; prepare to fail
First and foremost, it is crucial to run primary checks on systems before initiating the transition from your current fixed route system to a new model – this applies whether you are upgrading with an existing supplier or moving to a new one. This means checking current data and information for any issues, inconsistencies or inaccuracies that could affect the outputs and benefits offered by the new system once it is up and running.
By ensuring data is accurate and consistent before exporting you can minimise the risk posed by unresolved issues hidden in your fixed route system data.
2. Export rather than create
When it comes to migrating scheduling systems data, the huge amount of data involved could potentially amount to hundreds of man days in data input. Not only is this a drain on staff time and resources; it also raises the prospect of human error during manual data entry.
Obviously it is therefore important to minimise manual data entry – which means working with a supplier who can export data between systems so as to negate the need for significant manual input. Your supplier will require detailed understanding of the complexity and differences from standard ATCO.CIF and TransXChange outputs – and their system must offer tried and tested data interfaces to these types of national data standards.
However, there will of course be occasions when it is absolutely necessary to create data; in such situations it is imperative you avoid errors, so ensure your system makes it easy to create accurate new data.
3. Monitor and test
During the transition process, effective monitoring of systems and data is crucial in quickly flagging up areas that require tidying up. For example, monitoring stop signs and making sure they are as well placed as they could be on the GIS mapping tools.
To ensure monitoring is effective, work with a supplier who can provide an expert support team and engineers with extensive experience managing previous migrations/transitions from old to new systems. These support teams will be able to use their experience to identify where issues are most likely to occur, and where attention and monitoring is therefore required.
These teams will also be able to use effective testing techniques to ensure your systems are working properly and the migration of data is as smooth as possible. Such testing techniques will have been developed over numerous previous experiences – and honed to the point at which they are both pragmatic and effective.
4. Ensure you are supported
Your supplier’s support team should be on hand through every step of the migration process. This involves extensive involvement during the physical implementation of the system, as well as constant communication – both face-to-face and via telephone and email – to make sure all involved in the process is on the same page and kept firmly in the loop.
Of course, any professional relationship should be reciprocal, so while your supplier should be proactive in offering agile software engineering and adaptability, they should also be able to effectively take on board your feedback and incorporate your suggestions into the system; making sure you end up with a system that works for you.
5. Train to gain
As you enter the final stages of a transition, the importance of high-quality user training cannot be overstated – but the type of training a user receives is also very important.
A standard, one-size-fits-all training solution is not ideal because each individual user has their own unique demands on training. Some users will pick certain things up very quickly, while others will need more time – with certain elements of the scheduling system needing to be explained in more detail than others.
This also applies to organisations themselves, which will have unique requirements and needs. Training must therefore be delivered by expert professionals with extensive knowledge, who are able to quickly adapt techniques to ensure information is communicated in an effective manner.
6. Consolidate systems
Transitioning from one fixed route system to another often presents an opportunity to tidy up internal IT systems and databases, as well as working processes. Where possible, it is of course best to avoid silos, or instances where identical data is stored in different locations. But how can this be achieved?
The ideal solution is to integrate your fixed route system with other IT systems – for example, real-time and journey planning, as well as consolidate your NaPTAN stock management. Part of this will involve using a system that interfaces effectively with other systems; but it also means working with data experts and engineers who not only have a detailed understanding of fixed route systems – but other systems, too.
Such experts can use this knowledge to build in a holistic approach to your operations and systems during the transition – thereby ensuring previously disparate systems work seamlessly with one another.
7. Think Cloud
Adopting a cloud-based approach ensures that all the significant costs and headaches associated with managing an extensive ICT resource become somebody else’s concern, with any complicated elements managed seamlessly the scenes. Indeed, using a genuine browser-based system (accessed over the internet via a web browser with no local desktop installation), offers greater security controls; improved responsiveness; and greater ease of use.
Another crucial benefit of cloud technology is that upgrades can be carried out remotely, with new versions live without delay; so future transition between fixed route systems also becomes much easier.
8. Committing to industry standards
Crucially, as a UK-based organisation, it is important to work with a supplier who has extensive experience working with, and understanding of, UK data standards. Not only must your supplier understand in detail the deep complexities of scheduling data; they must also understand how TransXChange and ATCO.CIF systems work with this data in the unique parameters of the UK.
Such valuable insight means that your supplier will possess the foresight to plan, prepare and mitigate likely issues and challenging scenarios that may occur during the transition – ensuring the process is as smooth as possible.
By following the steps outlined in this article you can significantly reduce the impact of transition on staff, operating partners and, perhaps most importantly, the travelling public.
Whether you are thinking of upgrading your fixed route system, or making a change from one supplier to another, Trapeze is here to help. Contact Paul Attenborough using the form below to find out how.