Monday, May 6, 2013

Five Best Practices for Smooth Aviation SMS Implementation

Best Practices for Smooth Aviation SMS Implementation

Aviation SMS programs are not rocket science. But they do require considerable planning and project management efforts.

Ready to Implement an Aviation Safety Management System?

You may have gone through months (possibly years of gaining top management support) and now you're ready to implement your aviation safety management system (SMS). No matter how much preparation, energy and stakeholder support you currently enjoy, everything may fall apart if your aviation SMS software company can't support your airline or airport's SMS initiatives.

As a stakeholder in charge of your airline or airport's aviation SMS software purchasing decisions, you’ll want to ensure that the aviation SMS software provider will adequately satisfy your needs. Most of us understand that there's a lot of time and money at stake in implementing an effective aviation SMS program. Expect this process to take between two to five years. You’ll want to do everything possible to ensure a smooth transition from your old system, if it exists, to your new Web based, integrated aviation SMS system.

Implement Aviation Safety Management Systems for Airlines & AirportsHow will you manage change, resolve conflicts, and keep your SMS implementation running smoothly as you introduce cultural change into your airline or airport? SMS implementations require airlines and airports to evaluate business processes and integrate best practices as they struggle to establish regulatory compliance. Choosing the right aviation SMS software provider is important as this company will become your business partner for years to come. Here are five best practices that may help ensure a successful aviation SMS implementation.
  • Best Practice #1: Proper Planning
  • Best Practice #2: Continuous "System" Monitoring
  • Best Practice #3: Updating your Stakeholders
  • Best Practice #4: Preventing Scope Creep
  • Best Practice #5: Negotiating Additional Products or Services

Aviation SMS Implementation Best Practice #1: Proper Planning

Ensure your SMS implementation plan includes specific deliverables for each milestone. Write a clear definition of the scope of each SMS implementation plan activity, and contingency plans should the schedule begin to slip. Every implementation plan must extend beyond the intial go-live date and often stretches two to five years out. As your airline or airport continues to grow or change, the SMS implementation process must evolve with it; therefore, your plan must be flexible. Some areas of your aviation SMS implementation plan that need special consideration may include:
Implement Aviation Safety Management Systems for Airlines & Airports
  • Data migration: Migration of data (hazard reports, corrective actions, training records, etc.) from the old system to the new should occur early in the implementation process. Testing must be performed to ensure accurate data is transferred into the new system's database, whether you are using SMS Pro's aviation safety management software, or a competing product. When inaccurate safety data is converted, erroneous data may have a negative effect throughout the organization, and not just on reports. Stakeholders may lose confidence in the aviation SMS program when reports are blatantly "wrong."
  • Disruption of business: Even the most successful aviation SMS implementations disrupt airline and airport operations to some extent. This disruption leads to temporary reductions in productivity. These are hidden costs not accounted for in your planned aviation safety budget estimate. These costs temporarily affect the bottom line. Just remember, they are temporary and money will be saved in other areas as airlines and airports gain efficiencies in identifying opportunities to implement risk management efforts.
  • Training: Every airline and airport employee must be fully educated in relation to their SMS roles and responsibilities. Employees must understand how the new system will be integrated into the overall airline or airport operations and embrace cultural changes. Administrators, safety managers and department heads must be trained to take full advantage of the system's capabilities. Failure to educate and train all relevant personnel will guarantee implementation problems.

Aviation SMS Implementation Best Practice #2: Continuous Monitoring

Implement Aviation Safety Management Systems for Airlines & Airports
Routine monitoring should be integrated into all activities of the aviation SMS implementation project. As the SMS implementation progresses, a careful review of each milestone by a third party will help ensure that activities are performed to acceptable standards. These independent reviews (by mentors, consultants or regulatory authorities) will confirm that the internal SMS implementation team is performing adqequately.
Failure to properly monitor the progress of aviation SMS implementations tend to lead to scope creep and failure of follow-through. Failure of follow-through is important and often occurs when employees understand the need for change, but there is no enforcement or encouragement to continue new behaviors.

Aviation SMS Implementation Best Practice #3: Update your Stakeholders

Your stakeholders should be involved in the aviation SMS implementation from the time your SMS implementation begins. Weeks, months and then years pass quickly, so don’t keep stakeholders in the dark regarding the progress of our SMS implementation. Ensure your SMS champions, subject matter experts, and aviation safety software provider works together throughout the SMS implementation. All SMS project members must be singing to the same sheet of music. Poorly managed and communicated projects are often a the major factor in SMS implementation failures. Communication is critical to ensure everyone's expectations are managed properly. Review each SMS implementation activity and regularly provide detailed briefings and progress reports to your airline or airport's management team.

Aviation SMS Implementation Best Practice #4: Prevent Scope Creep

Scope creep is common for large, time-consuming projects. Scope creep is more prevalent when environmental influences affect operations in an uncontrolled manner. For example, airline and airport operations are affected by global natural disasters and political struggles. Tasks change, deliverables slip, and before we know it, the implementation time line stutters and occasionally stalls. All scope creep is not a bad thing. But it does need to be managed properly and be aligned to organizational objectives.

SMS Implementation Best Practice #5: Negote Additional Products or Services

Remember: Managers involved in acquiring aviation safety management software may not be the ones responsible for implementing the aviation SMS program. Details often are overlooked in the aviation SMS software acquisition, such as integration with third party software, special training and qualification requirements, custom reporting forms, etc.

In these cases, you may have to acquire additional enhancements to your aviation safety software. Your aviation SMS software company, such as NorthWest Data Solutions in Anchorage, Alaska may provide a very good deal if your enhancements can be used by other clients. For example, SMS Pro will subsidize development costs of particular modules or enhancements when these enhancements significantly improve the product.

About NWDS - founded in 2003 by six software engineers, NorthWest Data Solutions (NWDS) provides custom computer programming and systems design services. NWDS creates many types of software, including e-commerce, financial, defense, engineering, logistics, aviation and more. In 2007, NWDS developed SMS Pro™ a web based SMS application that supports an organization's overall SMS through safety reporting, safety documentation, safety risk management and safety assurance. SMS Pro™ is currently used by aviation organizations in the U.S., Canada, Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East to help manage their SMS programs. NWDS continues to support SMS Pro™ and add new functionality. NWDS offers custom contract programming services in the U.S. and Canada and is managed by Chris Howell, one of the founders. Their headquarters is in Anchorage, Alaska. For information on NWDS visit their website at and to learn more about SMS Pro™.

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