Thursday, May 9, 2013

Four Tips for Buying Aviation SMS Software

Four Tips for Buying Web-Based Aviation SMS Software

Lesson Learned: Even the sexiest aviation safety software features will be worthless if considerable sums must be spent to adopt the aviation safety software to your airline or airport. Here are some tips for making the right decision while purchasing Web based aviation safety management system (SMS) software.

aviation safety management software buying tips and tricks
Buying aviation safety management system software can be a time-consuming and stressful process. Your email account is flooded by communications from aviation SMS software and SMS implementation providers. Business stakeholders request conflicting and often changing requirements, such as the quality or compliance departments. Seldom are you certain upper management will approve the budgeted SMS software costs and the subsequent SMS implementation costs.

Without a doubt, your airline or airport will be using the selected aviation SMS software for years. Most aviation SMS implementations require two to five years to become completely integrated into the culture of your airline or airport. In all likelihood, your aviation SMS software will be with your airline or airport for at least ten years. With all this history to look forward to, here are four tips for choosing the right aviation safety management software:

1. Purchase Aviation SMS Software Based on Business Needs

Many large aviation safety software companies are experts at smooth talking sales pitches. The coolest features and sexiest graphical reports are highlighted. Time-saving efficiencies are promised. While these cool features can be great, most aviation SMS software implementations fail because the SMS software fails to meet specific business or civil aviation regulatory requirements, rather than SMS software features not working as advertised.

aviation safety management (SMS) software buying tips and tricks Evaluate airline or airport safety management software with your business and  civil aviation regulatory requirements in mind.  Ensure your SMS vendor demonstrates how their aviation SMS software will support your key business processes and facilitate regulatory compliance. Furthermore, ensure the selected software covers all four pillars or components of the ICAO model. Most aviation SMS software fails to cover all four ICAO pillars. Your options are to supplement your SMS implementation with other software or manual methods, or choose the more complete aviation SMS software solution, such as SMS Pro.

Even the most compelling SMS software feature will be worthless if tens of thousands must be spent to adapt the software to your business processes. These shortcomings become more painful and embarrassing when management learns later that the software fails to facilitate ICAO or aviation regulatory compliance.

Don't neglect the targeted business needs once the aviation SMS software selection has been made. Map business requirements to SMS safety software processes and note where customization may be required.  Occasionally, business processes can be modified to adapt to the aviation SMS software. The best aviation safety management software is flexible enough to adapt to most airline or airport business processes.

2. Factor in All SMS Implementation Costs

aviation safety management (SMS) software buying tips and tricks
Perhaps the most obvious pain of implementing an aviation SMS and the related software is its costs. These safety costs are more painful when the budget is repeatedly overrun and managers must plead for more funding. The best way to get a ball-park figure on SMS implementation costs is by investigating other past initiatives at your company. Get a feel for the initial software costs and the resulting implementation costs. Review the amount of required customization that was expected and use that to extrapolate your SMS implementation costs.

If you don't have good, solid numbers to help identify your projected SMS implementation budget, multiply your expected SMS implementation costs by two. There are always hidden costs, and these costs may not be directly related to the chosen aviation safety software.

3. Get “Real” References of Aviation SMS Software Clients

It is certainly expected that you will ask aviation safety software companies for references. Most will provide you with glowing excepts of aviation SMS software reviews filled with compelling quotes. These should be regarded as marketing copy rather than references. Insist on talking with current and past customers (if possible) of the aviation safety solution provider. Past customers of the aviation SMS software company may have been successful SMS implementations. However, airlines and airports that are currently implementing their SMS programs represent more valuable feedback.

Spend some time researching particular software companies for poor customer service or SMS software quality. Make sure you call at least three safety managers of other airlines or airports that are implementing your short list of aviation SMS software solutions. Most safety managers using SMS Pro are more than happy to talk with you and detail their experiences with the Web based aviation SMS software and provide some caveats. Even across the industry segments (airlines, airports, aviation maintenance, FBOs, flight schools, corporate charter), many functions are remarkably similar. With a sample of three to five safety managers, you can quickly determine whether shortcomings exists in the aviation safety software or whether certain features present problems while complying with civil aviation SMS regulations.

4. Stack Your SMS Implementation Team for Success

Tips and Tricks of buying aviation SMS software. Get reviews of SMS software
Aviation SMS implementation consultants commonly present an interesting situation. The longer your SMS implementation lasts, the more revenue they earn. Allowing aviation SMS implementation consultants free reign over critical SMS project decisions is like asking your employee to write their own paychecks. Not every airline or airport hires SMS consultants during their SMS implementation. We have found that approximately ten percent of airlines and airports hire external resources.

If you acquire the services of SMS consultants, ensure your airline or airport SMS implementation team retains control over scoping decisions, especially regarding SMS software customization. When necessary, have an impartial third party (such as your civil aviation authority liaison) review the project plan and evaluate the SMS implementation team’s structure and SMS implementation activities before the SMS implementation begins.

In conclusion, we have provided a mere sample of the many facets of implementing aviation safety management software solutions. Hopefully, you will either have gained some insights or reviewed these high-level guidelines as you plan your aviation SMS implementation. Aviation SMS implementations have created considerable stress for safety managers and directors of safety. Keep the business needs and regulatory requirements in mind at all times. Don't be afraid of consulting your civil aviation authority for guidance. By keeping the civil aviation authority (CAA) in the loop, you are stacking the deck in your favor. You should consider your CAA liaison as part of your SMS implementation team.

Aviation Safety Management Software

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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