SMS Pro Short History

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SMS Pro History and Timeline

SMS Pro was not an instant success. This page tells a brief history of the human side to one of the world's most popular aviation SMS management systems software solutions.

This story talks about the deaths of influential members of the aviation safety industry and how these deaths affected the development of SMS Pro. You will also see a timeline of the modules that were developed during the early years and how the product matured from a reactive based aviation safety management software solution to become a polished proactive tool that can safety industry time and money as they implement a state of the art aviation SMS program using best practices.

SMS Pro is available in English, Spanish, French and German. This SMS management system is used by:

  • Airlines;
  • Airports (regional and international);
  • Biz jet operators;
  • Aviation maintenance;
  • Flight schools; and
  • Fixed base operators.

We hope you enjoy the story of SMS Pro. We uncover it all and don't leave out names to protect the guilty. The writer, Chris Howell believes in complete disclosure. I hope nobody is offended and I mean no disrespect to any of the mentioned parties. This account was written from the perspective of the SMS Pro software development and support team.

SMS Pro Aviation SMS Management System

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Introduction to SMS Pro

It was not by chance you landed on this page. Most probably you are in the aviation industry or working in the safety management industry. You may be looking for free aviation safety checklists, posters or other resources for your industry.

What is SMS Pro?

SMS Pro is a Web based SMS management system software to allow safety professionals to manage the collection, analysis, corrective action processes and distribution of safety data. SMS Pro is an aviation safety management system software product.

SMS Pro was developed specifically for the aviation industry. SMS Pro is not an SMS. An SMS is a system that requires more elements than an enterprise-grade database, Web server and clever .NET application files.This system is a complex collection of often vaguely defined elements that are constantly in flux, including employees, management, equipment, operating environment, customers. SMS Pro is an SMS management system software suite to help manage the mountains of data encounter while managing the associated risk during daily aviation-industry related operations.

SMS Pro Aviation Safety Management System Software for Airlines & Airports

SMS Pro™ can be adapted to either small or large organizations. Based on your needs and the maturity level of your SMS management system implementation, you can build your own SMS software tool kit using SMS Pro™ modules that have been developed specifically for the aviation industry. Alternatively, you may resort to paper and a myriad of other tools, including MS Excel, MS Access, PowerPoint, File Maker Pro, etc. However, the technologies employed by SMS Pro ensure the product is not only scalable for aviation related companies ranging from ten to ten thousand,  but also equally applicable across the various industry segments, including airlines, airports, aviation maintenance, fixed based operators, flight schools, corporate aviation, etc.

As we have seen, SMS Pro™ is Web-based Safety Management System tool that allows operators and airports to manage their safety, security, compliance, environmental and quality issues based on ICAO, IS-BAO, Transport Canada and FAA requirements and advisory material. SMS Pro™ is an integrated SMS management system solution that facilitates airport operations by increasing the efficiency of business processes, improving service delivery to meet goals and objectives and improving operational and management reporting. Since SMS Pro™ is a Web-based application it ensures information sharing across the organization where many users can collaborate on safety and quality issues simultaneously.

SMS Pro Technology Stack

Briefly, SMS Pro is based on these following technologies:

SMS Pro Offers Airlines & Airports Complete SMS Management System

SMS Pro ™ provides:

  • Enhanced response times to audit findings by streamlining planning and tracking activities in the "Issue Manager," Performance Monitoring" and "Goals & Objectives" modules. ecure central repository for document storage and version control.
  • Increased efficiency and effectiveness of organizational Quality, Safety, Security and Regulatory Compliance activities using "Issue Reporting" and "Issue Manager" modules.
  • Collaborative environment to share processes policies & procedures across all departments and entities using the "Read File," "Policies" and "Duties and Requirements" modules among internal and external users.
  • Accurate and timely data & statistics using "Performance Monitoring," "Goals & Objectives," "Hazard Analyzer (charts)," "Quick Table," and "Quick Sort" modules.
  • Lessons Learned library to share knowledge across different users in the organization.
  • Ability to create custom audit checklists to perform inspections, audits and evaluations.
  • Audit and audit management using same framework as "Issue Manager" module.
  • Fully customizable issue assessment and classification enabling incidents to be categorized by two customized classification systems in "Issue Manager" module. Issues can be further classified by associated hazards and risks identified in the "Hazard Analysis Tool" module.

SMS Pro Was Developed Specifially for Aviation Safety Management Systems

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SMS Pro Provides Complete ICAO Based SMS Management System

In 2007, NorthWest Data Solutions and Aviation SMS formed a partnership to develop an aviation safety management system for small to mid-sized operations. Brendan McCormack, the owner of Aviation SMS contacted Chris Howell of NorthWest Data Solutions, an Alaska Web design and development company to transfer or migrate an MS Access database program to the Web.

Brendan and Chris were attending an Executive Leadership course for their MBA programs taught by General Tom Casey. Brendan was almost finished with his MBA. Chris never completed his MBA program due to the following story.

Brendan had some great ideas for what an aviation safety management system was supposed to look like as Brendan worked as an aviation safety manager for a large oil company. Brendan came up with the name SMS Pro, as the SMS Pro could stand for either SMS Professional or SMS Program. Brendan's earlier education earned him an MBA in aviation safety; therefore, one could say that Brendan's career revolved around aviation safety management principles.

Chris' experience revolved around developing enterprise level Web applications. These were based on Oracle, SQL Server, Java and .NET technologies interacting on various Web server platforms. Chris was also an active use of the DotNetNuke platform since the early days of DotNetNuke version 1 in 2003. DotNetNuke offers the ability to host many Web portals using the same database and .NET application files.

Short History of SMS Pro

During the spring semester at the University, Brendan approached Chris repeatedly for developing this state of the art aviation SMS management system. Chris was working on U.S. defense contracts at the time and knew that his defense contracts would not last forever. Chris was interested in other business opportunities, so a loose partnership was formed.

Brendan's reasoning for developing a Web based "professionally developed" Web application was due to the fact that there were no aviation industry specific SMS management system software packages available. Most were home grown and not stable. These small home-grown, in-house systems lacked basic email notifications and the collaborative abilities of modern Web based SMS management systems.

After school ended in May, Brendan, Chris and Roman Mikheev (an NWDS software engineer) started developing and testing the first aviation hazard reporting and risk management pieces of SMS Pro. Excitement was high and Brendan was providing demos to companies such as Ford, Yum and Fed Ex. These companies and approximately 80 others were invited to Beta test the Web based safety software. Feedback was very positive and encourage Aviation SMS (Brendan's new company) and NWDS to continue full speed ahead. In short, everyone loved the product. "Build it, and they will come" was the belief.

Throughout the first year (2007), SMS Pro was a basic hazard reporting and risk management program with a few safety management modules, including the following:

SMS Pro My Safety Modules in 2007

  • Submit an Issue;
  • My Dashboard (now User Dashboard);

SMS Pro Safety Policy Modules in 2007

  • Policy Manager;
  • Duties and Requirements of Key Safety Personnel;
  • Version Controlled Document Manager;
  • Organizational Chart (sophisticated with images); and
  • Applicable SMS Regulations.

SMS Pro Risk Management Modules in 2007

  • Issue Manager;
  • Quick Charts (now Risk Analysis Charts);
  • Financial Charts now (Risk Analysis Financial Charts);
  • Quick Sort (now Data Analysis & Export);
  • Flight Risk Assessment Tool (FRAT)

SMS Pro Safety Assurance Modules in 2007

  • Quick Table (now obsolete);
  • Gap Analysis Tool (combined, FAA & Transport Canada models).

SMS Pro Safety Promotion Modules in 2007

  • Safety Survey;
  • Read File;
  • All Employee Letter;
  • Newsletters

SMS Pro Setup Modules in 2007

  • Risk Admin Configuration
  • User Account Managment

SMS Pro Goes Live in January 2008

On January 8th, 2008, SMS Pro went live with the first paying customer, a Canadian airline called Flair Airlines. Brendan introduced SMS Pro to Flair Airlines while Brendan attended an SMS training course hosted by SCSI in the fall of 2007. Brendan provided considerable phone support to Flair Airlines during the SMS implementation period. A few months later, in May of 2008, Evergreen Helicopters joined the party and adopted SMS Pro as their SMS management system.

SMS Pro Seeks Corporate Aviation Departments in the U.S.

During 2008 and 2009, the SMS Pro team attended many conferences and sought to bring on corporate aviation departments into the fold. This proved very challenging as there no SMS requirements existed yet in the United States. The Canadians and Australians were considerably further along in their SMS implementations than the United States and this fact remains today. This was a hard time for SMS Pro as the amount of effort to acquire a sale disappointed the strongest of heart. Nevertheless, SMS Pro continued to grow during 2008. By early 2009, SMS Pro acquired new modules and increasing sophistication. Several gap analysis exercises were performed against SMS Pro to compare its shortcomings to the ICAO, FAA and Transport Canada requirements.

The aviation related conferences proved to disappointing in the end. Everyone loved the SMS Pro product. Technology was great and an industry wide problem was being addressed. The challenge was that the SMS Pro team was focusing on end users, the safety managers. In order to effect sales, these safety managers had to convince management that SMS Pro was either a required tool to save time and money or that the civil aviation authority required their operations to manage their safety data to a higher standard. Safety managers knew they needed the tool, but convincing management to spend the money was the constant challenge.

Considerable Sums Spent on SMS Pro Gap Analysis

Chris Howell, CEO of NorthWest Data Solutions stopped all development of SMS Pro in the fall of 2008. Chris wanted to ensure that the functional and business requirements were being addressed and that nothing was being left out. The objective was to perform an individual gap analysis against aviation regulatory requirements and recommendations. For six weeks, software engineers and analysts compared SMS Pro with:

  • ICAO Document 9859;
  • FAA 120-92 and Safety Assurance Manual Draft 1;
  • Transport Canada regulatory requirements; and
  • CASA requirements (Civil aviation authority of Australia).

When deficiencies were noted, plans were made to design and develop new aviation safety management modules to satisfy the identified gaps.

SMS Pro First to Satisfy ICAO & FAA Requirements & Recommendations

Chris Howell believed that if SMS Pro satisfied all the ICAO requirements and facilitated compliance with regulatory requirements that the sales would increase. SMS Pro grew in complexity and very sophisticated risk management features were incorporated into the aviation SMS management system. Some modules were rewritten three times before they became accepted into the industry. There was always a fine line between keeping it simple and ensuring that the product was a complete SMS management system tool kit.

By Early 2009, SMS Pro looked like the following:

SMS Pro My Safety Modules in 2009

  • Submit New Issue;
  • User Dashboard with Goals & Objectives, Audit Manager and Training & Qualifications tabs;
  • Flight Risk Assessment Tool;

SMS Pro Safety Policy Modules in 2009

  • Policy Manager (reworked to include automated alerts);
  • Duties and Requirements of Key Safety Personnel;
  • Task and Audit Scheduler
  • Organizational Chart (simplified); and
  • Applicable SMS Regulations.
  • SMS Implementation Plan Manager (with ICAO, FAA & Transport Canada models).

SMS Pro Risk Management Modules in 2009

  • Issue Manager;
  • Quick Charts (now Risk Analysis Charts);
  • Financial Charts now (Risk Analysis Financial Charts);
  • Trending Charts;
  • Custom Report Viewer (for customized reporting);
  • Quick Sort (now Data Analysis & Export);
  • Flight Risk Assessment Tool (FRAT)

SMS Pro Safety Assurance Modules in 2009

  • Performance Monitor;
  • Custom Inspection Form Creator;
  • External Auditor Reports;
  • Issue Validation
  • Qualifications and Training
  • Gap Analysis Tool

SMS Pro Safety Promotion Modules in 2009

  • Safety Survey;
  • SMS Induction Manager;
  • Read File;
  • Meeting Manager;
  • Must Acknowledge
  • All Employee Letter;
  • Newsletters; and
  • Lessons Learned Library.

SMS Pro Setup Modules in 2009

  • Customize Settings;
  • User Accounts

Slow, Hard Start for SMS Pro for First Three Years

For 2008 and 2009, SMS Pro had four clients. Countless hours were spent trying to sell the product to corporate aviation and airports. A few airports expressed interest and NWDS learned that some airports merely wanted extended demos (with access to the product) in order to steal the ideas and risk management work flow.

In early 2009, NorhtWest Data Solutions and Aviation SMS started seeking new strategic partners. When SMS Pro started, there was the backing of Jerry Dennis, the director of the Medallion Foundation in Anchorage, Alaska. The Medallion Foundation is funded by the FAA and is tasked with improving aviation safety within the state of Alaska. Alaska is known for the highest ratio of civilian pilots in the population and incredibly dangerous flying conditions. The Medallion Foundation is known for the five shields or levels of safety. Alaskan operators strove to acquire the five shields rating as a bragging right and an indication of their adherence and acceptance of sound safety management practices.

SMS Pro First Casualty

Jerry Dennis was to retire in February 2008 and evangelize SMS Pro. Jerry Dennis provided extensive consulting and mentoring during the first year of SMS Pro. After his scheduled retirement, Jerry Dennis unfortunately had a sudden death. This proved to be a sudden blow because Jerry Dennis was very well known in the aviation industry and would have been instrumental in promoting SMS Pro to aviation organizations world wide.

While the loss of Jerry Dennis was felt strongly, SMS Pro still had subject matter expertise within its ranks. Brendan McCormack was a practicing aviation safety manager. Brendan has great skills at salesmanship and is a very personable individual. His infectious smile has the ability to disarm the grumpiest of sorts. While Brendan attended aviation SMS training in Southern California at Southern California Safety Institute, Brendan became acquainted with Peter Gardiner. Brendan may have become acquainted with Peter Gardiner through Jerry Dennis, but this exact detail is unknown to the author.

Peter Gardiner was the president of Southern California Safety Institute (SCSI). Not only did Peter provide training to Brendan, Peter offered training to the NorthWest Data Solutions staff in order to educate them on the subject matter. NorthWest Data Solutions, Aviation SMS and SCSI formed the first strategic partnership in 2008. The vision was that:

  • Jerry Dennis was to be on the road evangelizing the merits of SMS Pro;
  • Peter Gardiner's team at SCSI was to develop aviation SMS training revolving around SMS Pro;
  • NorthWest Data Solutions was to continue development and support of SMS Pro; and
  • Aviation SMS was to provide marketing and administrative support.

The business plan and road map to success was sketched out. The future looked rosy when all were present. The sun was still shining when Jerry Dennis passed away. NWDS was confident that Peter Gardiner and John Richardson would help promote and market SMS Pro during their aviation training sessions.

SMS Pro Continues The Struggle for Success

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SMS Pro Suffers Second Fatality

During late 2008, Peter Gardiner fell ill with cancer. Support from SCSI remained strong as Peter Gardiner provided support, albeit from afar. John Richardson, who was a strong influence at SCSI continued to support SMS Pro and consult the software development staff at NWDS. The writing was on the wall and SMS Pro sales were not stellar. Brendan and Chris knew that additional SMS consultants were needed to serve as evangelists to spread the word. Chris spent considerable time connecting with SMS consultants in the United States, Europe, Latin America and Australia.

Chris was encouraged because operators and consultants alike continued to say how SMS Pro was the best aviation safety software that they had seen. And these consultants had see everything on the market. Either the competition's functionality was too weak, or too complex for regular safety managers to understand. Furthermore, SMS Pro was the only aviation SMS management system on the market that was developed specifically for the aviation industry.

The LinkedIn group, Aviation Safety Management Systems was started in 2008 by Chris Howell. The old blue SMS Pro logo remained on the site until January 2013. Mike Rioux, a gentleman from Washington D.C. area contacted Chris Howell via LinkedIn exploring the possibility of a strategic partnership. In February of 2009, Chris Howell, Brendan McCormack and Gary Williams visited Mike Rioux and Joe Del Balzo of JDA Aviation Technology Solutions out of Bethesda, MD. They also met John Golgia, a well known aviation safety expert who sat on the NTSB board. This relationship continued to flourish for years. During the latter part of 2009, Peter Gardiner died of cancer and John Richardson's wife fell ill. The SMS partnership between NWDS, Aviation SMS and SCSI was still alive, but stagnant.

SMS Pro Fatality Number Three - But Not Totally Dead

Brendan McCormack worked as an aviation safety manager at a large oil company. An upper level manager at his company didn't like the fact that Brendan was becoming a real mover and shaker in the aviation safety industry. The manager claimed a "potential" conflict of interest existed. The oil company gave Brendan an ultimatum, SMS Pro or the security of a high paying oil company job. Brendan had three young children at the time and chose to stick with the security of the oil company. This was a smart move because by the end of 2009, SMS Pro had  three paying clients, a Canadian airline, a large, international helicopter operator and a large corporate biz jet operator with approximately 300 pilots.

Before Brendan left SMS Pro, Brendan convinced Gary Williams to join the group as a a consultant/salesman. Gary was to work on a commission basis, a very thankless job. Gary's background proved invaluable to the SMS Pro team. Gary is very tuned to usability and strict attention to detail.

Also in 2009, another software engineer joined the SMS Pro team who had very good Web design skills. While SMS Pro had great functionality, the aviation SMS system looked like it was developed by male engineers with no sense of esthetics. Sandesh Pandey spent many hours polishing the design of not only the SMS Pro Web sites, but also NorthWest Data Solutions Web site and the SMS Pro product. Sandesh Pandey took NWDS to another level. But the sales still were slow and frustrating.

By early 2010, SMS Pro was moving into the proactive tools and predictive analysis stage of development. Here is a rough idea of what SMS Pro looked like in early 2010:

SMS Pro My Safety Modules in 2010

  • Submit New Issue;
  • User Dashboard with new Tasks functionality;
  • Flight Risk Assessment Tool with customizable airports and questions. Escalation features also added.

SMS Pro Safety Policy Modules in 2010

  • Policy Manager (includes audit trail)
  • Duties and Requirements of Key Safety Personnel;
  • Task and Audit Schedule (disappeared)
  • New Audit Scheduler with Calendar View
  • Organizational Chart (simplified); and
  • Applicable SMS Regulations.
  • SMS Implementation Plan Manager (removed FAA model).
  • Management of Change version 1
  • SMS Manuals Creator

SMS Pro Risk Management Modules in 2010

  • Issue Manager;
  • Proactive Hazard Analysis Tool
  • Hazard and Risk Registry
  • Corrective Actions Manager
  • Quick Charts (now Risk Analysis Charts);
  • Financial Charts now (Risk Analysis Financial Charts);
  • Trending Charts;
  • Custom Report Viewer (for customized reporting);
  • Quick Sort (now Data Analysis & Export);
  • Flight Risk Assessment Tool (FRAT)

SMS Pro Safety Assurance Modules in 2009

  • Performance Monitor;
  • Custom Inspection Form Creator;
  • External Auditor Reports;
  • Issue Validation
  • Qualifications and Training
  • Gap Analysis Tool
  • Process Description Library

SMS Pro Safety Promotion Modules in 2009

  • Safety Survey;
  • SMS Induction Manager;
  • Read File;
  • Meeting Manager;
  • Must Acknowledge
  • All Employee Letter;
  • General Issue Viewer;
  • Newsletters; and
  • Lessons Learned Library.

SMS Pro Setup Modules in 2009

  • Customize Settings;
  • User Accounts

SMS Pro Sales Increasing With International Airports

Chris Howell began developing a network of SMS training companies and SMS consultants world wide to help spread the word of SMS Pro. Many of these SMS Partners were discovered using the LinkedIn Group, Aviation Safety Management Systems. These partners proved instrumental in providing guidance and subject matter expertise to NWDS. Furthermore, the development of a large network of SMS Partners added credibility and depth to the SMS Pro team. By 2010, SMS Pro was being used by airlines, corporate biz jet operators, flight schools and international airports.

Aviation maintenance and fixed base operators were slower to the party.

SMS Pro Provides Web Site For SMS Partners

In 2009, a website dedicated to aviation SMS was established. This website was fittingly called http://www.aviation-sms.com. The SMS professionals (training schools, consultants and SMS Pro support staff) recognized that aviation safety managers needed a "one-stop-shop" for the aviation SMS needs. They didn't want to go to four different places to find SMS manuals, aviation SMS management system software, SMS consulting, SMS training, SMS checklist and downloads, and SMS mentoring. Therefore, the http://www.aviation-sms.com website was designed to allow safety managers to find whatever aviation SMS resources they needed.

JDA Aviation Technology Solutions star, Mike Rioux also delivered a biweekly newsletter for the SMS Partners. It was very difficult to measure the effect as selling SMS Pro services proved challenging. Sales cycles ran from a day or two to upwards of two years.

Several times during 2009 to 2011, large companies approached NorthWest Data Solutions to purchase the SMS Pro software and rebrand it as their own. These companies included Sabre, Sagem, Cavok and finally Universal Weather and Aviation. NorthWest Data Solutions knew it had at least two million dollars into development costs and inestimable costs for marketing. The amount of time Brendan and Gary spent trying to convince aviation operators that SMS Pro was the best solution is incalculable.

Without a doubt, everyone loved SMS Pro and the idea. The software was touted as the best aviation safety software on the market by everyone who saw the aviation SMS management system. The aviation safety management software was becoming so popular that competitors started copying and attempting to sell their own brands. During this period, SMS Pro was still the only company to be able to prove that it satisfied the ICAO requirements.


Users

Users

  • End user: unlimited end users
  • System Administrators
  • Safety Managers
  • Auditors
purchase

Purchase options

  • Hosted
  • Monthly
  • Annual
  • Self host
support

Support 

  • Phone, critical assistance after hours
  • Email and web
  • Remote assistance
  • Online Help (24*7)
  • All major releases, updates and upgrades
core feature

Core Features

  • Issue Reporting
  • Hazard Reporting
  • Auditing
  • Gap Analysis
Training and demos

Training and demos

  • Free demos
  • Free initial setup training
  • Free Training Videos
Finalize

System Requirement

  •  IIS 6 or 7 and higher
  • SQL Server
  • Additional Details Apply
  • Web browser*